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Jason Rantz

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Dangerous, unnecessary Seattle bike lane project moving forward

Sometimes it makes sense to add a bike lane, but a lane on Westlake Avenue is unnecessary, according to Jason Rantz. (MyNorthwest photo)

Not content creating a traffic nightmare on Dexter Avenue in South Lake Union, the Seattle Department of Transportation is moving forward with a disruptive plan one block east on Westlake Avenue and it seems destined for disaster.

SDOT, under the guidance of bike activist Scott Kubly, is set to begin their $3.6 million project creating protected bike lanes on Westlake, killing parking vital for businesses in the area to thrive. The protected bike lanes are a needless addition; it’s adding bike lanes for the sake of adding bike lanes. There is already a pair of bike lanes serving the area, connecting Fremont to South Lake Union and beyond. Those lanes are underutilized and create insane traffic congestion, so SDOT thought why not replicate the nightmare on Westlake?

Related: Adding electric bikes proves Seattle’s ‘silly idea’ isn’t working

But their nightmare is dangerous to some critics.

“I think we can foresee there will be collisions between bicyclists and pedestrians and vehicles,” Cameron Strong, a leader of the Westlake Stakeholders Group, predicted to KOMO TV. That organization has been fighting the project. “We warned the city over and over and over again, and the city’s response is, ‘we don’t care–we already have our minds made up.’ We’ve gotten a lot of no’s on what seem to be common sense safety things.”

What does he want? KOMO explains:

Strong wants the city to eliminate the requirement of back-in parking, which he says forces boaters who are unloading supplies from their cars to stand dangerously close to busy traffic on Westlake Avenue North.

He also wants the city to put up stop signs for cyclists at each pedestrian crossing and create a city ordinance that would designate a 10mph speed limit along with making it a violation for bikes to use the sidewalk or cut through the parking lot.

Never willing to admit their planning is problematic (despite the crazy amount of traffic congestion that has resulted in their super-serving the 3.1 percent of bicycle commuters, a percentage that is declining despite tens of millions of dollars in commitments to infrastructure changes), the folks at SDOT claim their plan is ideal and they, of course, refuse to promote common sense traffic laws that would undoubtedly make bicycling safer for everyone.

Related: Is this Seattle’s most insane bike lane idea?

Why not prohibit bikes from using a sidewalk or cutting through the parking lot when you’re giving them bike lanes? Because you don’t want to inconvenience them. Which goes to the point that the bike lanes don’t really add a benefit and SDOT would rather inconvenience drivers than bicyclists. This is what happens when you use ideology to guide your transportation department; this is what happens when activists run a department that should serve everyone, but, instead, serves members of the community they personally belong to.

I’m not against bike lanes, protected or otherwise. I’m happy to get 3.1 percent off the streets or overcrowded buses. But you need to plan smartly and when you have an underutilized stretch of bike lanes that serves the exact purpose just a block away, it’s clear SDOT it using their ideology, not common sense, to guide their decision making. The only people who like this idea are the small group of loud bike activists and “urbanists-at-all-costs” who bully anyone who stands in their way, and one thing Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Kubly always kowtow to are bullies.

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