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Westlake group drops Bike Master Plan lawsuit

Westlake community members hold signs during a bike ride in support of a safer Westlake
Westlake community members hold signs during a bike ride in support of a safer Westlake

The group suing to delay the Bike Master Plan has dropped its legal challenge, opening the door for a City Council vote on the plan.

Ed Murray took office after the lawsuit was filed, and staffers said the mayor’s office quickly started meeting with the group to find a settlement.

“With the appeal now behind us, I look forward to working with the City Council as it moves to adopt the Bicycle Master Plan in the near future,” said Mayor Murray in a statement.

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As part of the deal, the city will create a “design advisory committee” for the Westlake bikeway project (a model that may also be used for other projects around the city). The committee is designed so people “can see some of the sausage-making,” said Andrew Glass Hastings of the mayor’s office.

A common concern among some Westlake residents and business owners was that they felt they were not included in early stages of planning.

Dropping the lawsuit is a smart move by the so-called Westlake Stakeholders Group. Continuing to hold the city-wide Bike Master Plan hostage was threatening their position as a reasonable party in discussions about the Westlake project. Delaying the city-wide plan, a high-level document developed over 2012 and 2013, would have no impact on the Westlake project they are upset about. After all, as we wrote last month, who wants to deal with a bully?

Dropping the suit is a big sign that members of the group do want to help guide the design to create a better Westlake corridor for everyone. They deserve credit for making this call instead of dragging their appeal out to at least May, which they could have done.

Members of the Westlake Stakeholders Group I have spoken to say they felt a little steamrolled by the process, but they recognize that the current parking lot design is not comfortable or safe for people on bikes, which creates headaches for everyone.

At this point, City Council approval of the bike plan is really only delayed about a month, and planning work for road safety projects around the city have not been significantly impacted.

Here’s Mayor Ed Murray’s statement about the settlement:

Mayor Ed Murray announced today a settlement has been reached on the appeal of the Bicycle Master Plan.

I am pleased we have reached a settlement that allows the withdrawal of the Bicycle Master Plan appeal,” said Mayor Murray. “The creation of a design advisory committee for the Westlake Cycle Track Project provides assurance to the surrounding community that their concerns about the facility’s design will be addressed without holding up a city-wide bicycle safety improvement plan. With the appeal now behind us, I look forward to working with the City Council as it moves to adopt the Bicycle Master Plan in the near future.”

The draft Bicycle Master Plan is currently before the Seattle City Council for review and adoption. Developed through extensive community engagement over several years, the plan seeks to better encourage and accommodate people who want to safely ride a bike in Seattle.

More information can be found here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikemaster_materials.htm

The Westlake Cycle Track Project seeks to study and develop alternatives for a two-way cycle track within public right-of-way on Westlake Avenue North.

More information can be found here:  http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/wct.htm

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42 responses to “Westlake group drops Bike Master Plan lawsuit”

  1. Gary

    Good for Mayor Murray. I suspect that he gave them the attention that they craved and they saw the futility of throwing more money at lawyers. If they threw money at mayoral campaigns they would get more bang for their buck.

    And a few words of “don’t worry, come on down to my office and we’ll talk” goes a long way.

  2. Donna

    In your article you state: “Dropping the suit is a big sign that members of the group do want to help guide the design to create a better Westlake corridor for everyone.” That seems like a big conclusion. Perhaps something came up in your interviews?

    I do know, however, that the lawsuit hurt a lot of the business brands: So much for “community” or even “family” friendly Kenmore Air, and the Kayak Center, and the swimming pool. Yes, I have hard feelings over this. At best, they allowed themselves to used as pawns; at worst, they are not who they portray their companies to be. Suing to block the Master Plan that did not even effect their project of concern is a seriously aggressive act.

    I would love to see an article about companies whose first reaction is to be a good community member (for example, surprisingly, Amazon who volunteered a cycle track), that sort of thing.

    1. Jayne

      Agreed. I work in the Westlake area, travel the corridor at least once a day, and after the little tantrum these people threw I will never spend money at any of their businesses again. They have shown their true face and it is not one I support or that I feel has a place in 21st century Seattle.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      I suppose a more accurate sentence would be “I see the group dropping the suit as a big sign that members of the group do want to help guide the design to create a better Westlake corridor for everyone.”

      Most people who live, work and own businesses there are reasonable people who do want what’s best for everyone. There was a lot of misinformation flying around, and at least a couple loud voices there simply don’t like bikes. I think it all got out of control, with lawsuits flying before saner voices took over.

      I understand people’s frustrations. I’ve been reporting on this plan since 2012 and am so beyond ready for it to be passed.

