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Section of Elliott Bay Trail will close for sculpture installation

Photo by Dan Nguyen via flickr
Photo by Dan Nguyen via flickr

A short section of the Elliott Bay bike trail through Myrtle Edward Park will be closed until the end of May so Seattle Art Museum crews can install a large sculpture. The closure begins Monday.

Jaume Plensa’s “Echo” was originally installed in New York City’s Madison Square Park (see video below). The work has been donated to SAM.

A notice from SDOT says that people on bikes will need to detour onto the walking path, which can get very crowded and is not as wide as the bike trail. The notice also suggests that people should walk their bikes:

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On Monday, March 31, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) will begin installation of “Echo,” a 46-foot sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. This work will require a two month closure of a small section of the bike trail in the Olympic Sculpture Park.  SAM is providing an alternative route that will require bikers to walk their bicycles for a short distance on the pedestrian path along the seawall. The pedestrian sidewalk will remain open. The installation is estimated to be completed at the end of May 2014.

Echo was donated to the Seattle Art Museum from the collection of Barney A. Ebsworth. It was originally commissioned by the Madison Park Association in New York and installed at Madison Square Park in 2011 to great acclaim. It is made from resin, steel and coated in marble dust. Plensa is an internationally celebrated sculptor working in the public space, with over 30 projects spanning the globe in such cities as Chicago, Dubai, London, Liverpool, Tokyo, Toronto and New York.

Here’s a video from the installation in New York:

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24 responses to “Section of Elliott Bay Trail will close for sculpture installation”

  1. merlin

    How often does SDOT tell people who drive cars that they should get out and push their cars along a detour route?

    1. SDOT pretty much isn’t involved with this. I think that’s part of the problem.

      If we’re going to have important transportation cycling routes on non-SDOT ROW, SDOT should be involved to establish standards of access, lighting, intersections, signage, etc.

  2. sb

    I see the Seattle Parks press release (from just three days ago) states that “Seattle Parks is working with the Seattle Department of Transportation and SAM to ensure the message is widely circulated to the biking community.”

    What means are they using to widely circulate this message?


    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I didn’t hear about it until a reader told me they saw a sign about it somewhere near the trail. Later on Friday, I got a press release about it.

      1. sb

        Why doesn’t Seattle Parks/SAM/SDOT provide a map or photos of the detour? How short of a section are we talking about?

        I’m sure someone here will provide photos soon enough…

  3. Karl

    A month to install a sculpture?

    As long as we’re on the subject of trail closures, what about the sign on the Alaskan Way trail that says “expect intermittent closures”. Do they mean you might be held up for a minute or two while a forklift is on the path or there will be a detour? Because if it is the latter, the sign is after you have already traveled down the path a ways…

    1. Two months to install a sculpture! But even with such a leisurely schedule they aren’t bothering to arrange for a footprint that won’t disrupt one of the city’s most popular bike routes (search this blog for “graphs” and see — the most bike counter hits of any location in Seattle).

      Seriously, seriously, important bike routes through Seattle parks need strong oversight from a group that actually cares about transportation cycling, to make sure some basic standards for access, lighting, and closures are met.

  4. Southeasterner

    It’s a very short section near the fountain where there is already a lot of ped traffic and cyclists should be going slow. It delayed me all of 15 seconds on my morning commute.

    As a daily user of the trail I’m looking forward to biking by the new sculpture. There are much bigger fish to fry when it comes to bike path issues and communication with the general public.

    1. sb

      Did you walk your bike on the walking portion?

      While their may be “bigger fish to fry”, it doesn’t hurt to document all the instances of poor communication that cyclists and pedestrians have to deal with surrounding construction in Seattle.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      I’m also excited about the sculpture. I also agree there are bigger fish to fry.

      I think the negative reaction is more just that closing the bike lane seemed to be such an afterthought, and the “dismount and walk your bike” instruction comes off as a mild insult. It’s not a big insult and not worthy of outrage, but it does represent an attitude that does not take transportation by bike seriously (perhaps it has earned some grouchiness).

      There is an ongoing issue with the Elliott Bay Trail being closed (like for the week surrounding Hempfest), and people who depend on it to get around do not have easy alternative options (biking on 15th is not an option for many people). This closure is not big enough to warrant a full detour like that, but people who depend on the route are understandably nervous about any trail closures.

      In a truly bikeable city, there would be enough safe bike route options that detours are not a big deal. But Seattle is not there, and people hold tightly onto the few truly safe and comfortable routes we have.

      1. There’s also an ongoing issue with visibility after dark, especially when it’s wet out, and especially heading north. Even a good headlight can’t compete against the giant overhead lights in the bay, and there’s no surface light to help. This stands in contrast to the awesome lighting on the Thomas Street bridge. That bridge stands as proof that we know how to do this well, and makes the conditions elsewhere particularly galling.

