Seattle Times columnist Jonathan Martin trashed cyclists yesterday for "digging in their heels" in their efforts to complete the "missing link" of the Burke-Gilman Trail—a 21-block stretch between the Ballard Bridge where the trail ends, forcing cyclists to contend with railroad tracks, large trucks, and badly damaged pavement.
Cyclists have spent ten years working with the city and businesses to come up with a route to complete the missing link, which is among the most dangerous stretches of road in the city (one intersection alone accounted for the most car-bike collisions, 45, in the city between 2008 and 2011, according to Cascade Bicycle Club). Their main obstacle has been Ballard businesses, who have been tirelessly fighting missing link proposals for a decade and have locked it up in court for years.
Yet despite the fact that business lawsuits are the only thing standing in the way of the missing link's completion, Martin argues that it's cyclists who have been "unwilling to budge" and consider an alternative proposed by the very same businesses that have spent years suing the city to keep the missing link from moving forward. Last year, after an unfavorable court ruling, the city agreed to complete a full environmental review of the project.
The businesses' proposal is to build a cycletrack—a grade-separated bikeway—a couple of blocks away from the existing trail, in what is currently a traffic lane on Leary Way and a parking lane on Ballard Ave. The proposal would divert cyclists away from the trail and back—a detour of several blocks.
"This could be a 'Kumbaya' moment," Martin effuses. "Bicycle advocates could get a win with a bicycle track in Ballard. [Ballard businesses] could feel like they’re not being shoved out. And the city, which is doing a court-ordered, $300,000 full review of the missing link, could spend that money instead making both happier."
Welcome to this ten-year-old debate, Jonathan Martin. Glad to have you. Now here's a little history.
Not only is the businesses' cycletrack not funded (and cycletracks, since they're grade-separated, cost more than traditional bike lanes), it's little more than a sketch on paper. Unlike the approved, vetted, shovel-ready alternative the businesses are trying to stop, the cycletrack would have to go through extensive environmental review, which takes years. And even that would only happen only if neighborhood groups—the same neighborhood groups who tried to kill a "road diet" on nearby Stone Way—sign off on the idea of eliminating a travel lane and a parking lane.
The proposal, in other words, is a red herring—a delaying strategy to ensure that the missing link doesn't get completed.
Oh, and about that "court-ordered, $300,000 full review": The city is only going through that process because missing link opponents forced them, through endless appeals, to perform a full environmental impact statement to prove that the bike trail won't somehow harm the environment. Who's digging in their heels again?