Last night, the Seattle Department of Transportation held an open house about the Westlake Avenue North cycletrack (which runs along South Lake Union). Outside, people were selling these t-shirts for $6 a pop:
The shirts say, "Save WESTLAKE'S Working Waterfront." What poses an existential threat to businesses along the western shore of South Lake Union? A proposed dedicated bike lane designed for use by all-age cyclists, with physical barriers on each side to make the commuter route safer for riders, running near their parking lot. Lots of attendees apparently had $6, plus serious concerns that losing these parking spaces would destroy the neighborhood economy (even though an SDOT study found that parking is always available in the lot—more on that below). Inside the auditorium at Fremont Studios, there was a sea of blue, along with pockets of people in normal clothes:
The Westlake Stakeholders Group, which called on its supporters to pack the meeting, had a chance to prove last night that they're something other than a group of NIMBYs who hate cyclists. But most of the signs were discouraging: SDOT invited people to place sticky notes on maps of the corridor with their public comments. Someone wrote notes containing violent threats against cyclists: "Biker shotgun blast zone," said one, and "Tire spikes for bikes," said another. I asked several blue t-shirted folks how much parking they'd be willing to lose. All of them said none. And neither David Chappelle (not the real Dave Chappelle) and Martin Nelson, who are both Design Advisory Committee members representing waterfront interests, would tell me where they believe the cycletrack should be built. They just complained that all of the existing ideas are unworkable, from their point of view.
For over an hour, audience members peppered SDOT's panel of experts with questions like, "Why don't only bicyclists pay for bike projects?" and "When you build a cycletrack, does that mean cyclists will actually use it?" and "Why don't bikers just use Dexter instead of Westlake?" The last one got asked at least three times over.
And while the two bicycling advocates (out of 13) on the design committee told me genially they believe the process is working, it sure as hell looks like the project is getting derailed by obstructionists, because SDOT is tossing out perfectly good cycletrack designs.
At the first meeting of the design committee in April, SDOT presented Concepts A and B for the cycletrack—the former with the bike lane built on the west side of the parking lot, the latter on the east.
Initially, SDOT had estimated 20-40 percent of 1271 parking spots might be eliminated to make way for the cycletrack. That's because, according its study (PDF), "while there is high demand for unpaid parking, use of the paid parking supply is below the City parking utilization targets...parking is available along the corridor in free, paid and private parking spaces during peak season, at all times of day."
But both Concepts A and B have now been ruled out, according to SDOT, something Westlake Stakeholder and committee member Cam Strong described as "a big win." And while the official waterfont reps on the committee have been cordial, the bicycling advocates said, a contingent of vocal, blue-shirted nutballs are showing up to the design committee meetings as audience members.
The next one is on June 9 at MOHAI, and it's open to the public.