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Friday, May 30, 2014

Will Wealthy Parking Fanatics Run the Westlake Cycle Track Into the Ground?

Posted by on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 6:00 AM

HELP NEEDED A cycle track through this bike-unfriendly stretch of South Lake Union is the second-most-requested improvement for riders in this city.
  • SEATTLE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
  • HELP NEEDED A cycle track through this bike-unfriendly stretch of South Lake Union is the second-most-requested improvement for riders in this city.

This is how Seattle betrays itself. Take an in-demand public good that will improve the city's quality of life, but before that thing can come to life, make sure that people with lots of money are totally on board with the idea. If the important public good gets destroyed in the process of bringing those moneyed interests aboard, so be it.

Bike2.jpg
  • SEATTLE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
  • Click to enlarge.
Case in point: the idea of installing a cycle track along Westlake Avenue North, connecting Fremont to South Lake Union. This civic improvement is the second-most-requested piece of bicycle infrastructure in the city, because this particular stretch of road along Lake Union is hellishly dangerous for bike commuters. Right now, if you're trying to ride along this bit of Westlake Avenue, you can either pedal in the street, where there's no bike lane or shoulder whatsoever, or pass through a winding, poorly designed parking lot with more than a thousand spots. One choice leaves cyclists to contend with cars whizzing around curves at high speeds, while the other option makes them play a kind of urban Frogger, dodging motorists pulling into and out of parking spots. Both routes range from nerve-racking to terrifying, depending on the level of traffic.

What is a cycle track and how would it change things? A cycle track is simply a two-way bike lane that's separated from vehicle traffic by a clear barrier, like the one that was recently built along Broadway on Capitol Hill. The installation of the Broadway cycle track seems to have made life safer for everyone using that particular section of heavily cycled roadway, and there's been no major outcry from Broadway businesses, or from people upset that parking spaces were moved to accommodate the track. Nor has the presence of the Broadway cycle track—as some "war on cars" types may have feared—forced all citizens to abandon their automobiles and start pedaling themselves from one end of Broadway to the other.

But, thanks to Mayor Ed Murray, people representing exactly these sorts of irrational fears now are being invited to influence the Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) design process for the Westlake cycle track.

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