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Hempfest gears up along Elliott Bay Trail, so you might want to take another route

Photo by Madi of FamilyRide

Hempfest. Usually pot activists and people on bikes don’t conflict with each other. The issues are pretty different (if you think I’m wrong, make your case in the comments below!).

But the weekend-long pot protestival that is Hempfest essentially closes a major bicycling transportation corridor with few good alternatives, and that is cause for conflict (unless, of course, you are headed to Hempfest, in which case it’s very convenient!).

One reader Nicole wrote to me to complain about set-up work already causing issues:

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Anyone else complaining about the hempfest taking up the entire myrtle edwards/elliot bay trail for about 1.5 miles??  They claim that bicyclists should stay on the west path but i was cut off by multiple moving vehicles on this path yesterday in addition to volunteers just standing in the way.  I called and complained to the city:  684-2489- so the more the merrier to get them to either move the festival elsewhere or keep it contained to one of the paths.

Myrtle Edwards Park is simply not a very good venue for such a festival. With only two entrance points (would be three by now if it weren’t for Hempfest delaying the W Thomas St Overpass last year), entering the festival through security can take forever. On top of that, the Elliott Bay Trail, a major regional trail, is closed to biking due the hordes of people everywhere. If you want to get through, you have to dismount, go through security and listen to a bluegrass-reggae fusion band.

Joking aside, I do like festivals and think Hempfest should keep going, just maybe not there. In the meantime, you may want to plan another route this weekend.

Do you have a favorite detour you would suggest (preferably something reasonably welcoming to people who like to ride slow)?

(P.S. The Bike News Roundup was supposed to be out today, but Amtrak’s glacial Internet has delayed it yet another day)

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31 responses to “Hempfest gears up along Elliott Bay Trail, so you might want to take another route”

  1. Ryan

    Seattle Center is just so obviously the better place for this.

    I know: let’s have SpokeFest on I-5!!!

  2. Bruce Nourish

    I nominate City Hall Park, the park/shooting gallery just south of the KC Courthouse. Hempfest would positively class that place up.

  3. Chuck

    I think any park would be better. Gas Works comes to mind right away. Is it a cost thing? I wonder why that is the location they pick year after year.

  4. HG

    Scuze me for pointing out the irony, but how can anyone complain about a couple days worth of EBT interruption for a 1.5-mile-long festival in a public park, when 2.5 miles of Lake Washington Boulevard are closed no fewer than 12 days this summer for the exclusive use of Bicycle Sundays?

    Just sayin’.

    1. Ryan

      Shutting down a waterfront drive in a residential neighborhood one day a weekend so that local residents, families and bikers can enjoy a non-trafficked road hardly relates to shutting down a major commuting corridor for an entire week.

  5. Kirk from Ballard

    Hempfest used to be at Gasworks, but the neighbors there complained so much, they had to move it to the waterfront parks.
    I rode through the waterfront parks on the way home last night at about 6:30. Total cluster. Won’t do that again.
    I broke out the road bike for the first time in a long time this morning, and came in today on 15th Ave/Elliott. I’ve never gone that way, and it actually was a really nice ride. The full bike/bus lane made it comfortable, and the pavement is in great shape, way better than most of the trail. The traffic was heavy, but that just slowed it down, and I passed a lot of cars. Didn’t see one bus either.

    1. Ted

      Yeah, fifteenth is pretty solid heading south in the morning once you get south of dravus. I merge on at Nickerson and ride as fast as I can until I pass dravus because that stretch just freaks me out. Feels like you’re merging onto an interstate on a bicycle. I always take the lane once I get to western ave near the sculpture park. Too many close calls there to let people try to pass me anymore.

      The waterfront was really a mess last week. I can’t believe the city opened that new section of trail then just a few days later allowed it to be closed to cyclists so that large trucks could be driven over it. Surely the trail can’t handle that kind of weight (?)

  6. GW

    I used to to ride that route for 5 years as part of my daily commute. Every year as August came around I would dread of seeing the Hempfest signs posted. I have no problem with them using the park. My issue is how they treat cyclist during the week the festival is being set up.

    Every year the staff and the volunteers would set a new standard of disrespect towards cyclists. I’ve been yelled at, cut off by golf carts, brake checked by golf carts, given the finger, and constantly told the slow the f!@* down, even though I was obeying their posted rules.

    All that was nothing compared to one evening commute. I was riding home on the East side of the trail, this was before they required you to ride on the West. There was a lot festival traffic on the trail and I had no choice but to ride at walking pace, which did not bother me. As I passed one group of workers one of them yelled out, ” Get the f!@* out of here or I’m going to kick your ass!” I kept riding away, but was surprised at the hostility that was being directed at me.

