Seattle Parks and Recreation banned all bicycling, skateboarding, roller skating and scootering from the inner loop trail around Green Lake in March despite there being no viable alternative along the west side of the lake.
The decision to restrict wheel use on the often-busy path was initially part of the department’s scattered reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, such as closing the playgrounds, drinking fountains and bathrooms. The idea back then was to limit crowding on the path back when we didn’t know much about how the virus spread. Outdoor activity like walking or biking around a lake has since been largely considered a low-risk for transmission, but we didn’t know that at the time.
However, instead of reverting the path rules back to how they were before, the department decided to keep the ban in place on a “long-term temporary” basis, whatever that means. They even changed all the permanent-looking signage to reflect the rule change. And as noted in a October 21, 2021, memo to the Board of Park Commissioners (PDF) that Ryan Packer uncovered through a public disclosure request, the department had “not conducted any community engagement specific to this issue” before making their recommendation.
After some significant backlash, Parks is now hosting a series of “listening sessions” September 7–9 that are separated by mode of use. These sessions “will provide a way for the public in different user groups to share feedback on what works well and what could be improved to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the Green Lake Park Inner Loop,” according to the project webpage. The dates:
September 7 – Bikes
September 8 – Small Wheels
September 9 – Pedestrians
Questions may be directed to Todd Burley at [email protected]
People have been complaining about crowding on the Green Lake path for decades. But bicycling has been popular on the path ever since it was first created. For a while, people would drive their bikes to the lake just to ride around it. The city has gotten more dense and the number of biking options has expanded, so I doubt many adults are driving their bikes to Green Lake to ride around these days.
However, families do still bring kids and their bicycles to Green Lake. Countless kids have learned to ride a bike on that path because there are no cars and they can go as slow as they need to. Kids on scooters and bikes can also keep up with parents who are running, which is a wonderful use of this park. It’s hard to get time as a parent to exercise, so being able to brings kids is huge. If Parks changes nothing else, banning kids from using wheels on the path was ridiculous. Is a kid on a scooter more dangerous than an adult running?
Adults absolutely should not be bicycling quickly on this path. It is not fun to be passed by someone moving fast on a bike while out for a stroll. I can understand why someone might experience a fast pass and decide that bikes should be banned. One reason adults might be biking there is that they don’t have another option along the west side of the lake. SDOT recently built an on-street bikeway that goes about 2/3 of the way around the lake, and they are currently planning a link to complete it. Why not just remove path restrictions until the outer loop is complete and then see what happens? There’s no problem with someone riding lazily around the lake on the inner path, and anyone trying to go fast will have a much better time on the outer loop bikeway. This problem may solve itself without the need for any complicated path restrictions.
Cascade Bicycle Club seems to agree, writing, “Let’s focus efforts on how people share the trail, not the mode they choose to use it. The Green Lake inner loop is a community gem, and this safe option must be available to everyone who bikes, walks, and rolls.”
Other wheeled users are also getting screwed here for no reason. Some people like to roller and inline skate, and this is an obvious place to do that. Where else are they supposed to go? Unlike bikes, skates don’t do well on hills. Green Lake is a flat and beautiful car-free loop of asphalt. Banning skates honestly feels kind of mean. Like, why bully people for wanting to roller skate around the lake? Go to Vancouver and you’ll see lots of Canadians skating on their park paths, and it’s wonderful. We just got an NHL team, and interest in inline skating may increase as more people learn to skate on and off the ice. Parks should want to encourage this increase in recreation. Isn’t that their mission?
Parks belong to the public, and limitations on use should implemented carefully and only when truly necessary for the enjoyment and safety of the public. It’s not the job of Parks to dictate how they should recreate unless they are causing harm to others. If there is harm, the goal should be to address the problem with the lightest touch necessary. With all the problems facing our city, are we really gong after people who just want to ride a bike around a lake? This rule goes too far and should be reconsidered.