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Hempfest is this weekend, so expect big delays on Elliott Bay Trail (or give in and join them)

Your Hempfest bike route detour: Ellott Ave W. Yikes.
Your Hempfest bike route detour: Ellott Ave W. Yikes. Image from Google Street View

Hempfest is back for its annual bike-trail-closing pro-marijuana fest in Myrtle Edwards Park. The good news is that, if you are headed to Hempfest, bike access is excellent. Hempfest even recommends arriving by bike and will have racks set up at the north entrance.

But if you are just trying to bike through the area and utilize the vital bike connection provided by the Elliott Bay Trail, you are on your own to either try to walk your bike through the crowds (and through security) or to find a way around it all.

You should also be prepared for delays for days before and after the festival as planners set-up and break-down. In fact, you may have already noticed vehicles driving on the trail, since set-up began this week. Try to give yourself extra time in case you have to walk your bike, and save your frustrating rants for emails to the city leadership urging them to create an actual bike detour next year.

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The only detour option anywhere close to the trail is via the car-crazy Elliott/15th Ave. There are bus lanes you can bike in for some of it, and the west sidewalk is not awful since there are few cross-streets (though it will probably be packed because of Hempfest). But if you can, it might be best to reroute all the way to the Fremont Bridge and bike the extra miles (though then you’ll have to deal with the awful Dexter/Mercer construction).

One thing you don’t want to do is get justifiably frustrated and then yell at Hempfest volunteers. They’re volunteers, they didn’t cause this mess. But if you see something dangerous (like dangerous cable routing across or near a bike path, which was a problem in previous years), be sure to report it to the Hempfest folks.

Hempfest causes friction with people on bikes every year, and both sides are in an understandable position. Hempfest likes the beautiful location for their popular “protestival,” and people on bikes need to get home or to work or wherever they are going.

This is a major bike route, and having no reasonable detour is crazy. We have suggested in the past that the city work with Hempfest to create a temporary bikeway on Elliott Ave while the festival folks are working in the park. You can’t simply close the only comfortable bike route through an area just north of downtown and expect everything to go well. People on bikes don’t just disappear because there’s a festival.

But for at least one more Hempfest, it looks like you’re on your own. If you find yourself getting too frustrated, maybe it’s best just to give in and join the now-totally-legal festivities. If you show up to work late and high, you can blame the city’s lack of bike lanes on Elliott. I’m sure your boss will understand.

Here are the ample bike directions from the Hempfest website:

Perhaps the best way to get to Hempfest is by bike. Myrtle Edwards Park is part of the Elliott Bay Trail which connects to the massive Burke Gilman Trail. One may easily navigate the regional trail system from Sammamish, Lake Forest Park, Bothell, Kirkland, etc.

Comprehensive bicycling maps from King County

Alternate SeaTac to Downtown map from Cascade Bicycle Club

Bike rental info from Cascade Bicycle Club

When approaching on the Burke-Gilman, one has two main routes. The first option is to cross the historic Fremont Bridge, the most frequently opened drawbridge in the United States. Take a left onto Westlake and ride along the west side of Lake Union all the way downtown.

The second option is to ride the Burke-Gilman to the Ballard Locks, which are open from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily. After crossing the locks, coast through Magnolia, and into the magnificent train yards before hitting the glistening waterfront. If the locks are closed, take the 15th Ave bridge, right on Dravus, left on 20th and down by the train yards.

To the south, the Elliott Bay Trail runs past downtown to SoDo and the stadiums, where one can (sort of) connect with the I-90 trail or continue south along Alaskan/Marginal Way to hook up with the West Seattle Bridge.

Mon-Thurs (August 12-15 ), and Mon-Wed (August 19-21) from 7:30-8:30 AM is vehicle free time on East path 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.

For public safety, BICYCLE RIDERS MUST DISMOUNT during Seattle Hempfest.  ALL DAYS, ALL HOURS.

Bicycles 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.

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10 responses to “Hempfest is this weekend, so expect big delays on Elliott Bay Trail (or give in and join them)”

  1. Kirk

    Last year I found the bicycle access leading up to the festival much improved over previous years for the commutes through the waterfront parks. I biked down to check it out last year, and the promised bike racks at the north entrance were nowhere to be found. I asked where they were, and was told there weren’t any. I had to lock up to a chain link fence.

  2. Captain Obvious

    Well, ok, maybe it is not obvious to everyone, but re.
    ” If the locks are closed, take the 15th Ave bridge, right on Dravus, left on 20th and down by the train yards.”
    The path next to the train yards is signed as being closed (albeit not gated, and not a through path police cars can cruise through) at hours similar to the locks.

    In the Picture used here, Elliot doesn’t look bad at all I wonder when it was taken? I work second shift so I ride through there at non-peak hours, but even I see more traffic than that, still, I do ride through there every day.

    Also the “15th Ave. bridge” is also known as the infamous Ballard Bridge, justifiably reviled by Bicyclists everywhere. Oh, and yea, the locks are a Federal facility, I imagine that there pot is still a Schedule I controlled substance.

    “Hempfest likes the beautiful location for their popular “protestival,”
    A local protest is going to negligible effect on the Feds, and for the State, it is legal now, what F*^% are they protesting?

