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This election will make a difference
I am writing in response to a recently received joint letter from former MI mayors. Despite that letter’s allegations to the contrary, Ira Appelman did not “scare” me about I-90 tolling — the specter was real and Mayor Pearman, in consultation with Ms. Clibborn and others, took written action irrespective of him. Neither did Mr. Appelman "pit me as a motorist against bicyclists" — rather, organized bicyclists have been fighting against motor vehicles and budgets for roads (which, ironically, they use) for a long time.
More important is the central issue of Mr. Appelman’s campaign. ‘Road diet’ connotes a sense of offensive and agenda-driven arrogance: Dan Grausz’s fellow Councilman, Mike Grady, whom he seems to support on related issues, is an avid member of the Cascade Bicycle Club, a strong lobbyist organization trying to force us out of our cars. (As we saw in the MI Reporter, Aug. 1, 2007, that club also took it upon itself to select MI as the best Seattle-area location for recreational cycling — a net negative for residents — see my response to the City Council below.) On the contrary, I think we need four lanes from 68th to the north end of Island Park Elementary so that our ‘main drag’ traffic is not impeded, one-horse-town style, by so many misguided people driving 25 mph on the single lane in that 35-mph zone.
And to “restrict roadside parking to facilitate biking” on the Mercer Ways (again, promoted by Mike Grady, as we read recently in the MI Reporter) — thus prioritizing the trickle of (fair-weather) bicycle traffic over the need for guests and commercial service vehicles to park on the shoulders of those roads — is flatly unrealistic and unacceptable.
In aggressively dismissing the fact that suburban life in America and motor vehicles go hand-in-hand, this bias in pro of bicycle traffic is really off-base. Is Mercer Island trying to emulate Seattle and Bellevue? The latter’s “spending priority is fiscally irresponsible,” to quote the former mayors’ letter, in planning dozens upon dozens of miles of bicycle lanes at significant expense — to benefit one-half of 1 percent of total commuting trips (as recently reported in The Seattle Times). This, logically, is on par with asking the city to expend significant tax revenues on the recreational choices of other small demographic groups, e.g., gym memberships for bodybuilders or martial arts students. Do we really want to subsidize Mr. Grady’s recreational preference on behalf of his club members?
For my (tax) money, and from a ‘public safety is king’ point of view, installing well-lit, on-demand flashing crosswalks is the absolute priority. Next, also for safety’s sake, is the installation of sidewalks: in my South-end neighborhood, pedestrian traffic far outweighs bicycle traffic. We need more street lights as well. I hope that the City Council forgets pleasing the pelotons and pays attention to the real priorities.
A final note on bicyclists. Since “we” in many cases are “they,” I would implore us, when cycling, to respect the rules of the road. Why normally law-abiding people, having mounted bikes, seem to believe it’s OK to impede traffic, or to disregard stop signs/lights, or the need to signal turns, or to ride single file, is a mystery, but this selectively anarchistic attitude clearly creates more opportunities for accidents.
With respect to a traffic light solution for the Merrimount/ICW intersection problem, I found the joint mayoral statement surprising and quite disturbing: “...a stoplight that will slow traffic and do nothing to improve safety...” I participated in several public meetings aimed at solving that clearly unsafe situation, in each of which citizens (most of whom live near that intersection) concluded that a traffic light was the best solution, including for pedestrians — many of whom are children going to school or the library. When a traffic light at Merrimount and Island Crest Way replaces the current ‘white sticks,’ including sensors so that Merrimount traffic only flows upon demand, then any slowdown in the ICW flow rate is going to be well worth the increased level of safety for all.
So, yes, I too believe that “this election will make a difference” — if either we elect Mr. Appelman, or if Mr. Grausz, et al, take note of priorities such as noted above and emulate their fellow City Councilmember, Mike Cero, who pays rapt attention to citizen input.