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The Times Ed Board picks a confusing fight against the Emerald City Ride, free speech

Screenshot of a Seattle times headline public roads should not be closed to raise lobbying money for special interests.

Did you know that Cascade Bicycle Club not only hosts bike rides on streets but also advocates for investing in infrastructure to make streets safer for biking? What a scandal!

Or at least the Editorial Board of the Seattle Times decided all of a sudden that this behavior is somehow scandalous.

What’s not to like about a refreshing bike ride on a Sunday morning?


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Turns out, it’s not so simple.

I’m picturing a colorful video of a happy family riding bikes that turns black-and-white while their eyes all start glowing red. What horrible truth have they uncovered?

Well, Cascade is paying for event permits and police staffing and then charging people to participate. And maybe, if things go well, they will even raise some extra money on top. An event promoter hopes to make money by hosting an event. But that’s not all. They are even going to use any extra funds to support their stated mission: Improving bicycling.

But the policy the Ed Board is suggesting here would be a major infringement on free speech. Why would a board that claims to believe in the First Amendment and the importance of free speech be arguing that the city should deny permits to an organization because that organization engages in public policy advocacy? I was genuinely shocked when I read this.

Are they arguing that any organization that tries to influence the transportation levy should not be able to receive street use permits? Or just the organizations they disagree with? The Downtown Seattle Association will surely lobby the city about the transportation levy, so should they also stop receiving street use permits? Should unions be denied permits for marches and rallies? Should marathon organizers be banned from lobbying? Imagine a city official saying, “You better shut up or you can kiss your permits goodbye.” Now THAT would be a scandal.

I think y’all should probably go ahead and take this one back, cuz I suspect you haven’t fully thought through the implications of the policy you’re suggesting here. Or if you still stand by it, boy, what a sad state our city’s only remaining daily paper is in.

Some history

WSDOT and SDOT used to fund these kinds of rides, making them free to everyone. There’s a whole section about it in my book. I would actually prefer the free public-hosted version. But imagine the Seattle Times editorial if SDOT did this exact same event using public funds: “We shouldn’t spend honest tax payer money on such frivolities! The city should leave these kinds of events to Cascade Bicycle Club!”

Cascade itself was even founded initially to organize a Bicycle Sunday-style event on Mercer Island more than 50 years ago, then it immediately shifted into an advocacy organization that raises money in part by holding paid events. This is how Cascade has always worked. It’s how they market it. There’s nothing secret or hidden about it. It’s weird that the Ed Board decided today that it is some kind of scandal.


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17 responses to “The Times Ed Board picks a confusing fight against the Emerald City Ride, free speech”

  1. Sal

    I guess STP is gonna be real different if the Seattle Times Editorial board gets their way

  2. Sean

    This op ed really left a bad taste in my mouth about the slant the Seattle Times has, given the fact this is by the entirety of the editorial board.

  3. Daigoro Toyama

    The Seattle Times Editorial Board has always been on the “conservative” side. With the more right-leaning City Council in place, I feel like they’re even more aggressive now.

  4. Michelle – Seattle Urban Cyclist

    It’s absolutely the responsibility of the city to keep ALL road users safe. The fact we even need “advocates” for something so basic is a joke. I ❤️ Seattle but city council and the mayor’s office gotta get it together.

  5. Blocky

    Just wait until the STEB hears about the public roadway that Sara Nelson has been obstructing for years!

    Oh wait a second…it’s almost as if they only care about certain special interests…

  6. George Winters

    Maybe the editorial board is just suggesting cars need more equivalent opportunities for representation? Oh, wait, look at the picture, as in “I get the picture.”
    Thank you, Tom, for responding.

  7. Ed

    Thanks for the excellent reporting.

    I am thinking back about the Ballard Seafood Festival that shut down all the streets in downtown Ballard for the entire weekend. The festival was put on by the Ballard Chamber for years and years, using this event to raise funds. One of their focuses was to obstruct construction of the missing link, and we still do not have this section completed.

    I think the times editorial board has been sucking in way too much exhaust fumes.

  8. Al Dimond

    I am outraged! The public realm must not be used for politics and ideology, only for real public purposesprivate commerce, personal leisure, um… did I mention commerce yet? Ah, yes, also policing, can’t forget that… yes, our valued public pursuits free of ideology and politics, mm-hmm.

  9. Paolo Frijoles

    The Seattle Times Editorial Board’s misinformed and misguided fake news is the best thing that could happen for Cascade and their efforts to promote the Emerald City Ride! It was the No. 1 most read story on the Times website this morning. That’s priceless advertising. Tell everyone you know to sign up and come ride over the West Seattle Bridge. The right wing dumdums at the Times totally missed the boat. This is an incredible opportunity to showcase the beauty of Seattle by giving people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride over the West Seattle Bridge. Calling a nonprofit that advocates for safer transportation, supports food banks, educates kids how to safely bike, and supports healthy lifestyles a Special Interest Lobbying Group is ludicrous–especially considering how deeply in-bed with Amazon and Big Business the Times leadership is. Shame on them for punching down at a nonprofit that is working hard to make Seattle safer, healthier, and more vibrant.

  10. Jerold Pickard

    maybe the Seattle times should reflect on all that child labor that kept them running for over 100 years

  11. Steve Campbell

    I’m not regretting my decision to cancel my Seattle Times subscription last month.

  12. Joseph R

    I ❤ this response. Thank you Tom!

  13. Pam

    Thank you for addressing the EB’s baseless/factless editorial. I was shocked and thinking as to how I wanted to craft my response to them. As a decades long subscriber, I find it difficult to remain one after this editorial…not with the way they think.

  14. A neighbor

    I 100% refuse to subscribe to the Seattle Times specifically because of the attitudes and positions of the Editorial Board.

  15. Art Valla

    Note to Seattle Times editorial board:

    If you give a typewriter to monkeys, eventually they will write something offensive to just about everyone.

    Just because one of your monkeys wrote this editorial doesn’t mean you have to publish it.

    Maybe your monkey can write a retraction?

  16. Ballard Biker

    Car culture is killing and maiming people and this is the sword they choose to die on? Not surprising from an editorial board that supported Dino Rossi in every race he ran and lost in.

  17. Kevin

    Wait, it’s not April 1st yet…

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