‘Providing less usable bike storage … makes no sense’: Bicycle shops’ letter re: new Water Taxis

(WSB photo from M/V Sally Fox’s March dedication on Vashon)
Imagine driving onto a state ferry with open sides, every vehicle exposed to the elements. Now imagine the ferry traveling fast enough to chop across the water, with spray on all sides, especially on a stormy day. Regular users would likely wind up with rust. This is the situation faced by people bringing bicycles onto King County Water Taxis – because of the new vessels’ design, which has bicycle parking out on the open deck, instead of inside, as is the case with the current West Seattle Water Taxi, Spirit of Kingston, for example.

The latest attempt to get some relief for the problem – especially with the new Vashon boat M/V Sally Fox now in service and its twin the M/V Doc Maynard coming to West Seattle later this year – is in this letter signed by local bicycle shop owners:

The problem was surfaced by Vashon bicyclists before the Sally Fox went into service; we’re checking today with the King County Department of Transportation to see if one of the fixes suggested in the letter above is in the works, or if they’re responding in another way. We’ll add the response when we get it later today.

ADDED 3:15 PM: Here’s the KCDOT response to our inquiry about this, via spokesperson Jeff Switzer:

We’ve been talking with our water taxi customers who ride bikes. Some have concerns about the outdoor storage area that salt spray could be a problem for their bikes while others do not. We have been monitoring the area for such concerns and thus far this has not been a problem. We communicated to the cyclists that gathered for a community meeting on Vashon in March, that actual vessel operations would be monitored over time, giving us a chance to observe any adverse weather conditions during the fall and winter to see what, if any impact there are to bikes. This will give us time to determine whether there is a problem. So far, we are encouraged that our current plan to provide safe and secure bike storage is working. In the Vashon community meeting we offered storage space on the vessel for individual bike covers, and proposed a bike wash down station to be designed into the new pier 50 terminal.

42 Replies to "'Providing less usable bike storage ... makes no sense': Bicycle shops' letter re: new Water Taxis"

  • G April 22, 2015 (1:35 pm)

    Substitute bus riders for boat riders and you’ll know what Metro riders go through. Metro, in their infinite wisdom gave us small, un-enclosed bus shelters that are worthless when it comes to protecting riders from wind and rain; and in the course of doing so, actually removed shelters that did provide protection.

  • Bearschick April 22, 2015 (1:55 pm)

    I agree that having bikes exposed to the elements during ferry crossings is an issue, and the bikes should be more protected. However, I find the tone of this letter appalling and typical Seattle passive aggressive. Really? You couldn’t draft a more professional plea rather than use sarcasm? I am embarrassed that I’ve ever supported any of your businesses.

  • C April 22, 2015 (3:05 pm)

    Boo Hoo :'< If you bike in Seattle in the winter your going to get wet ? What am I missing here ? Says Scratching head ?

    • WSB April 22, 2015 (3:14 pm)

      You would be missing the salt. Meantime, adding the county’s reply right now.

  • ChefJoe April 22, 2015 (3:18 pm)

    The bikes on the water taxi come with no extra charge, so I guess we could go the “HOT+Good-to-go” way and monetize some spray-protected stalls or install a coin-operated bike wash.

  • T Rex April 22, 2015 (4:01 pm)

    Buy a cover and get over yourselves.

    Honest to God.

  • Kim April 22, 2015 (4:05 pm)

    I agree with Bearschick…the snarkiness of their letter was unnecessary and only hurts the cause.

  • Karen April 22, 2015 (4:38 pm)

    wow – very unprofessional on the part of the bike shops – I will remember to take my business elsewhere!

  • rolling my eyes at the old hippies April 22, 2015 (4:56 pm)

    It is not rocket science.

    Stores – SELL THIS PRODUCT: http://www.the-cover-store.com/bicycle-cover-78-27-44-inch-classic/

    Riders: Buy it.

    Save your scrappiness for the fights which matter.

  • 4thGenWS April 22, 2015 (5:03 pm)

    1st world problems.

  • SGG April 22, 2015 (5:24 pm)

    Well a picture would help their case quite a bit. I ride to the current water taxi. I have not seen the layout of the new one

  • Peter April 22, 2015 (5:26 pm)

    Are their bikes not painted and oiled as mine is? Unless the new boats kick up much more spray than the old ones, this is a non-issues. Besides, my 1980ish off brand mountain bike can take pretty much anything, so I have no qualms about putting it on the new boats.