    “cross the historic Fremont Bridge, … Take a left onto Westlake” I’ve seen better advice, if one is experienced riding a bike through that area they will already know where to go, but if new to the route (and maybe high) you really don’t want to literally turn “onto Westlake”. While a few dead cyclists might further the cause for a cycle track, it is not the the way I want to get bicycle facilities. On the other hand, if it has to be someone, better a hempfest attendee than me!
    Walk your bike up Dexter if you have to, but if you don’t know the route through the area, stay off Westlake proper. Or better, take a right after the bridge and ride the trail, if the rail yard section is open you can ride a trail virtually all the way there (though you’ll probably get lost around Emerson/Gillman juncture) , if it is closed, ride 15th with the rest of us (traffic is pretty light at night)

    Were the people who wrote those instructions high? (rhetorical question)

    “One thing you don’t want to do is get justifiably frustrated and then yell at Hempfest volunteers. They’re volunteers, they didn’t cause this mess”
    Well, that is nice of you Tom, but they did in fact volunteer for this event, I’d have more sympathy if they were people who had to take whatever job they could get. If the event can’t get volunteers (or money or permits) in the future, they might just have to go away. Still, I agree, one shouldn’t yell at them if one is on a bike, we don’t need any more enemies, but if you are in a car, yell all you want (but please, don’t run them over, that is just wrong) the attendees will be causing plenty of auto congestion too, far more than the displaced bikes will.

  3. Southeasterner

    It already sucks and bikes are being re-routed to the West pedestrian path during setup.

    Can’t wait for it to be over.

  4. SGG

    Seems like some people on here should have a nice glass of whine with their hempfest this year. Get over yourselves folks, it’s one weekend a year. They close all kinds of facilities for special events throughout the year, many with far more impact than this. Rock n’ Roll Marathon taking over the viaduct for a day for instance.

    1. Southeasterner

      You’re talking about one day on a weekend vs. 2 weeks for Hemp Fest activities. I don’t think it’s too crazy to be a bit more accommodating to cyclists going to/from work on one of the busiest cycling commuter corridors in the city.

      Why not move the entire festival to that huge fenced off “construction site” that has been sitting vacant for years between Amgen Ct. and the Elliott Bay Trail? It still has a great view, great location and wouldn’t require closing off the bike trails?

  5. Enduser

    The majority of folks attending Dopefest will be attending by either bicycle or walking. Why wouldn’t the Cascade Bike Club work with the organizers of this event to sponsor a bike corral and a means in which to keep a portion the Myrtle Edwards Trail open to some degree –
    I certainly think that would be a more proactive stance which would better serve their vast constituents who utilize this trail.

  6. Ted

    On my way home today I was harassed by two separate parties. The first was someone driving a Suburban going about 12 – 15 down the middle of the trail (about 20 feet north of the water fountain, just barely north of Alaskan Way where I got on the trail.) When I had to come to a complete stop because he moved completely to his left blocking the trail, he blew past me with inches to spare and said, “Fu– off, di–.” (My part in that was shaking my head at his lack of even attempting to give me room.)

    Later someone with a reflective vest on lost his cool as I cruised by doing about 7 miles an hour and screamed that “vehicles” were prohibited. This as I ducked under a tractor trailer’s side mirror flying past my head going south.

    Cars and trucks are everywhere in my world; do they really need to ruin the only spot in town where I can spend a few minutes every afternoon without their noise and air pollution?

    The good news is that I called Seattle Parks and Rec, told them I had a complaint about an event at Myrtle Ed Park, and was immediately connected with a woman who was sympathetic, maybe empathetic, and said she’d immediately pass my story up the chain. Interestingly, she also said that her department has been attempting to deny Hempfest the park for “years.” Maybe I barked up the wrong tree but it felt good to tell someone with some authority what happened. Can’t wait to have the trail back.

  7. Dave

    I’ve got it! Call local media, claim to be the Dutch consul to Seattle, and complain that Hempfest is only honoring Dutch culture 50% in their closing off of bike access!

  8. Gary

    Relax, when the nightly crush of cars in this town is enough to make any Dutch cyclist scream for a ticket back home and we have a festival of people smoking weed.. I hope lots of them are out of state tourists here to dump a ton of money on a now highly taxed item. The state coffers can use the extra cash.

    Remember folks in years past, all we got was the additional hotel/car rental visitor tax.

  9. Only in Seattle would organizers of a festival prize so greatly a location that’s so inconvenient and confusing to get to. Don’t believe it? In past years while running in the general area of the festival I’ve been asked for directions by people that were totally lost, very far off course, trying to figure out how to get back to their hotels.

    And only in Seattle would organizers of a protest choose a location that’s nearly invisible to the general public.

    There seems to be something about this particular trail — of all the insults suffered by people that bike in Seattle, we suffer the stupidest ones there. Hempfest (whether the awful location or the continued reports of hostile, dangerous, and unprofessional behavior from volunteers setting it up). The schlocky, lazy artists blocking the trail for months for a sculpture installation that couldn’t be more than a couple days’ honest work (since I never actually saw anyone working at the site when I passed by I can only assume most of the time it was roped off the artist was in a city he actually wanted to be in, making the episode an insult to Seattle as a whole). The completely avoidable conflict with that bathroom entrance. A lot of our bike routes face truly difficult challenges. This one by all rights does not, except that we keep going out of our way to stick our feet in our spokes.

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