      I think we should encourage community members taking steps to be part of the process rather than simply attacking those who did something antagonistic like this lawsuit.

      1. On behalf of a business named as a participant in the lawsuit, I must clear the record. Safe N Sound, referred to as the “swimming pool,” did not engage in any legal efforts relating to the Cycle Track nor the Bicycle Master Plan.
        We agree the current configuration of the corridor is not safe for all users and must change and adapt to the needs of Seattle residents and visitors.
        Our largest concern is the safety of the children and families visiting our facility and we have participated in the Design Advisory Committee meetings, Public Outreach Events and SDOT tours of the corridor.

  3. Squirrel

    I am glad this issue is getting resolved. Now, I think, is the time to try to work with the aggrieved parties and try to find a solution that makes everybody mostly happy. If all parties are on-board with the final plan, it will happen much quicker.


  4. jeik

    So who gets to be on the committee? As a daily user of that route, I might be interested in having design input.

    1. @Jeik: The advisory committee is just one new way for stakeholder input. They won’t have executive authority over the design, just advisory input. Meanwhile, SDOT and its consultants will continue to hold several public meetings on the design and there will be opportunity for written public comment.

  5. […] office quickly started meeting with the group to find a settlement” after taking office, Seattle Bike Blog reports—in exchange for increased consultation through the formation of a design advisory committee. […]

  6. Mary Ann

    From 2007 – 2011 I rode through that Westlake parking
    lot 10 times a week and sadly I have to say that
    the truly aggressive bike riders made it hell
    for the rest of us. I am 100% in favor of the
    this bike plan and can understand why those
    who live and work there might have been
    against it.

    1. Toby

      What’s an “aggressive bike rider”? Too fast? I bike through the Westlake parking lot c. 2 X per week, and have for years. It’s how I usually get to and from Downtown. I don’t go fast (don’t feel like getting creamed by a car backing out, and definitely don’t want to hit a ped walking to car). I do see some going faster, but most bikers are not racing through. In a hurry, most of us take Dexter (which I don’t like because I’m getting too old for that hill).

      Regardless, wouldn’t people who don’t like parking or walking where there are fast bikers want to put them on their own path so they can be avoided? That’s how it’s done in Europe, many hundreds of miles of bike lanes separated from pedestrians and separated from cars. It just takes political will.

      Examples: Travel to Berlin by google maps and zoom down on Schönhauser Allee north of Torstrasse. Bike lanes on both sides of street, separated from both cars and pedestrians–and you’d better not stand around in that bike path!–and this is a narrow street. Similar paths are all over town. Drop in on Amsterdam; same thing. Why is this so difficult for us?

      1. Nickerson St. Bicyclist

        I somewhat agree with Mary Ann. I’ve lived and biked (and walked) through the area for years. Aggressive bicyclist (like aggressive drivers) are a problem.

        Hopefully the new design (using the input of the area’s full community) will be safer for non-agressive bicyclists (who are not trying to blow through). I am looking forward to seeing the results.

    2. Clark in Vancouver

      I also wonder what an “aggressive bike rider” is. It sounds a bit too much like a myth to me.
      Many people, regardless of their activity, have no idea what effect they have on others. If one person out of many is problematic, then you could blame that person but if there are many that appear problematic, then it’s time to look at the environment.
      In this case, if there is nowhere to cycle through the area without causing a problem to others, then it’s not those cycling that are to blame. It’s the environment.
      Of course it’s natural when slighted to want to punish them (or anyone resembling them) and to feel “they” don’t deserve any perks. I can understand that but one has to look at the situation. This location is such that people will always want to go through it. It’s a bottleneck between a hill and a body of water. You cannot stop people from wanting to cycle through it. All you can do is accommodate it so that regardless of behaviour or cycling style, it isn’t a problem.

      1. Mary Ann

        What I meant by aggressive bike riders are
        those bike riders who would pass me on the
        right, even though there was so little room
        between me and the curb that had I wiggled
        or wobbled we would have crashed. Or those
        bike riders who did not seem to care if they
        startled people walking across the parking
        lot by zipping past them going too fast and
        getting too close.

      2. Toby

        Mary Ann — I agree the behavior you describe is obnoxious. Fortunately, in my experience it’s rare. I myself sometimes yell at rude bikers, but I rarely have need (more often at cars). I have sinned as well. The answer is to fix the path network so modes are separated better. Check out the European cities I mentioned. It took me a few minutes to find this: http://e360.yale.edu/feature/on_biking_why_cant_the_us_learn_lessons_from_europe/2425/

      3. @Toby: There’s more going on there than the path network, which is most of the point of that article. They’ve calmed bike traffic the same way they’ve calmed car traffic, with traffic signals and frequent intersections. Mode separation can’t be the only key when the article’s author fears entering the trail on a bicycle.