  • me April 22, 2015 (5:39 pm)

    If people would just buy bikes that drive on water, this whole thing would be solved!

  • wetone April 22, 2015 (5:41 pm)

    No different than cars on ferry in front or sides when weather is blowing and rough. They all get a salt bath. I don’t like it and make the CHOICE to rinse off when I get home and if needed spray some lube. For some reason many (not all) cyclist seem to think different and feel they deserve special treatment as this letter shows. City seems to think this also lately.
    How about my vehicles sitting underneath city planted trees that drop pitch and can damage paint. Do I bill the city for damages ? or do I just buy a car cover if I want to park and have no damage….

  • Rick April 22, 2015 (5:41 pm)


  • onion April 22, 2015 (6:11 pm)

    I actually thought the letter was rather well written, and was impressed by the quality of the intro … but then, I also like to use humor to make my points whenever I can. Stocking one or more tarps or similar doesn’t seem like an excessive request or solution. So lighten up folks.

  • G April 22, 2015 (7:04 pm)

    I this this was probably all tongue-in-cheek, but they should dispense with the edgy humor as it doesn’t translate well on the page. Additionally, the Seattle biking might benefit from a PR campaign.

  • candrewb April 22, 2015 (7:18 pm)

    if this keeps their minds off of street redesigns then I hope this is an issue forever

  • URaWaterTaxi April 22, 2015 (7:42 pm)

    Sorry, but it’s hard to empathize with these folks for several reasons. First and foremost is that the opportunity for input into the boat designs existed, and now has long since passed – haven’t the designs also been posted on board the water taxis for quite some time even before construction began?

    Also, don’t bike commuters represent a pretty small fraction of daily commuters and ridership? Why do they get demand special treatment and special solutions for a problem they don’t even know will actually exist?

    To come forth at the 11th hour, with a sarcastic/obnoxious letter penned by a group of people who aren’t even actual riders, with a demand for an expensive requirement for special accommodation, to solve a “problem” they’re not even sure actually exists is pretty entitled and ludicrous.

    Instead of being grateful and enthused about a new state-of-the-art boat, let’s invent a non-issue to complain about!!

    Please keep your dirty, wet, bikes outside where they belong. Boooo!!

  • Raincity April 22, 2015 (7:48 pm)

    The current boat design has bike racks inside. The new ones do not. Once that change was realized by users it was brought to the attention of KCDOT. They have not made any changes and did not incorporate reasonable input into the boat designs. If it’s not an important issue to you – why comment on the story? Most comments above are more snarky than the original letter.
    The water taxi is the next best way to commute downtown by bike besides the lower bridge and the bad road conditions on the other side. Providing adequate coverage for bikes seems reasonable to – it’s part of the current boat design. What advantage is there to putting them outside? KCDOT is taking a wait an see approach – very dismissive. They say it’s working but the new water taxi has only been going to vashon for a couple weeks.

  • ChefJoe April 22, 2015 (8:10 pm)

    Raincity, I pay taxes that go towards any costs related to changing the boat design, so there’s that reason.
    I’d imagine putting the bikes on the aft deck allowed them to bump the capacity up by 78 to 250 while not having bike racks near the interior doors cause logjams.
    The layout of each passenger deck was configured to help streamline the boarding and disembarking process. The main deck is ADA-accessible and the cabin includes designated seating areas for those with disabilities. The aft deck includes a staggered height bicycle storage rack with accommodation for 26 bicycles.

  • Raincity April 22, 2015 (8:48 pm)

    As a fellow tax payer why wasn’t our input incorporated into the design rather than having to redesign and make changes later? The news letter updates sounded great – more passengers capacity more bikes two doors. They never let anyone know what trade offs they were making. Most of the year when the weather is bad the water taxi is not full and can easily accommodate bikes inside. From my understanding of the boat design certain banks of seats are easily removed and there can be bike racks inside.

  • Raincity April 22, 2015 (8:59 pm)

    FYI – Federal grants were used to design and purchase the vessels. Property tax is currently only about 10% of the costs of revenue to cover current costs. Other are from fares, reserve fund and other federal grants.

  • Canyon Road April 22, 2015 (9:37 pm)

    I agree with Raincity that ALL of the comments in this thread are more snarky than the original letter. I appreciate that these business owners are taking the time to advocate for bike riders as opposed to looking the other way and just raking in more dough from folks when their bikes need work. I can’t believe that comments here have been so critical of them.

