This post, originally posted yesterday afternoon, has been updated, including with comments from SDOT communications manager Rick Sheridan.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="448" caption="Cycletrack in Copenhagen (Photo from liveablestreets.info)"][/caption]
Josh Brower, a lawyer representing the Ballard businesses in the Missing Link lawsuit, says that his clients have a new idea for completing the missing section of the Burke Gilman trail. They're proposing that the city build Copenhagen-style cycletracks through downtown Ballard instead of continuing the trail along Shilshole Ave and 54th St, a heavy marine-industrial area.
This comes after last week's King County Superior Court ruling that the trail could not be completed until the City does an environmental assessment of a five-block section of Shilshole (the only one of nine issues in the lawsuit the Judge ruled in favor of).
Brower says the proposal is a win-win for the community and the maritime businesses he represents. David Hiller, advocacy director Cascade Bicycle Club, says the proposal is an unstudied, unfunded straw man that does not properly serve the community.
Cycletracks are protected bike lanes with a curb-cut between both driving lanes and the sidewalk, which makes for safe single-direction bicycling. The Ballard businesses' idea is to run cycletracks along 46th St under the Ballard bridge, up 17th Ave NW, onto Leary Ave NW, and finally onto Market St through the heart of Ballard and over to the Chittenden Locks where the current trail picks back up again.
In order for this proposal to become a reality it would need buy-in from Cascade, SDOT, the Ballard businesses affected by this (there are lots of them), and the City.
Brower presents the idea as a viable compromise. He said, "We are trying to get the City to build a Copenhagen-style cycletrack that provides safe and accessible transportation alternatives, which do not undermine the viability of Seattle’s maritime and industrial businesses and which provides benefits to the entire community."
Hiller finds the idea dubious at best. "They can play any shell game they want, but it doesn't get rid of the need to have a linear continuation of one of the busiest multi-use paths in the nation."
The cycletrack idea is being offered up over a decade into the Missing Link fight and after several SDOT studies of the Ballard corridor to determine the best alignment.
"We did 30 years of work on where the trail would work," said Hiller. "It was picked for a reason, people didn't just invent it out of thin air. An extensive study determined the trail will be safest for walkers, drivers, trucks, and bikers."
The cycletrack idea comes without funding, study, or detailed design, though ultimately SDOT would be responsible for the study and design of cycletracks. On a basic level, cycletracks seem like a reasonable alternative, but it could take years of studies and likely incur protest from a new set of businesses effected by the design, stalling the completion of the Missing Link even further.
The Shilshole trail alignment is not without flaw. It goes through a heavy industrial area and runs across several major driveway crossings. But, it is studied, fully-funded, and shovel-ready and could get people off of the dangerous Missing Link roadway sections right away.
I have calls in to the Ballard Chamber of Commerce and the City Council for comment.
Rick Sheridan, SDOT communications manager, tempered his statement by saying they'd need additional information about the proposal in order to do a thorough review and deeper analysis. SDOT's surface review, however, reveals "serious flaws."
"Leary and Market would have to lose significant amounts of parking or a travel lane in order to accommodate a cycletrack," said Sheridan.
He also questioned using NW 46th St instead of 45th saying 46th is an arterial with rising traffic volume.
"Based on those elements, we would probably not want to move forward on this proposal," said Sheridan. "Additionally, moving forward on it would jepordize the significant progress that's already been made on the existing Missing Link alignment."
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