  5. B

    At least it isn’t Hempfest.

  6. sb

    fwiw, SAM has stated that “The run of the detour is about 450′ and SDOT gave jurisdiction of this path to Parks after OSP was opened in 2007. SAM worked with Parks on the detour plan. Notice went up at the site one week before the detour was put in place.

    1. ODB

      Interesting to know the length of the closed section. According to my math, someone who commutes on the EBT five days a week would end up walking 40,500′, or 7.67 miles during the 9-week closure.
      (9 weeks x 5 days/wk x 2 times/day x 450′ = 40,500′ = 7.67 miles)
      Biking 7.67 miles at 10 mph = 0.767 hrs. = 46 minutes
      Walking at 3 mph = 2.56 hrs
      So, walking will cost each commuter approximately 1 hr., 45 mins. during the closure. For me, that would be like doing my 1/2 hour bike commute 3.5 times one morning, just for fun.

      The May 2012 PM peak (5-7pm) bike count at Alaska and Broad was 389.
      This is consistent with a random sample of 5-7pm bike traffic on the last day of February 2014 (354 bikes) with the new bike counter.

      Assuming 389 is a fair estimate of daily commuters in April/May (versus recreational cyclists), losing 1 hr., 45 mins. is a total loss of 680.75 hours = 28.36 days lost, just for commuters.

      Biking on the sidewalk is legal in Seattle. The width of detour path is same as a wide sidewalk. This morning there was exactly one pedestrian on the detour.
      But SAM expects me to walk one and a half football fields because a single jogger happens to be there?

  7. merlin

    Sorry to have started a snark-fest. Agree with Tom, this is pretty small. At least they thought to create a detour! A few years ago you might have just rolled up and found a chain-link fence across the trail.

  8. Kirk

    This is pretty minor. The detour is super short, and in the morning it’s easy, no slowdown at all. In the afternoon there will be pedestrians, but there always is, so we will have to slow down for about 30 seconds. The “walk your bike” in their communication is what I take issue with. Bikes can always use the sidewalk and yield to pedestrians. I have no problem riding my bike at a walking pace if needed, but I’m don’t need to dismount.
    For the record, the Hempfest was totally fine this year for the evening and morning commute every day except Friday, when the event opened.

  9. Josh

    Depending on which pedestrian path bikes are being detoured onto, walking may be more than just a suggestion.

    It’s a footpath, not a sidewalk, so they could officially ban cycling, though I’m not sure that’s actually posted anywhere, and I don’t know if a citation would hold up if there’s no real notice that you aren’t supposed to be riding there.

    A few years ago I had an interesting conversation with a touring cyclist who was chased down by Sculpture Park security for riding on a path where cyclists are supposed to walk. There’s no sign saying it’s closed to bikes, just an audio announcement, and this gentleman was hard of hearing so he had no idea he was breaking any rules until security ran up to him and physically grabbed his bike.

  10. Kirk

    The detour is on the sidewalk along the seawall. It is super wide. It’s not a big deal.

    1. Josh

      Officially, the route on the seawall is not a sidewalk, it’s a path, so “walk your bike” might be mandatory, not merely a request. Their statement isn’t clear, and their official guide map doesn’t make it much clearer.


      1. Josh

        Not to say that they will make it a big deal, they could be reasonable about it, but they could also be out there stopping people who don’t get off their bikes and walk.

  11. Anthony

    I wish this was an April Fools joke, well I guess it is.

    This insanely stupid move shows once again that city isn’t a cycling town, far from it. How hard is it make one of the most popular bike routes in all of Seattle a through route not being inconvienced by a art project? D

    This shows where the cities real priorities are, again. Rich people with cash to burn so they can look good and screw over cyclists, as usual. SAM is farce, and should be closed since they don’t give a rat’s butt about the general public getting to/from work.

  12. ODB

    The fountain sculpture at the south end of the EBT is ideally positioned to obstruct traffic flow. It encourages patrons to wander around appreciating the piece from different angles while in the middle of traffic. The classic photo op in front of the sculpture involves the photographer framing up family members in front of the fountain while standing oblivious in the middle of the path.

    It looks like the new sculpture will be similarly positioned right next to the path. This will predictably cause the same problems in a second location.

    I’m glad the Sculpture Park seems to be a success. It would be nice if more thought were given to mitigating user conflict and facilitating traffic flow.

    1. Kirk

      True, seems like a very bad choice of location, right next to the path. “Father and Son”, the fountain, always has a clueless crowd gathered around it during busy times.

  13. Rick

    I have a cross bike and plan to dismount, throw my bike over my shoulder, and run the 450′ through the garden. Anyone want to race?

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