  • ChefJoe April 22, 2015 (9:44 pm)

    I wonder if federal grants come from paying federal taxes….

    I think the designers recognized that, in an emergency situation, bikes in the interior aisles are as big a disruption to unloading as un-collapsed strollers are in the buses.

    It’ll be ok. Bicyclists get their own entrance to the bike racks pictured in photos 12 and 14 of the slide deck here.

  • Craig April 22, 2015 (10:12 pm)

    So the letter was written by the bike shop owners to notify of a possible problem. KCDOT says they understand the issue and they’ll check to see if the spray actually gets bad enough to hurt the bikes. Sounds rational. Let’s all stand down and let this play out civilly as we’re all working on theory right now. Personally, I do find this interesting as having taken the old taxi semi frequently before I haven’t noticed the salt spray at all. Like the KCDOT I’ll keep an eye out and see.

  • wb April 22, 2015 (10:36 pm)

    “don’t bike commuters represent a pretty small fraction of daily commuters and ridership? ”

    yes, And that’s really part of the problem.

  • Kathy April 23, 2015 (12:02 am)

    Mine was the first bike on the maiden voyage of the Sally Fox (free ride!). It was a relatively calm day, but I still noticed a fine spray of water from the rooster tail of the boat reaching my bike. For me this will not be a problem because, unlike the Vashonistas, I have the alternative to skip the Water Taxi altogether and bike downtown using using the Alki Trail, Spokane Street Bridge, the sidewalk along East Marginal Way/Alaska Way and the protected Elliott Bay Trail all the way to King Street. I do remember what a relief it was when we finally got a Water Taxi boat that had indoor bike storage. Frankly it seems like a dumb design omission on the part of the County. Or a smart cost saving measure, wink, wink. 1st World problem is when your car is damaged, not your bike. Bike = mobility device for the walking challenged : )

  • Kathy April 23, 2015 (12:10 am)

    The other dumb design by the County: Lift your bike up over your head, hang it on a rack with the handlebars poking out into the aisle of the Link Light Rail cars so they can bang the passengers in the head as they walk down the aisle. This senior citizen is not going to do that. My advice, don’t accept dumb storage solutions provided by county planners who apparently never needed a bike for a mobility device.

  • Kathy April 23, 2015 (12:25 am)

    Don’t get me started on the bus bike racks….that makes a trifecta of bad designs by people who obviously never used and have no intention of ever using the end product.

  • Mel April 23, 2015 (11:19 am)

    Look up “protect my bike from sea salt” for great tips.
    Be proactive, cyclists, and you won’t have to be reactive!

  • Aaron Goss April 23, 2015 (9:21 pm)

    none of us bike shop owners wrote the letter. It was written as advocacy by West Seattle Bike Connections. The letter, I thought used humor/sarcasm well to illustrate the problem. To deny us your business is silly. We were trying to help bikers by lending our name as credibility. Salt spray is very bad for machines. Hence the 2nd suggestion of a hose To rinse.

  • ken pritchard April 23, 2015 (9:56 pm)

    I am a Vashon commuter, so I write from experience. We’ve had 2 boats with outdoor bike storage, the old WSF Skagit and now the King County Sally Fox. I was not a bike commuter on the Skagit but many of my friends were and their bikes rusted. While splash is an issue, it’s mostly the daily exposure to the briny mist that’s pervasive around fast boats while underway that will be a problem. The King County marine Division acknowledged that they did a poor job of reaching out to cycling commuters while soliciting design input. Predictably, their “OOPS!” has turned into a polite stonewall. Cycling is not a priority for the King County Dept. of Transportation. They got rid of their bicycle coordinator at least a couple of years ago. I hope this provides a better context for those wanting to comment on this issue with a bit more information on hand.

  • shane jewell April 24, 2015 (10:53 am)

    I rode the beautiful new vashon passenger ferry just the other day. The weather was fine, yet by the end of the trip the bike racks on the open back deck were covered with a fine sheen of salt water, spray brought in on the eddying air behind this high speed boat. This is the very worst environment for bicycles: the water is able to drift into all the crannies of a bicycle and deposit salt solution.

    There is a reason the live-aboard boating community stores their bicycles below decks. Bikes stored on deck do not last a year. Chains rust solid and fall apart, cables disintegrate and freeze solid, even aluminum parts corrode and lock up.

