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Will Seattle listen to Eastlake over bike lane concerns?

The Eastlake neighborhood has somewhat known what has been coming for them. Residents and business owners have watched the roads feeding into Eastlake Avenue be turned over to bike lanes, and sacrificing parking spots. It now seems that same fate is just around the corner for Eastlake.

“We don’t want to see what happened on Roosevelt Avenue; people lost their businesses and they had to relocate,” said Paul Proios, owner of the 14 Carrot Cafe on Eastlake Avenue. “It happened, it’s true.”

Proios notes that the city never went back to the Roosevelt neighborhood to conduct an impact study, after taking away parking for a bike lane. That’s what the city aims to do along Eastlake Avenue — remove more than 300 parking spaces and replace them with a protected bike lane. The project was initially pushed by Councilmember Rob Johnson, who has since left the dais early.

The 14 Carrot Cafe sits along Eastlake, near the intersection with East Lynn Street. Proios fears what will happen if parking is taken away in front of his business.

“This is a typical scene at the 14 Carrot Cafe,” Proios said. “We have a family of five, they come out, they have a disabled father, an elderly man, they get out in front of the cafe with a walker and they walk into our cafe, with oxygen on.”

“That’s just not going to happen, we will have no parking,” he said. “We will lose a lot of business and of course that is a concern for the livelihood of our business and other businesses on the block … we have some doctor’s offices across the street who rely on disabled parking in front so they can wheel their patients in — that will not happen.”

“We can’t take a whole family and bus them to Eastlake, it’s not realistic…” he added. “It doesn’t work like that. And unfortunately, we don’t just rely on neighborhood business, we need people coming in from all over. They come from Issaquah, Burien.”

Eastlake vs. a bike lane

The 14 Carrot Cafe is a family-owned business that has been operating at its Eastlake location for 27 years. Proios is therefore entrenched in the community. He says there’s a lot of neighborhood talk about how to fight the city over the proposed bike lane, even getting an attorney. He calls it an uproar.

“We’ve got thousands of signatures from business owners, patrons and customers,” Proios said. “Our main concern is not to say no to a bike lane, but to compromise. I’m a cyclist myself, so to say no to a bike lane would contradict myself.”

“Eastlake is a very busy arterial, putting a bike lane there is actually scary for the bikers,” he said. “They prefer to use Minor or Fairview or a lesser-traveled road.”

He points to Portland’s method of placing bike lanes one block away from main routes used primarily by vehicles. That would be an adequate compromise for the Eastlake situation, Proios said. Otherwise, it’s not just businesses that will suffer, but building owners who will lose leases and loading zones. He’s said as much to city officials.

“They said the issue would be having bikers taking a right-hand turn and going onto another street; it would be too confusing than going straight,” Proios reports. “I live on a bike lane right now, my house is on a bike lane, not on Eastlake but on a bike lane. There are still accidents and it’s still dangerous … cars still hit bicyclists on a bike lane.”

Proios hopes that Eastlake can repeat the success which occurred on 35th Avenue NE, where businesses and residents rose up to challenge a bike lane there. The project was suspended.

“If it happens, unfortunate, my mom, she’s an immigrant from Greece who opened up that place 27 years ago — we close down,” Proios said. “It’s sad. We lose a lot of the neighborhood.”

Proios says that when the city starts up a bike lane project, it’s not just about taking away parking. The construction can last for years, disrupting the neighborhood and blocking businesses.

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