Labor Day weekend was supposed to be the penultimate Bicycle Weekend on Lake Washington Boulevard for the year, a chance to experience the storied lakeside street without cars. Bicycle Weekend is an expansion of Seattle Parks’ Bicycle Sunday program, which has been opening this street for people outside of cars since 1968.
But when people arrived, they found the streets still filled with cars because none of the road closure signs were in place.
Hey @SDOTtraffic, you forgot to close Lake Washington Boulevard this weekend… but now I have an easier pitch for walker, runners, and rollers to sign our @SNGreenways petition now that they know it should be closed for accessible recreation pic.twitter.com/EGRCZpFkMD
— Blair Hunter-Lull (@blairh) September 3, 2022
After realizing that none of the signs were in place more than 12 hours after the scheduled Friday evening start time, people stopped waiting and moved the signs themselves. After a lot of confused and frustrated social media posts, SDOT and Seattle Parks finally sent staff out Saturday afternoon to check on the signage. Many people assume SDOT is in charge, but Lake Washington Boulevard is one of the city’s classic Olmsted boulevards. SDOT and Parks typically partner on matters related to the street, but the event falls under the purview of the Parks Department.
Luckily, there have not been any reports of injuries during the failed car-free event. But considering that this is a kid-friendly event that attracts people of all ages and abilities, including people who do not feel comfortable biking in mixed traffic, this was a significant mistake. Seattle Parks acknowledged the mistake Tuesday.
“We are trying to figure out why the barriers went up late,” the department wrote in a reply to Seattle Bike Blog. “We apologize for the inconvenience. We’re working to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The final Bicycle Weekend of 2022 is September 16–19. Hopefully.
Showing up to a car-free event to find the streets still filled with cars is a demoralizing experience. It also highlights once again why the city needs to come up with a permanent solution for the street. People need to be safe while biking on Lake Washington Boulevard every hour of every day, not just on select days or weekends. It would be less confusing for everyone, and it would provide a much-needed safe bikeway in southeast Seattle. The city is supposed to be conducting a “visioning process” for the future of the street following public outreach in 2021 that overwhelmingly supported making the street car-free permanently.