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Cascade joins city in legal defense of Bike Master Plan, Westlake ‘policy ride’ planned Sunday

8583_10151990323659081_257995587_nCascade Bicycle Club has joined the legal battle over the Bike Master Plan update started by a handful of people upset about city plans to build a bikeway in the giant parking lot stretching between the Fremont Bridge and South Lake Union.

In legalese, the city’s Hearing Examiner has approved a motion by Cascade to “intervene” on the city’s behalf. This allows the club to assist the city attorney’s office with the legal work needed to defend the Bike Master Plan.

“The hearings examiner’s decision is an important first step toward bringing a speedy resolution to the Stakeholder Group’s lawsuit and helps the city begin full implementation of the new Bicycle Master Plan,” club Policy Manager Brock Howell said in a blog post.

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Cascade is also organizing a “policy ride” on Westlake Sunday to demonstrate that there is a demand for a safe bikeway in the corridor. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is scheduled to join. If you want to participate, meet at the Fremont PCC at 2 p.m. The ride will be followed by a happy hour at RE:PUBLIC.

Defeating the Westlake legal action is a goal of last resort. A much more positive course of action would be for the people behind the suit to withdraw from legal action and instead come back to the table to discuss Westlake plans. The people who filed this suit perhaps underestimated how many people in neighborhoods across the city have invested themselves in this master plan. Their obstruction is unpopular and not likely to help them stop plans for Westlake, which are moving ahead despite the Bike Master Plan delay.

As we have reported, the Westlake remake is already funded and is not reliant on the Bike Master Plan. Delaying the master plan was either a mistaken attempt to stop the Westlake plans or a transparent attempt to flex legal muscle.

Yes, Westlake improvements were included in the 2007 Bike Master Plan, too.
Yes, Westlake improvements were included in the 2007 Bike Master Plan, too.

In fact, the Bike Master Plan update actually calls for much less radical action on Westlake than the existing and city-approved 2007 plan. The 2007 plan put Westlake on the list of “key corridors for short-term study and corridors where an improvement is needed, but the facility is unknown.” The funded Westlake project is essentially an attempt to identify what that facility will be, and planners are currently drawing up a handful of options. So if they wanted to stop the Westlake bikeway at the Master Plan level, they are about seven years late.

But that’s not all. There’s also this paragraph (in the 2007 plan’s appendix) that I’m guessing the people suing the bike plan update would not be super excited about:

If properties are redeveloped with non-water-dependent land uses on Westlake Avenue N, the city should work with local businesses to explore the possibility of constructing new buildings close to Westlake Avenue (where the existing parking lots are). This would provide space along the waterfront area for public use, including a wide-surface multi-use trail.

So the irony here is that the plan update this handful of people are suing to block actually removes this plan for a waterfront trail. All the update adds to the 2007 plan is the idea that the bike lane through the corridor should have some kind of separation from cars, which is a no-brainer if the goal is to serve people of all-ages and abilities.

So the people angry about Westlake decided to sue the wrong project. Unfortunately for them, it will likely do nothing to help them in their fight against the Westlake bikeway (in fact, it might hurt them since an obstructionist move like this and their recent so-called “private community meeting” diminishes their ability to claim they are an honest community group acting in good faith). Unfortunately for everyone else in Seattle, their legal action threatens to delay plans to improve road safety in other neighborhoods and downtown.

It is in the best interest of the Westlake Stakeholders to signal to the city and people interested in a safe bikeway that they still want to be a partner in developing Westlake plans. There’s only one way to do that: They need to drop this legal action.

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12 responses to “Cascade joins city in legal defense of Bike Master Plan, Westlake ‘policy ride’ planned Sunday”

  1. Jake

    Well said, Tom. Thanks for staying on this, and for the call for all of us to work together toward our common goals rather than waste time and money fighting each other.

    I hope to see everyone (including the westlake stakeholders folks) on the ride Sunday afternoon! It looks like it will be another beautiful and sunny winter day, and a great day to be out on a bike!

  2. Matthew Snyder

    In related news, the documents filed in this case continue to be worth perusing. Josh Brower’s bully legal tactics did succeed in getting the hearing examiner switched and the hearing date pushed back until May instead of March. He also claimed (not particularly believably) that he felt threatened with physical harm after receiving an email from John Mauro, former CBC policy director (who no longer has any role in CBC), who wrote to him with the closing line: “Until we meet next time in a dark, parking-protected greenwave cycletrack alley in a city near you.”