        In the end, it’s all about speed. Car speed built our cities and commute patterns, and they’re much longer than in Europe. Most of the drivers on Westlake are going straight through, at least from Nickerson to Mercer. Most of the cyclists are, too. Two straight miles in the middle of your commute down a corridor with few traffic signals and lots of through traffic? That’s a recipe for a speedway, for cars or bikes. They built one for cars a long ago, reinforcing the point. You can hardly blame a cyclist commuting downtown from Magnolia or Greenwood that sees this as a good place to go fast. A fast cyclist ought to also be polite, but that’s not always what happens.

        Westlake will always have lots of through traffic coming from all over the city on two wheels and four. Negotiating the tensions between through traffic and local traffic of all modes will always be as important as negotiating the tensions between cars and bikes.

      4. Toby

        Al D–I’m not sure I understand your disagreement. For bikes going from Fremont Bridge to Mercer, there are two routes. One accommodates fairly fast speed (Dexter) and one does not (Westlake). There is no excuse for bikes to go faster than conditions in an active parking lot and/or on occupied sidewalks warrants. I do blame those cyclists who ignore courtesy and common sense. If you want to race, go up on Dexter.

        Yes, it’s important to reduce the tensions between modes, and providing a real path for the bikers would be the major first step in doing so. And BTW, Dexter’s path is marginal in that regard; it is not separated from either moving traffic or opening doors.

        Also, I disagree with your distinction of our conditions from those in European cities. For example, the route I cited in Berlin (Schönhauser Allee) is a long run, down a hill close to the steepness of the south part of Dexter. The bikers are commuting in from fairly distant neighborhoods and they cook down that hill. Safely except for dumb tourists;-)

    3. Clark in Vancouver

      I understand now what you mean. Individuals who are inconsiderate and/or unaware of their effect on others around them. Yeah, that’s bad.

      My response to the discussion of motorists passing to close to cyclists has been to check whether I’m unintentionally having a similar effect to people walking that I cycle past. Maybe I’m startling them and not aware of it. There’s talk of a one metre passing law when driving around someone cycling. I’ve decided to now slow down and give at least one metre of space when going around them.
      But of course it’s much easier to do this if there is room to do so. The different modes are normally at different speeds and should not be mixed.

      Another thing is if my commute is mostly uninterrupted and I can make good progress then I can afford to have a few spots along the way where I can slow down since to doesn’t lengthen my commute time much. If it were to be full of stoppages or slow downs often, I would get frustrated and in reaction to the situation just push on through. We have to design things taking into account human nature.

      Hopefully a design for this area is developed well enough that no matter how inconsiderate or clueless someone is, they still aren’t able to bother others. That’s really the best way. The Seawall here in Vancouver is a good example. The older areas are mixed or separated by narrow subtle markings and there can be problems but the newer areas have good separation that involves plants, benches and a lot of width. There is good signage so that it’s rare for people to not notice which side to walk or bike on. It works well.

  7. Joseph

    This is really good news! Sounds like a nice job done by our new mayor. I just rode Westlake again today and it’s badly in need of improvement. I also rode Dexter and it’s amazing how much nicer it is with a real bike lane. I’d crown Dexter the winner except for that totally unnecessary climb to get from SLU to Fremont on that route. It’s great if you want exercise, but not so great if you just want to get to the other side.

  8. Jack

    This is a great move which I hope will work out the best for everybody.

  9. merlin

    It was really strange to see people from the Westlake Stakeholders group holding signs saying “We Love Bikes” while we rode along Westlake on Cascade’s Policy Ride last month. I think we need to demonstrate to them that they’re right to love bikes, because bikes are great for business, especially for businesses located around the corner from a fantastic tourist destination (South Lake Union Park and MOHAI) and within easy biking distance from the Convention Center and all the downtown hotels. I have no idea if China Harbor has palatable food, but I’d be glad to join biking buddies there for a beer; I’d even go on a bike-themed Argosy cruise. And I suppose I could contort myself into a yoga session there too.

  10. Br bikes

    Call me skeptical. Preservation of free parking on city row isn’t a platform. I will with hold judgment on deep bore Murray’s stakeholder blah until I see what comes out.

  11. Brad Hawkins

    Props to Murray. Inclusion will be good on this project.

    1. Nickerson St. Bicyclist

      I think we’d have seen a far different result with McGinn, and I don’t think the bicycling community would have been stronger because of it …

  12. Josh

    I hope this is a learning moment for the City — process isn’t about process, it’s about actually giving a meaningful opportunity for input.