    The 2011 King County Regional Bicycle Plan States:
    “In considering the role transportation systems play in our communities, sustainability is a concept that will likely shape future planning endeavors more than any other. Planners across the world are implementing strategies to make our communities more sustainable for future generations, with bicycle planning being at the crux of sustainable transportation endeavors.”

    If bicycle planning is to be the crux of sustainable transportation endeavors, a better solution must be found to protect the king county water taxi bicycle storage from salt spray.

  • alkistu April 24, 2015 (2:36 pm)

    Please accept my apology and exclusion from this letter. I agree there is a problem with having your bicycles exposed to the salt water spray however I also had a problem with the wording of this letter and DID NOT consent to having my name and business attached to it. I have always taken the higher ground on these issues to the point of even offering a solution that could be accomplished by the users. I hesitated to answer the call to be a signer onto this letter as I needed time to think about the tone. In retrospect I should have immediately declined. I did not however expect it to go to any other agency than the boat operators. I certainly did not expect it to go public.

  • wetone April 24, 2015 (9:33 pm)

    What is so special about bicyclist that they should get different treatment than any motorized vehicle ? Salt damages all. If and when safety/performance is an issue you fix or replace. One applies coatings or uses proper materials for conditions. It is all choices one makes. What I don’t get this elitist attitude by many cyclist that they should get or deserve.

    That letter says and shows it. Very unprofessional and sure doesn’t help many problems were having in this city.

  • ken pritchard April 24, 2015 (9:54 pm)

    Actually the Vashon group is planning to do an engineering rendition and preliminary specs and cost for a roll-top cover.We will turn this in the Marine Division as our constructive solution. Since the Doc Maynard has the same design it would be great if we joined forces with the W Seattle commuters on this issue and came up with the same solution.

    • WSB April 24, 2015 (10:07 pm)

      Thanks for the update, Ken!

  • Mike April 25, 2015 (7:09 am)

    It’s been mentioned before and would resolve the issue. http://www.greggscycles.com/product/sunlite-heavy-duty-bicycle-cover-211214-1.htm?gclid=CjwKEAjw9uypBRD5pMDYtsKxvXcSJACcb9AYhZ76iDuUB88b7x6HlgkpFWE60nLeImrM6aPrhUpm-hoCKXnw_wcB
    The main issue is lack of maintenance by riders themselves. You need to lubricate moving parts more often with the appropriate products. http://boeshield.com/ is excellent for your gears and chain.
    If you ride along Alki, you already get salt water spray, but when your bike is in the rack on the water taxi, you can cover it too (unlike when you ride along the trail with spray from the waves/wake.
    The design of the boat is not the issue.

  • AJL April 25, 2015 (4:03 pm)

    As a regular rider of the Vashon water taxi this is of great concern to me. I have noticed in the past week a fine spray over my bike on rainless days. I have noticed some rust on my brake discs already. It’s the equivalent of having yiur car subjected to a fine sea spray for 40/50 minutes a day and no wash but for once a week. Remember the issues surrounding salt on the roads? And you know how quickly motor vehicles develop rust in the Midwest (salt on roads)? This is no different.
    Just because we ride a bike for transportation instead of drive or walk shouldn’t mean we are 3rd class citizens who should just accept our dry bread and cold tea and forget it. No outreach was done in the vessel planning to cyclists, KCDOT has been dismissive, and no mitigation other than offering a locker for bike covers is not acceptable. And those bike covers? The ferry cannot reload passengers until everyone is off and cannot disembark until all passengers are seated. Can you imagine the delays if most cyclists have to a) find their cover after waiting in line to find it b) put cover on and then reverse this process? In fact maybe we regular cyclists SHOULD do this….let’s see how convenient that idea really is.

  • JA Happ April 29, 2015 (7:59 pm)

    So the cyclists want a roll top cover to cover their bikes. Are the bike riders planning on paying for that or are our fares going to go up to subsidize their desires?

  • Researched May 3, 2015 (8:07 pm)

    KCDOT has misrepresented facts, stonewalled, and continues to avoid clear solutions to a proven problem that endangers lives. They have admitted to errors in judgement, making decisions without appropriate input, thereby creating an unsafe situation.

    This may be a first world problem, but that’s where we live. A relatively minor alteration could easily solve the problems, but Mr. Brodeur seems intent on staying the course.

    The lighthearted humor of the letter should mesh well with the Agency’s Director; know your audience. I expect some smiles at the vitriolic responses here as well…I hope the lack of love shown for the shop owners (and cyclists) was in jest as well.

Sorry, comment time is over.