KUOW’s Sara Lerner rode along with the Safe Streets Social in September and put together a feature in the lead-up to yesterday’s Road Safety Summit (more on that soon).
The report tries to address conflicts between people biking and driving. Lerner found a frustrated person who works along the Westlake parking lot that the city calls a “trail.” The worker is frustrated with people biking through the parking lot too quickly.
What is left out, of course, is that nobody likes that parking lot situation less than the people biking. It is dangerous, and people biking need to be extra cautious of cars pulling out of parking spaces. Even with the dangers, though, many people (myself included) prefer it to the street, which is full of speeding cars.
Andreas dug into the Westlake situation in an excellent comment earlier this month. Basically, the creation of a safe bicycle facility on Westlake has been in the works for decades, but nothing has happened. With the recently-renovated Dexter Ave, I suspect some of the people who had been using the Westlake parking lot will choose Dexter instead.
But because the parking lot does not have a hill, has a nice lake-side feel and connects to many businesses, residences and South Lake Union Park, it will remain a key bicycle corridor in the city. The question remains: What is the city going to do to create a lakeside that works for everyone?
Can anyone tell my why they haven’t put a glorious and wide cycle track along Westlake yet?
See my response from a few months back. Basically, SDOT probably doesn’t have financial capital to redo the same road twice in ten years, and even if they did, they don’t have the political capital to do it given all the businesses on Westlake.
When I wrote that comment I hadn’t actually done much digging to see what, if any, debate had gone on about Westlake over the years. While I still find little debate from ’02, turns out the idea has been out there for over 30 damn years.
In 1979, a year after the BGT opened from Gasworks to Kenmore, there were calls from the bicycling community for a “Lake Union Bikeway”. The City Engineering Dept (now SDOT) “warned cyclists…they could not provide a ‘Burke-Gilman Trail type of environment’ for the proposed project completely encircling the lake,” but Mayor Royer proposed a path through the Westlake parking lots from Valley to the Fremont Bridge. The proposal apparently pleased no one, and at the first of four public meetings on the plan both cyclists (who still wanted a completely separated facility rather than one that wove dangerously through the parking lots) and Westlake business owners (who wanted neither a trail nor a path—just more parking) expressed displeasure. Unsurprisingly the Times published a misleading editorial after the meeting, implying that cyclists didn’t want to a path alon
g Westlake at all, and saying that “parking space [is] already scarce” in the area (ha!). They conclude that it would just be too expensive and dangerous to completely encircle the lake with a pathway.
(The same editorial says there was “little or no opposition to other parts of the bikeway plan, which includes improving bicycle access across the University Bridge…, building a pier at Mallard Cove… to connect two parts of Fairview Avenue East, and completing a route from Gas Works Park to the Fremont Bridge.” While the first and third elements came to fruition, the pier accross Mallard Cove remains a conspicuous gap in the half-assed Cheshiahud Loop. And given the recent upmarket development of Mallard Cove, I suspect the City missed its chance to ever connect the two Fairviews there.)
In 1991, the City installed the bike lanes on Dexter.
In 1992, 13 years after the Bikeway proposal and ten years before SDOT would redo the Westlake parking lot, the Times published a letter from one Hank Trotter (apparently later Art Director at The Stranger), wherein he proposed connecting “the south end of Lake Union with the Fremont Bridge and, thus, the Burke-Gilman Trail, with a clearly marked bicycle path along Westlake’s east side.” Obviously, no such thing ever happened.
In 1995, a 28-year-old Ballard resident, Nora Folkenflik, was killed by a hit-and-run driver riding northbound in the curb lane. In the type of classy move we’ve come to expect from the Times, nine days later they publish a letter to the editor from a cyclist entitled “Avoiding Road Hazards — Bicycle Commuters Should Use Dexter Avenue North”. Nothing like blaming the victim. (Carlos Cortes, who had a 0.20 blood-alcohol level at the time of the collision plus a prior DUI conviction, recieved the maximum sentence: four and a half years.)
It’s rather disheartening to know that people have been seriously discussing a Westlake path or cycletrack for over three decades now and absolutely nothing has been done, despite the rather evident need for such a facility. I still hold out hope that the Westlake streetcar will be approved in a few years and that its construction will allow SDOT to finally install a proper facility. But I won’t hold my breath.