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August 02, 2007

Cyclists Win Another One on Burke-Gilman, Still Protest About Stone Way

The City of Seattle has decided not to block off parts of the Burke-Gilman Trail flanking the north side of Lake Union. The previous plan had been for a detour lasting until summer 2008 so that one company, Fremont Dock Co., could embark on a construction project. For my money, that portion of the Burke-Gilman is one of the most scenic; I have nice memories of riding that strip when the Kalakala ferry was moored on the lake a few short years ago. Detouring it for an entire year would have been a stinging slap in the face to cyclists, skaters and pedestrians wanting to enjoy the trail. Michael Osterfelt, the vice-president of Fremont Dock Co., sees things differently:

"The reason why they're deciding to open it is because the city is trying to get out of the way of the bicycle lobby."

"Bicycle lobby"? Yeah, sure, the Cascade Bicycle Club is actually funded by the city's biggest corporate titans and, as with any powerful lobby, they have a stable of corporate attorneys doing their bidding and twisting arms at City Hall.

What is Osterfelt smoking, anyway? The fact is the bicycle club has more than 7,000 members and they've taken some real hits when it comes to needed bike paths and trails and trying to hold the mayor to his promise of making Seattle the #1 biking city in the nation. The real protest of late has been over bike paths on the lower section of Stone Way. First the City said "yes" to the paths, then, after getting hammered by businesses and landowners in the area, said "fahgeddaboudit". In other words, the City was for it before it was against it. Yesterday, cyclists swarmed the streets of Fremont to peacefully protest that move.

The primary reason for Wednesday's protest was to send a message to city officials that bike lanes should be installed on the south part of Stone Way North regardless of what area businesses think the lane reduction will do to traffic. For the time being, that stretch of street has been painted with "sharrows" -- symbols intended to encourage drivers to share the road -- and transportation officials will review the need for bike lanes again in six months.

"The city said a year ago they were committed to this, that they were not going to bow to any irrational complaints," said David Hiller, advocacy director of the Cascade Bicycle Club. "And that's exactly what they did."

Memo to Michael Osterfelt: if you want to talk about "lobbies" and powerful forces in Fremont, please don't forget to mention people like Suzie Burke, who has gotten her way at just about every turn. When it comes to twisting arms at City Hall, the cyclists ain't got nothin' on her.

Posted by shoephone on August 2, 2007 at 01:41 PM in Washington Culture | Permalink

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