    The Westlake Stakeholders Group used the system the way it’s meant to be used, and succeeded in getting a seat at the table. But the whole delay should have been avoidable if the city had engaged in meaningful community outreach along the route rather than just ticking boxes on the process checklist.

    If you treat outreach as just a barrier to your desired result, don’t be surprised when the people you’ve ignored use the process against you.

    1. bill

      I disagree. According to SDOT, outreach was conducted to, among others, “Adjacent property owners, Business[es], Homeowners and Renters” http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/wct.htm. I suspect a lot of mailed flyers went into the trash unread, then when city surveyors turned up in the (city-owned) parking lot the so-called Westlake Stakeholders had a tantrum.

      [Tom — it would be great if you could get a statement from SDOT detailing what was done for outreach. If SDOT can demonstrate it did its job, this “we weren’t consulted” bleating might cease, and on the other hand if the “Stakeholders” really were blindsided then they would deserve some sympathy.]

      1. John

        For what it’s worth, I live in the area and back in October or so received a notice in my mailbox with information on the planned cycle track and a meeting they were holding to discuss it. So when I heard them say they were blindsided I was a bit surprised. Maybe their notice just went into the trash, unread.

      2. Yeah, I think that at least certain elements (probably ideologically motivated ones) of the Stakeholders group were acting disingenuously, mostly toward their own members, to drum up support for a lawsuit. A cursory inquiry would reveal that the project hadn’t been designed, that the surveyors they cited as provocation were merely gathering information to be used during design, and that there would be ample public outreach to influence design (seeing as nobody even has a preferred design yet).

        Since there’s probably no way to punish the Stakeholders financially for wasting everybody’s time with a lawsuit when they could have achieved the same thing by simply calling SDOT, it’s a good thing that the mayor managed to bring them to the table and work it out. It’s a good thing as long as the mayor also makes an effort to be equitable, and doesn’t only talk to groups that can afford lawyers.

  13. ODB

    I wonder what the lesson is from this episode, because it might be important the future of Seattle politics. Was taking the Bike Master Plan hostage a success (because it got the ear of the mayor) or was it a failure (generated too much ill will)? Will other interest groups in the take hostages by means of legal challenges to the EIS process, ushering in an era Tea Party-style politics (see debt limit votes) at the municipal level?

    1. Matthew Snyder

      Hopefully this is the last time we have to hear about SDOT getting burned (or nearly getting burned) by trying to skimp on preparing an EIS for a major component of bicycle infrastructure in this city. After all, as good as your outreach might be, and as inclusive as you strive to make a process, it only takes one person who feels excluded or overlooked to bureaucratically delay a big project if there are easy legal avenues to do so. I’m cautiously optimistic that new leadership at SDOT will address this problem.

  14. […] expanding the streetcar network, saving Metro funding, passing the Bike Master Plan (which he recently helped get back on track) and launching a bike share […]

  15. […] Lawsuit over Westlake cycle track, which stalled adoption of the Bicycle Master Plan, has been dropped. Additional details. […]

  16. So, what are the chances Murray can get the Missing Link going? :)

  17. […] and pressure a group of people suing to delay the Bike Master Plan to drop the suit. Within weeks, the suit was dropped. While Cascade is not solely responsible, the ride and the club’s legal assistance against […]

  18. […] all the squabbling over the Bike Master Plan lawsuit, it may have been easy to forget that, wow, the city is actually going to build a modern bikeway on […]

  19. […] protected bikeways and greenways, CHS reported this winter. In February, a downtown business group dropped its threatened lawsuit against the […]

  20. […] a very positive public hearing about the plan it held in December. There was no mention of the distracting lawsuit that delayed the plan for a couple […]

  21. […] lanes from the Fremont Bridge to Lake Union Park and praising Mayor Ed Murray’s ability to steer the process out of a litigation hole (so far, at […]

  22. […] A group of those businesses sued to prevent implementation of the entire Bicycle Master Plan, but dropped the suit in early 2014 after negotiating with the mayor’s office. The new project, finally getting […]

  23. […] A group of those businesses sued to prevent implementation of the entire Bicycle Master Plan, but dropped the suit in early 2014 after negotiating with the mayor’s office. The new project, finally getting […]

  24. […] who dedicated their time and energy to this process, which was created because community members made the awesome decision to drop their late 2013 lawsuit against the Bike Master Plan and work things out […]

  25. […] Westlake Stakeholders sued to delay the entire citywide Bicycle Master Plan in late 2013, but later agreed to drop the suit on the condition that the city create a community design process. And they […]

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