Trucks driving on Elliott Bay Trail? Must be Hempfest time again!

05a84d63667b9410684e03f5a6cb73f409Seattle’s worst-located annual festival is starting to gear up, frustrating people biking on the Elliott Bay Trail through Myrtle Edwards Park. Hempfest loading started this week, and the impediments will not stop until August 21, a week and a half from now.

I’ve already received one email from a reader who said he had to swerve into the grass to avoid a truck driving on the trail. Last year there were many close calls and several crashes due to Hempfest operations. But organizers say they are working to make this year go more smoothly and better mark cables and hoses.

The Elliott Bay Trail is a vital regional transportation corridor for people biking and walking from downtown to Magnolia, Queen Anne and northwest Seattle. There is no other option available for people biking through the area. With workers blocking the route for a week and a half and people on bikes with no other way through, it’s a recipe for frustration and conflict.

Myrtle Edwards Park could be a great a place for a smaller festival, where bike travel and festival goers can coexist. But Hempfest is huge and has controlled and secured entrances. It’s great that Hempfest is so big, but either a quality trail detour needs to be provided (temporary cycle track on Elliott?), or the festival should find a spot more suited to its size.

Here’s a letter we received recently from event organizers (apologies for not posting it earlier):

Dear Bicyclists, sharing the parks during the 10 days that Seattle Hempfest is under production has been a challenging proposition for all. While we at Hempfest feel the need to exercise our freedom of speech over cannabis prohibition, we also feel a strong responsibility to use our rights responsibly, and work hard to make sure that others who wish to use the parks can do so with the least impact.

We believe there is room for improvement on both sides relating to bicycle traffic through the parks. Certainly, it is been difficult for all parties, and the priority is public safety for everyone in the parks and beyond. To that end, and in the spirit of cooperation and good will, we are reaching out to the Seattle bicycle community in the hope that we can develop a better dialogue, and through increased communication and cooperation (and potentially even participation) we can better mitigate some of the issues that have arisen in past years.

We know that some of our staff has not been as responsive to bicyclist issues in the parks; it is important to point out that some bicyclists have also been hostile, unresponsive, and uncooperative with our staff and also with the guidelines for bicyclists in the parks set-forth by the Seattle Special Events Permit that Seattle Hempfest must observe and enforce.

We want to do a better job, it really matters to us. We want our event to be safer, less of a hassle and more enjoyable for the members of the bicycle community who ride through the Olympic Sculpture Park, Myrtle Edwards Park, and Centennial Park while Hempfest is using and stewarding those areas of public and private property.

Please be advised of the following info, and share with your members and the bicycle community:

Bicycle commuter hours (5 mph speed limit near pedestrians, stay on West Path, beware of crossings)

During Set-up and tear-down, Mon-Thurs (August 12-15), and Mon-Wed (August 19-21), from 7:30-8:30 AM, is vehicle free time on all paths of Myrtle Edwards and Centennial parks. Hempfest vehicle traffic is suspended for that hour during weekday set-up and tear-down to respect morning bike commuters who use the parks. During other hours on these days, there are vehicles in the parks, primarily using the east path, the normal bicycle path. This is why bike traffic will be shifted to the west path.

There will also be electrical cords and hoses to support the sound systems and food vendors. Those cables and hoses will cross the paths and that will be marked. These are visible and “open and notorious.” Please keep an eye out for these.

During the three days of the event (Aug. 16, 17, 18) bicycles must dismount. Bicyclists should enter through the North entrance in Centennial Park to utilize the bike racks, or use the bike racks at Bay and Elliot. Attaching bikes to the fence at Olympic Sculpture Park is not allowed.

Additional Hempfest measures

  • Blinking lighted T-39 A-Frames at all cable crossings
  • Better pre-event signage
  • Better traffic monitor staffing
  • Community Impact Report Form found at hempfest.org/interact/impact. This form can be used to communicate directly with Hempfest about issues and areas of concern, and there is a place for comments and suggestions as well. We will be monitoring the Community Impact report Form messages as they come in. Any formal responses will probably be forthcoming soon after the event, as staffing allows.

Please be aware that a short section of the west path, near the lighthouse at the south entrance to “Centennial Park” has a short detour placed by the Port of Seattle, to bypass a small piece of the trail that collapsed as a result of a winter storm.

