FM3 Poll Debunks So-Called “Bikelash” in Seattle

Posted on: January 23, 2013

From a January 23 article in Seattle’s The Stranger newspaper:

A January 17 report by FM3, a policy-focused opinion research firm, shows that Seattle voters overwhelmingly like cyclists—79 percent have a favorable opinion—and most of the city’s residents actually ride a bike. What’s even more contrary to conventional wisdom: By a two-to-one margin, voters support removing traffic lanes and some on-street parking to build bicycle lanes that are physically separated from cars.

“There’s strong public support for making it safer for people to ride in Seattle, and there’s a large percentage of people who would want to ride if we make those investments,” says Benjamin, whose group commissioned the poll of 400 Seattle voters. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percent. And while some might argue that an advocacy group paid for the survey—and some naysayers will—FM3 is a reputable Democratic pollster with plenty of experience conducting surveys and advising everyone from small-time candidates to Senator Patty Murray.

As the city faces a crowded, high-profile mayor’s race this year, candidates are probably thinking about ways to bring down incumbent mayor Mike McGinn. His regular bike riding has been a target for some opponents, and the Seattle Times derides him with the nickname “McSchwinn.” Over the last few years, this sort of anti-cyclist rhetoric has been ramped up into a wedge issue (apparently to pressure the mayor and the city council into withholding money from the Bicycle Master Plan, which is only about one-quarter funded).

The problem is that this is a losing wedge issue. Anti-bicycle advocates speak for less than one-third of Seattle residents. These holdouts, the polling shows, are largely older, white, conservative men. Candidates who pander to those blocs with anti-bike talking points will be losing more votes than they’re gaining.

Benjamin put it succinctly: “People aren’t buying the story they’re telling, and they don’t agree with it.”




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