    After witnessing this pattern of behavior over the years I can only conclude the the organizers of Hempfest encourage this behavior in their staff volunteers. I believe there is room for both parties to utilize this public space during setup week. Instead of being friendly and accommodating, they have chosen to be rude and aggressive to discourage trail use.

  7. Bill

    I rode through on Wednesday morning. The stoners in safety vests holding the stop/slow sign “directing” traffic were on the east path, a good 30 yards from where the west path split off, but yelled at me anyway to use the west path. Idiots.

    The restrooms at the fishing pier were locked up. The guy who now has the lease to the snack bar told me the lease requires him to maintain the restrooms. I’d lock them up too.

    This route is too important a commuting link to shut down during the work week. The city should at least require Stonerphest to hire off-duty cops for professional attitude-free traffic control.

  8. ODB

    I think there may have been some sensitivity training for the staff this year. Several of the traffic guys smiled and said thanks while directing me to ride on the pain-in-the-ass west path. This almost placated my annoyance when on two separate days, on the short section of west path at the south end, I was mindlessly directed to run a gantlet of pedestrians in the west path when the short section of east path was completely visible and entirely free of any vehicle traffic.

    More generally, it’s not clear to me why bikes are banned from the east path during set-up and take-down–particularly during periods of light vehicle traffic. If there happens to be a vehicle in the way, a bicycle can easily move off into the grass. Early in the set-up week and during the early morning and later evening hours there appear to be very few or no vehicles using the east path. Park maintenance and Port of Seattle police vehicles share the EBT with bikes during the rest of the year. They drive slowly and it’s easy enough to get around them. I don’t see a credible safety concern and therefore I perceive a lack of consideration and flexibility in making reasonable accommodations to other users.

  9. […] original here: Hempfest gears up along Elliott Bay Trail, so you … – Seattle Bike Blog This entry was posted in Blog Search and tagged activists, bikes, case, don, hempfest, issues, […]

  10. Mike

    Seems like they could keep the east path open to bikes. I personally like Hempfest, but agree Myrtle Edwards is an odd location. I disagree that it’s like Bicycle Sundays, which closes a scenic drive for a few hours. Maybe if Bike Sundays shut down 1 1/2 miles of Rainier Avenue for a couple of days…

  11. I agree that the Bicycle Sunday analogy is false. There are many alternative routes through side streets for drivers of cars around the tiny portion of Lake Washington Blvd for the few hours of each Bicycle Sunday event.
    Much more similar is Seafair. The offense of Hempfest and Seafair for cyclists and pedestrians is not that the parks are closed during the events but that they are closed for setup for so many days. This leads so darn many people to just get caught up in a rigamoral of detours and security and being treated like a trespasser on a public right of way. This is annoying, unpredictable and alienating. Also, not that different from a lot of pedestrian and cyclists’ experiences of construction detours, parking at most major events or just using the roads on an every day basis.

  12. K

    Am I the only one who sees the irony in people who are supposedly promoting and enjoying the alternative, 60’s-inspired lifestyle that Hempfest represents being rude to people engaged in alternative transportation that itself is in a way inspired by the 60’s in its implied rejection of fossil fuel-burning cars and devotion to being outdoors in socially redeeming ways? Is this a latter-day version of a Mod vs. Rocker thing? (And which is which in this scenario?)

  13. marti

    I rode through Myrtle Edwards on Wednesday evening and didn’t know what the festival was, just saw all the activity and the detour. As I worked my way through the chaos, I concluded that it must be Hempfest because the workers/volunteers crossing the path seemed like they had to be high. They were so oblivious to the bikes that were being detoured through, I had to keep telling them to watch where they were going. It was an extremely unpleasant experience, but they weren’t rude.

  14. melinda

    I used to live at the corner of Western and Cedar, a few blocks from Myrtle Edwards. To me, Hempfest will always be the one weekend every year when my building had to hire a temporary security guard to keep idiots from pissing in our parking garage. I would love to see weed legal, but I have absolutely no love for this event.

  15. TB

    I went through Myrtle Edwards Tues. after work for a little extra mileagae on a nice day. my usual commute is downtown to Green Lake via Eastlake Ave. Looked like the path opened back up again on the east side (no barriers, etc…) so I went back over and was very rudely screamed at by a couple of volunteers.

    I don’t usually go that way. I can’t see why it takes a week to set up for this event, except for another rider that commented to me that they must keep forgetting what they’ve done, and what still needs to be done.

    In all seriousness it makes no sense to disrupt this main thoroughfare for an entire week for this event. Events held at Seattle Center, Gas Works, etc… seem to be able to stage up / down in a day or two. I agree that the Hempfest organizers should get their act together and be more organized and set up / tear down in a shorter time frame.

  16. no traffic lights

    maybe take a walk thru and get a little stoned while your at it? duh.

  17. Anthony

    Yeah, make marijuana legal, but outlaw Hempfest. Those clowns on the waterfront are some of the biggest a-holes I have ever met. Never seen ruder security, and inept at the same time.