Lastly, we encourage members of the bicycle community to volunteer as traffic monitors. You will be working to help keep bicyclists safe, and also get a more balanced view on our experience with the bicyclists riding through the parks during our event production period.

We hope to learn about other ways to partner with the bicycle community and make everyone’s Seattle Hempfest experience safer, more enjoyable, and more productive.

Sincerely, Vivian McPeak

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47 Responses to Trucks driving on Elliott Bay Trail? Must be Hempfest time again!

  1. Breckenridge says:

    They state : “During the three days of the event (Aug. 16, 17, 18) bicycles must dismount. Bicyclists should enter through the North entrance in Centennial Park to utilize the bike racks, or use the bike racks at Bay and Elliot.”

    However what they don’t state, and which is very important, is that the evenings of the event, the path is COMPLETELY CLOSED. I was cycling to pick up my girlfriend as she got off work late in Ballard last year, and was completely prevented from using the park, they close the entire thing down at night. I was forced to use Elliot. Now, given that we live on Beacon Hill, we were able to take an alternate route home, but that is important information which they are glossing over completely here.

  2. Mike says:

    Why does this take two weeks to set up? They don’t close the streets of Capitol Hill for two weeks leading up to the Block Party. They don’t close NW Market in Ballard for two weeks leading up to Seafood Fest.

    It’s because the city doesn’t treat our bike infrastructure as seriously as they do the road. It’s seen as a “park” not as a roadway for thousands of commuters.

    • David Smith says:

      Because they are all high.

    • I think that reflects the unsuitability of the venue for an event of this size – it has such limited access and is such an awkward shape that it’s significantly more difficult to set up than an area of the street grid would be.

    • Adam says:

      This treatment of the Elliott Bay Trail sounds identical to the treatment of Lake Washington Boulevard during setup (which takes over a week) and tear-down of Seafair as well as during the event itself at Genesee Park. Believe me, I volunteered at Seafair for eight straight years during setup, tear-down and during the event. It’s just a sacrifice that is made for a special event whether it’s Hempfest, Seafair, whatever and not some sort of conspiracy to pick on and be-little the cycling community as you’ve implied, Mike.

      • Al Dimond says:

        It isn’t a conspiracy. It does not take a conspiracy. It’s a lack of regard.

        No part of Lake Washington Boulevard can seriously be claimed to be a core part of our transportation system, and no part lacks acceptable routes around closures. The path through Myrtle Edwards is a core part of the regional cycling network, a fact reflected on official cycling maps of Seattle, not to mention the BMP draft without a whiff of controversy (which, for the BMP draft, is saying something).

        And Seafair has a plausible case (based on its broad popularity and appeal) for being a special event that the whole city stops and takes notice of. Hempfest has no such case.

  3. Chuck says:

    “While we at Hempfest feel the need to exercise our freedom of speech over cannabis prohibition…”

    Um, pretty sure we voted and made pot legal in Washington already. Might want to update the marketing boilerplate.

  4. no traffic lights says:

    smoke ’em if you got ’em!

  5. bummed runner says:

    Today was my first time running into the Hempfest setup on the bike/ped paths, so while it was super disappointing to me to find out this will be happening for the next week and a half, I’m guessing it’s old hat for the regular commuters. It’s a bummer to have the paths taken away for such a long period of time, especially when it disrupts a means to daily commutes for a lot of people…but I guess we’re lucky to have the path in the first place, so (sigh) we can deal with it for short time.

    What I especially did not appreciate, however, was being hit on by a group of workers setting up for hempfest while I was jogging to work this morning. It was demeaning and I felt very uncomfortable. Whether or not the workers are part of hempfest or employed by the city, it’s unfortunate that the hempfest presence has proved to be disruptive in more than one way.

    I’ll be taking another route to work for the week and change…

  6. Leif Espelund says:

    I’ve said the same thing every year since moving to Seattle in 2004. Hempfest is far too large for that space. I don’t go anymore because it is too huge of a crowd packed into that narrow park. They would have a much more relaxing, successful, visible, and less negatively impacting event if they moved to a new location. The Seattle Center seems like a great option.

  7. Al Dimond says:

    Park departments throughout the region are generally not very good about supporting transportation cycling routes on their land. Every night this trail becomes nearly unusable, even with pretty decent lights, because the lack of light at the surface combined with huge lights in Elliott Bay reduces visibility to nothing. Parks departments are happy to close up shop at night. Transportation routes need to be available all day and night, and shouldn’t be closed willy-nilly for events, no matter what sort of persecution complexes their organizers have over their free speech rights.