    I do find it a bit strange that CBC is getting involved at this stage over such a relatively narrow appeal issue. Obviously they can contribute money and legal firepower, yes, but really (and narrowly), this appeal is about SDOT’s ability to defend its own DNS. What additional information is Cascade going to bring to the table regarding the EIS, or lack thereof? Or is this all in preparation for the likely appeal to superior court?

  3. Emily

    So excited that people from all over the city will be coming together to defend making Westlake a safe place to ride a bicycle! Can’t wait until Sunday :)

  4. speneee

    I’d love it if someone would flesh out the statement “the funded Westlake project” for me. Is the cycletrack funded? Is a study of feasibility funded? I’ve heard both.

    If the cycletrack is funded, then that precludes discussions which might lead to solutions better for cyclists, businesses and residents of the Westlake corridor. If the studies are funded, the door is open to the kind of “back to the table” Tom suggests is the better way to go.

    But which is it?

    1. speneee

      And as I’ve looked further it seems that what is actually funded is an “upgrade” to the Chesiahud trail. How does that get conflated with the cycletrack in the BMP? It seems to be mixed up in everyone’s mind. I can’t be the only person confused by this.

      1. A lot of people are confused about a lot of things.

        The BMP doesn’t actually specify specific facilities to be built anywhere. What it does is assess our current cycling network, set standards for quality bike facilities that will make up the core cycling network of the future, and outline the major and minor corridors that will make up the core cycling network of the future. The BMP includes a cycletrack on Westlake largely because there’s an existing (though somewhat vague) plan to improve the existing trail, something any good plan would account for. Aside from that, it reflects the fact that this is an important corridor for cycling, our desire to build an excellent cycling route in this corridor, and an assumption that, in this corridor, an excellent cycling route would probably resemble a cycletrack.

        An upgrade to the existing trail is, as I understand it, funded but not designed. Something is going to happen, and there’s still plenty of opportunity to influence what that will look like.

      2. speneee

        Thanks, Al. Do you know who is in charge of the trail upgrade? Is it SDOT or the Parks Dept or someone else? I suspect the source of the funds would be enlightening. If it is still up for discussion and review, then perhaps there is more room for talk and less need for obstruction.

      3. Jake

        Hi spenee – as far as I know, the funding is a federal grant that SDOT applied for and received. The design work is yet to be done, so it’s unclear to me why the Westlake Stakeholders feel left-out of the process: the process isn’t even happening yet!

        After chatting at length yesterday with one of the representatives the Westlake group sent to the Cascade ride, it sounds like they’re frustrated that their permission wasn’t asked before the city applied for the federal grant, which, if you know how these things work, is completely ludicrous.

  5. Shawn

    Jake’s right. I had the same impression from the Westlake Stakeholders Group on the policy ride. That the design phase is where their input is most valuable and only just beginning is beside the point. They weren’t asked permission and they’re pissed off about it. There is no interest in a dialog in good faith; this is rank NIMBY-ism, plain and simple.

  6. Mark J

    The presentation at the open house in Oct was fairly specific about the preferred location of the cycle track. There were 4 options presented, but 3 were talked down for various reasons (this one’s too expensive, this one doesn’t separate the cyclists enough) and placing the track on the west side of the lot against Westlake was presented as the preferred option in both of the presentations given that evening. That’s why the neighborhood is up in arms.

    1. speneee

      Mark J, Is there a place to get the minutes of the October meeting or a further explanation of the options? As someone who rides and drives Westlake, I personally think a track on the west side of Westlake is dangerous. Cars turning off the street into the parking lot will cross the track immediately. So you’d either have to stop cyclists at every entrance (which won’t happen in reality even if it is marked that way) or have cars stop on Westlake before turning. That is equally nuts. And that doesn’t consider cars trying to leave the parking area where they’d probably block the track until there was a gap on the street.

      1. Mark J

        The SDOT Westlake cycle track webpage has the OpenHouse DisplayBoards from the meeting that show the 4 options which were presented. The presenter mentioned multiple times he felt there were too many entrances to the parking lot, so I’m expecting the initial recommendations to close off a few of them. Keep in mind, there should be no changes to Westlake itself (like turn lanes) so traffic will remained as rushed as it currently is to turn into the parking lot.

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