    I avoid that place like the plague now, too bad we can’t run those wanna-be hippies out of town, they are so not into a sustainable lifestyle…what a joke.

  18. Ha! So I’m not the only one to have a news roundup delayed by Amtrak’s wifi? Glad I’m not alone… :)

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Ha! I almost with they didn’t have wifi, then I wouldn’t have planned on using it for work! Luckily, they also have beer…

  19. Jan Bultmann

    I wish they would have it on Mars.

  20. Matthew Hill

    I made the mistake of attempting to ride through Myrtle Edwards during the setup for Hempfest, and wound up spending the day in the hospital. After being waved directly into the setup area by a flag bearer who was too lazy to get out of his chair, I found myself airborne after running into a cable tunnel that had been placed underneath a tree, in shadow, on an off-camber downslope, with the signage obscured by a van – with the doors open – parked part-way onto the trail.

    It’s poor comfort to find yourself lying on the ground, bleeding onto the remnants of your destroyed bicycle accompanied by the dulcet tones of “what the F**k were you doing riding through here, cyclists are supposed to be on the other side” a mantra to be repeated several times as I waited for the ambulance as rider after rider passed through the accident site, all of them responding in the same manner – “You need to tell the corner guy that, he’s sending everyone this way.”
    1/2 dozen stitches in my face, contusions all over my body & a wrecked (brand new…) bicycle? Thank you, Hempfest.
    Next time maybe don’t smoke out the safety crew, OK?

  21. Bike to Work

    I have similar bad experiences every year with Hempfest. It really ruins one of the best months of the year for biking to work. I would encourage everyone to contact the mayor and parks department about your experiences. This is the only way this situation will improve.

  22. Carlos

    Like Matthew Hill I also crashed on the Wed morning commute on a cable tunnel- 4 broken ribs and a grade III AC shoulder joint dislocation. While the EMTs were talking to me (about 8:15am) they got a call that two others had crashed. I’m guessing the reroute to the W. trail was a result of those crashes. One fest volunteer was very quick to chart the incident, secure my bike and call the EMTs who were mostly concerned about my head bump. At Ballard emergency with my wife and daughter looking worried, I became grateful that I wasn’t having brain surgery at that moment. Summer bike commuting if over for me. If it messes up my fly casting I might consider other action. Hopefully a big lesson was learned during setup of those cable channels. It was like hitting a 4×4 at 15mph.

  23. Susan

    Great idea, Bike to Work, I did just that.
    If anyone else wants to provide feedback to the City, here’s the Parks Dept. email: [email protected]
    … and the link to submit email to the mayor:

  24. Ryan

    Email is great but I’ve heard calls and real letters are more influential. Perhaps take 5 minutes to write a quick letter to the Mayor and to City Council about this, their address is below.

    Seattle City Council
    PO Box 34025
    Seattle, WA 98124-4025

  25. Kirk from Ballard

    I rode through the aftermath early this morning. Hempfest had the north entrance completely barricaded. The staff member there told us “technically the paths are closed”. I let the staff member know that technically, the permit for Hempfest does not allow them to close ANY of the paths at any time (per the Office of Economic Development Permitting Office). We went around the barricade through the bushes, and rode through. The place was deserted, of course. I recall that in previous years, they cleaned up the park pretty well in one day, and I expect it to be back to normal on the way home tonight, with the east bike trail now fully open. FINALLY!

    1. ODB

      At about 7 am this morning, the trail was totally barricaded at the north end and the staff member was not letting anyone through. I pointed out that this was contrary to the signage that had been posted for a week (example at the top of this post) which contains no notice of any closure on any day. He said something about Hempfest’s permit not allowing bicycles to enter while large trucks are operating on the site. If that’s true, then how has construction of the overpass proceeded for a year without ever shutting down the trail?

      If this closure violated Hempfest’s permit, I say it’s time for the city to turn the tables on lawsuit-happy Hempfest and levy a big fine and/or seek to enjoin their future use of the park.

  26. Kirk From Ballard

    Oh, the barricade most definitely violated their permit. I regret I didn’t take a picture and call it in immediately, but I was biking with a friend who just wanted to keep going.
    Here is what the SDOT told me about the Hempfest closure of trails: “According to the Office of Economic Development Permitting Office, there are two paths through most of Myrtle Edwards Park. The east path is permitted for Hempfest to use as their roadway for vehicle load-in and load-out and the west pathway remains open to bicyclists and pedestrians. There are signs up asking bicyclists to slow down and they are urged to proceed with extreme caution, but technically speaking, neither path is closed to anyone. “
    But for now, it is all moot. The trail is open and wonderful, and Hempfest is clearing out for another year.

  27. Ted

    Thank God it’s over. More lovely, quiet morning rides to work!

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