  8. Kirk from Ballard says:

    So far, I think it’s gone much better than before. The path has been open for the morning and evening commute, and they haven’t put up the cable crossings yet. I remember last year, there were many crashes reported due to the massively tall and blunt crossings they use. The only vehicle I saw on the path this morning was a Port vehicle, but they are used to looking behind for cyclists, and pulled over and stopped for me to pass.
    On Friday, with it all closed, I’ll just ride on Elliott to and from downtown. It is really a good route, faster than the trail, but not as scenic. It would make sense to post no parking and no driving on both sides of Elliott, like during the commute BAT restrictions, on the segment that parallels the park during the event, to allow cyclists to bypass the trail.
    Al, I would have to disagree about the park at night. With a decent light, the park is great, largely deserted. I ride through it all year, day and night.
    We’ll see how it goes tonight. I’m sure the cable crossings will be up, as well as the bad attitude stoners trying to direct traffic to the east path, which will be packed with more stoners cluelessly wandering on the path. If so, I’ll ride home on Elliott/15th for the rest of the week. I don’t see it as a major inconvenience.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Kirk: I like your idea of keeping parking out of the bus lanes 24/7 during this closure is a good last-minute change. Bus lanes, while not anywhere close to as comfortable for biking as a trail, are much better than squeezing between parked cars and speeding Elliott Ave traffic.

      However, I don’t see this as a solution for the majority of trail users.

    • Breadbaker says:

      I agree with Kirk about the park at night, except when people in dark clothing decide the west trail (the one with the view, reserved for pedestrians) isn’t good enough for them and they have walk three abreast at night on the east trail, really quietly.

    • Al Dimond says:

      I have a good light. On a rainy night (and we have lots of those!) the glare from the lights in Elliott Bay make the trail surface nearly invisible to me, and I have to slow down to nearly walking speed. For what it’s worth, I seem to have more problems with lights at night than most people, but I don’t think my problems are all that unusual and I bet that if transportation engineers examined the lighting conditions at night they’d consider them poor. I don’t necessarily think it needs surface lights if the lights from Elliott Bay are shaded appropriately, but the lights there now are outrageous.

      • Kirk from Ballard says:

        Yes, the ambient lighting is poor. I’m always heading north at night. The grain elevator lights and the lights at the end of Pier 91 cast a lot of glare and Gould be shaded much better.

  9. Am I the only one wound up by the lecturing tone of the press release? They’re blocking a major commute bottleneck and recreational route for two weeks of the summer, for an event that the neighbours almost universally hate – they could at least try to be conciliatory about it.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Yeah, I found the whole “room for improvement on both sides” thing to be a bit silly. Sure, don’t be a dick to workers, I support that totally. But people who depend on this route for transportation are not the ones causing the issue. If you close down such a vital route without making sure a proper detour is available, you better expect some angry people.

      I agree with the “smoke ’em if you got ’em” attitude personally. Well, I don’t actually smoke pot, but I say chill out and try to deal with things with a smile. However, my extensive experience with humanity has made it clear that not everyone can be expected to share that outlook on life.

  10. Ted says:

    Riding home last night was a nightmare. I essentially got run off the trail a few times by dudes in semis. I sent an email to the organizer of the festival and received a relatively cordial email back, and I actually got a call back today from Chris Swenson, Manager of Special Events for the city. He was articulate and listened and he mentioned that he and his department appreciate any feedback and they will take it all into account for the permitting process next time (hint hint.) His email address is [email protected] (hint hint.) If you’re a reasonable person like me who doesn’t like his beloved bike path crushed by tractor trailers driven by half baked morons, please take a moment to drop Chris a quick email. Hint.

  11. Roy W says:

    It’s always seemed like Hempfest is too big an event for that park. I think they need to relocate.

    What’s the most absurd about the whole deal with negotiating our right to use the trail there is that the organizers and the city are treating it as an issue with our use of a _park_, when the real issue is that we need to use the _road_ which is the bike trail. We’re not just riding for fun, it’s transportation, and forcing us onto bike-hostile roads means putting our safety at risk.

    I think we shouldn’t just start speaking up to the city about having reasonable bike access to the trail during Hempfest (is that really possible? come on) – we should start urging them to deny their permit. There’s just not enough room. Make them go to Magnuson or Discovery park.

