The Seattle Times published a look at the battle over the Ballard missing link with a much needed zoomed-out view. Basically, the article asks, “What are we even fighting about anymore?” Is it about old vs new Ballard? Is it about industry vs dot-coms? Are bikers saying they don’t want blue collar jobs? Is industry saying they want bikers to crash and hurt themselves on an unsafe Shilshole?
Clearly, almost none of this is true. But after years and years of bitter and expensive fighting, there seems to be little room left for discussion. The Ballard industry leaders are willing to keep challenging the plans in court to delay it as long as they can.
Meanwhile, whether Ballard industry leaders like it or not, more and more people are taking up bikes to get around, and the Burke-Gilman trail is a centerpiece of Seattle’s bike system. Many of these users are not just riding for recreation, but for transportation. Again, bikes are affordable and vital to any hope of achieving a remotely sustainable city.
The article tries to take a “Hey, can’t we all be friends?” sort of stance. Ballard Oil owner Warren Aakervik gets a chance to look like the victim (“I’m just a stupid Ballard boy” to them, says Aakervik). We also get a chance to feel sorry for Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel because of those mean environmental regulators that fined them $12,000 for leaking aggregate into the ship canal (teardrop).
The more I learn about the stubborn industry point of view, the more it becomes clear that, in their minds, the public land and water near their businesses is theirs to treat how they see fit. They can leak aggregate into the ship canal and ignore the warnings of environmental agencies if they want because they’ve been there for over 100 years (which makes them environmentally invincible!). They can determine whether the city puts a bike path through public land that they sometimes drive their trucks through because … well … they can!
Like the article states, there is no evidence that the bike path will do anything to hurt their businesses a single dime. They throw out some idea that, if there is a bike path and they hit a cyclist, their insurance will go up. Well they could hit a cyclist right now on Shilshole. Why doesn’t their insurance go up now? And why is it suddenly impossible to design the intersections where the trail crosses their truck paths in a way that makes them safe for everyone? Hell, I would even consider installing lights or railroad crossing arms that can stop bike traffic while a truck enters or leaves if that is what it comes to.
The article claims that all discussion about the missing link has resorted to name calling. Well, there is definitely a lot of that. But I still don’t see a single reason why these businesses are afraid of this trail. Consistently, they are able to give zero unsolvable issues. When you are in the face of this kind of stubbornness, where these poor, misunderstood businesses are willing to burn piles of supposedly scarce cash to try to stop a necessary public safety and environmentally-friendly initiative, well, forgive me if I call them douche bags.