    Write >> [email protected] << about it. Now, please.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I agree with your reasons for why it’s an issue. However, I don agree that working to deny the permit is the best way. We should not repeat the methods of NIMBY resistance to change (or maybe it’s Not In My Bike Path). Organizers have a right to hold their event, but the lack of accommodation for bike transportation is not acceptable. There must be a compromise here somewhere.

      • Breadbaker says:

        Tom is right that the NIMBY way is not the way to go. We need to suggest ways to keep safe access to the trail open at least during setup the whole time. If that either adds costs or inconvenience to the organizers (e.g., by hiring different truckers than the ones who seem not to care there are cyclists in their paths, or by having supervisors to stop that happening thick on the ground), that is Hempfest’s cost for seeking to have access to what is after all a thoroughfare for legitimate transportation for quite a long time, and they should pay it. It is only when such reasonable accommodations are considered something they don’t want to incur, or to which they pay lip service but don’t comply with (which I’m not saying would be the case; I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt) that moving the festival becomes the right choice.

        But Roy is also right. The city seems never to take into account the cost to its actual residents of the various events that go on all summer. Scheduling the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and the solstice parade back to back on a Saturday made mobility in the city essentially impossible. Metro buses sitting in traffic not moving for 45 minutes at a stretch; I-5 a parking lot in both direction for hours. I’m sure both events pay for a permit; I’m not sure whether the all-in cost is accurately measured against the all-in benefit.

      • Al Dimond says:

        A reasonable rubric for events that affect the core cycling network without a reasonable nearby detour would look something like:

        – Hold the event
        – No total trail closures, no “dismount through the event”
        – Keep event attendees clear of the trail — no crowds standing on the trail, provide alternate pedestrian circulation for the event
        – Flaggers may stop trail traffic for short periods of time as necessary for set-up and take-down, as would be common for, say, construction activity near a road that doesn’t completely close it
        – Drivers and event organizers will be held accountable for illegal vehicle behavior against trail users under existing laws (in the particular case of Hempfest, given the history of complaints, vehicular behavior may be specifically monitored)
        – Event organizers will be charged for any clean-up required beyond normal park maintenance (this is an obvious market-based incentive for good behavior — organizers can avoid a clean-up bill by doing the work themselves, thereby making everyone happy)
        – Any detours affecting the core cycling network (as defined in the BMP) must get SDOT approval

    • Morgan Wick says:

      It’s not even a road. It’s a highway with limited opportunities to leave.

  12. Double Down says:

    It sucks. Period. Inconvenient for cyclists and pedestrians certainly, but the amount of trash that is left behind is even worse; and I’m not talking about the stragglers who end up sticking around for a few days, sleeping under the bushes afterwards…

    • Kirk from Ballard says:

      I’ve always been impressed by how quickly and thouraoughly they clean the park. But the surrounding areas, not so much. I hear they will need to clean up a large perimeter this year.

  13. Donna says:

    Seattle’s worst-located annual festival? Could be. But there is another contender: the food truck rodeo in Fremont–it had people standing in lines across the width of the Burke Gilman and it was so crowded you could barely walk your bike without getting dirty looks. To me, that’s like closing I-5 without any notice.

    • Al Dimond says:

      Oh, yeah, the food truck rodeo.

      It was located in a business park with tons of surface parking that goes totally unused on weekends, but it has to instead block the Burke-Gilman Trail.

      It was located in a spot where there’s a pretty decent opportunity for detour, but instead of marking it in advance they just let people wander into it without warning.

      But here’s the thing that slays me about food trucks in Seattle. Our city has abundant, cheap, clean hydroelectric power, but the food trucks lined up along the street and burned expensive, scarce, dirty fuel to generate electricity. In a settled city, in places where public markets are routinely held or food trucks regularly stand, people should not be burning fuel for electricity. We can do better than that!

      • Breadbaker says:

        Food trucks when there are abundant empty storefronts, some directly next to where the trucks sit (see, e.g., on Union between 4th and 5th) don’t make a lot of sense. Essentially, they are subsidized (parking spots made available to them on the street) to compete with similar private businesses that pay property taxes. Why? Because Portland has them?

  14. ODB says:

    I’ve commuted daily, year-round on the EBT for several years. In the winter, this means riding with lights morning and evening, fighting headwinds that make whitecaps on the bay, and weeks of riding in rain or drizzle. On stormy high-tide mornings I’ve dodged waves crashing over the trail. I’ve ridden the trail when it was covered in snow and sprinkled with grain dust from the elevators. The trail represents a wonderful break from riding in traffic and a twice-daily opportunity to enjoy some of the nicest views in Seattle. With this history, it’s hard not to feel a little proprietary about the trail and a touch of entitlement–why should these newcomers be allowed to take possession of this trail, which after all is not just a source of enjoyment, but happens to be my route to work and home.

    I recognize these to be selfish and ungenerous sentiments, but nevertheless, I always get frustrated by the disruption caused by Hempfest (especially the year I got a flat tire from uncleaned-up broken glass in the trail–part the notorious trash-strewn aftermath, which is another sore point). But this year has been the best so far. The new morning commuter truck-free period is appreciated. One suggestion would be to do something different about the A-frame “no parking” signs marking the parking lot at the north end. They are currently partly on the trail and partly on the grass. If they were entirely on the grass, they might get hit by cars’ bumpers that overhang the curb, but I think this would be better than obstructing the trail–which is narrow enough already–with signs that have sharp metal edges. Or maybe a different type of sign could be used?

  15. Kim says:

    Not having seen the detour/closure I wonder if a volunteer flagged Nd some temporary cones would help mitigate conflicts during the times of highest conflict? Otherwise I would say that anther high qulity route that provides good wayfinding should be a top priority.

  16. Morgan Wick says:

    This is why transportation trails should not be routed through parks as a general rule: the powers that be start seeing it primarily as a park. Given its shape, the city and Port should make clear that this is a trail first and a park only insofar as it provides views and isolation from industry for the trail.

    • Al Dimond says:

      It’s kind of hard to un-park a park. And a lot of its use is recreational.

      Ultimately responsibility for transportation cycling lies with transportation departments. If they can’t arrange suitable conditions in parks (and other non-city land, as with the BGT) they need to arrange suitable paths outside of them.

  17. seriously? says:

    “It’s 7 miles and would take about 45 minutes. That’s why people get frustrated when they can’t get through the park. If it were just a few blocks longer, I would say it’s no big deal. But that’s not the case here.”

    Sorry, but your post is ridiculous. One can ride in the bus/bike lane and/or on the sidewalks down 15th/Elliott/Western. You don’t have to do the circuitous route you outline.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Well, some people might feel comfortable doing that, but not most. I’ve biked on 15th several times, and it’s awful and terrifying and I won’t do it again. The bus lanes are better (though they don’t go the whole length of the closure), but off-peak they have parked cars.

      Trails attract people of many ability levels, a great many of whom would never bike on 15th. Or would do it once and hate it and never do it again.

      • seriously? says:

        so what’s wrong with the sidewalks, they run the entire length of 15th/Elliott/Western…

      • Ted says:

        Riding on sidewalks for two or three miles is really a pretty ridiculous suggestion. And overall, it’s probably more dangerous (for someone, anyway) than riding on a road.

  18. Teddy Pendergrass says:

    Just when the vegetation was starting to look healthy again following the east-side trail closure last winter…

    HEMPFEST: “Smoking the grass while simultaneously killing the grass.”

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  20. Ted says:

    On the upside, if you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to ride through pure cigarette smoke for a mile and a half, act fast! A breeze might come up soon!

  21. cal says:

    I crashed Aug 15 last year during Hfestsetup on my morning commute ..
    Three other crashed within minutes on the cable crossings. Dis anyone hear of any morning commute crashes this year.?

  22. Kirk from Ballard says:

    I didn’t hear or see any crashes on the cable crossings. They had them much better marked. I don’t know why they can’t use lower profile crossings, or ones with a longer ramp.

    Overall the management of the commuting hours and the attitude of the staff was much better this year. I had no problem commuting through the parks southbound in the morning at 7:00 a.m. and northbound at 6:00 p.m. all week through Thursday. Everyone was polite and understanding. On Friday, I did skip it all and take 15th/Elliott both ways, which was fast and easy. I ended up going to the festival for the first time on Sunday, and was disappointed to find that they didn’t have the bike racks for parking that they described on their website.

    This morning the park was litter strewn, but I’m sure I will be amazed, as I always am, about how clean it will be on the way through the park this evening.

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