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Cyclists sue city over ‘Missing Link’

Posted by Geeky Swedes on February 12th, 2010

Five cyclists have filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle because of injuries and crashes along the unfinished stretch of the Burke Gilman trail coined the “Missing Link,” according to The site reports that the lawsuit claims that because the trail has not been completed, the city “ignored the hazard presented by decades-old railroad tracks crossing the roadway.”

“Hundreds of bicycle crashes have occurred on Shilshole Avenue Northwest under the Ballard Bridge since 1999 as bicyclists have attempted to cross the railroad tracks,” reports that Attorney David Middaugh said in the complaint. “The city has known that the railroad crossing … is not reasonably safe for ordinary travel by bicyclists for many years.”

The cyclists are requesting compensation from the city for injuries they received after crashing, reports.

Last summer, a coalition of Ballard industrial businesses, associations and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court challenging the city’s plans to fill the “missing link” of the Burke Gilman trail. Specifically, the lawsuit questions the city’s environmental review of the project. (Thank you Silver for the tip!)

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133 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 bbo // Feb 14, 2010 at 11:02 am


    I know that I try very hard to be factual, and when I am not totally certain I use qualifiers such as “if I recall correctly” but you made a statement of fact, and as one who knows these gentlemen with the RR I don't believe you.

  • 2 Bark more, Wag Less // Feb 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    What, no land mines too?

  • 3 fiddler crab // Feb 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    dirt road?

    how about that! we have change!

    now if only ballardites like yourself would evolve.

  • 4 onederfullone // Feb 14, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    And time machine, and land mines, and the overwhelming desire to do harm to prove some sick point.
    Really SPG, stay in the present, try and stay cogent.

  • 5 onederfullone // Feb 14, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    It wasn't three days after Steve Charles Hyatt left King County Jail — released on bond for investigation of driving under the influence and with a suspended license — that police said he was back to being a criminal.

    So much wrong with this paragraph.

    Released on bond, for starters. Why does this still happen? Are they so important to society that they have to be released? Are they all right on the brink of curing AIDS or cancer? How horrible would society suffer if we DIDN'T bail these idiots out? Would somebody be unjustly unharmed or unkilled if we didn't release them?

    Second, this mental midget of a writer, had the nerve to say he 'was BACK to being a criminal'…WTF??? at what point did he stop becoming a criminal??

    This is the kind of crap that I see every day that is sickening.

    Quit bailing these thugs out, knock it off! IDIOTS.

  • 6 bmvaughn // Feb 14, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Basic reading comprehension?

    Bomb throwing isn't helpful when we're all trying to understand the situation.

    I was trying to understand whether the railroad installed the tracks after the road was there in 1999 (in which case the RR should pay for upkeep at some level), whether the city built the road over the RR (so the city should be responsible), and whether the city even designates this as the advisable route to ride.

    We're all neighbors, let's start acting like it.

  • 7 ballardemican // Feb 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    We need a “city cart” program. They can leave one cart at the approach to the tracks; Sally Bagshaw can safely move their stuff across to another on the other side.

  • 8 Bjorn Toobiewild // Feb 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Voters approved the funding for this project years ago.

  • 9 ballardemican // Feb 14, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    nicely put and reasonable argument here, but the city's liability has got to be a matter of degree, right?

    There is an expectation that the city will provide reasonably safe roadways and respond when a roadway is not safe. If for instance if the Magnolia bridge tipped to the side and randomly dumped any car that came too close to the guard rail to its death, and the city just put up some signs and it kept happening, there ought to (and would) be clear liability.

    You can (and do) argue that the carnage at these tracks is the cyclists' responsibility, but not that the city can't ever be liable for negligence. I say this since the reason they are allowed to force us to pay taxes is that they are supposed to be stewards of the common good. If we as individuals didn't have any sort of recourse to make sure they held up their end of the bargain we'd live in a defacto totalitarian state.

    So my bottom line is we are *made* to pay for the city's services, and so it is their responsibility to take measures to forseeably protect our safety. In this case, to me, it seems that they are pretty obviously not holding up their end of the “bargain” they force us all into.

    I'm not saying they need to decommision the track, just do something that will actually work to solve the problem. IF they need to be sued to make this happen so be it.

  • 10 Mondoman // Feb 14, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    The question was about vehicles being taken off the roads, not about profitability. I don't know why profitability would matter to you, but if it does, you'll have to shut down the Majestic Bay Theatres as well.

  • 11 Ballardcrab // Feb 14, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Come on two-wheel whiners! This is an industrial area! I recall an alternative for you was presented in that area and the bikers refused! There are a lot of working people there. Get your priorities straight – income before recreation!

  • 12 Bjorn Toobiewild // Feb 15, 2010 at 12:32 am

    I believe the people voted for funding this Burke Gilman trail because it is transportation and not just recreation.

  • 13 Ballardwatch // Feb 15, 2010 at 2:23 am

    what alternative are you talking about? the Green Route is the one that cyclists support and the city chose 7 years ago

  • 14 Mondoman // Feb 15, 2010 at 3:08 am

    I don't remember any vote on this…

  • 15 Bjorn Toobiewild // Feb 15, 2010 at 3:41 am

    2006 Proposition 1 transportation measure. Bike routes were part of the overall list of improvements.

  • 16 SPG // Feb 15, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Didn't one of the SBSG people say that they thought a bicycle viaduct was their preferred solution? I think it was in the TV report from the finish the trail rally last fall. If they can say that with a straight face, then I doubt any “alternative” they offer is anything other than another distraction or a delaying tactic like this lawsuit.

  • 17 Name II // Feb 15, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Congratulations to the Geeky Swedes for another copy-and-paste post in the name of 'journalism.'

  • 18 chopperw // Feb 15, 2010 at 4:54 am

    Is that one cyclist riding in the wrong direction. Typical of seattle bike riders to just make their own rules of the road… Either you are a vehicle , or a pedestrian. PICK ONE!

  • 19 onederfullone // Feb 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I'm betting that I can predict the result off this latest lawsuit.
    Result number one, lawyers get rich.
    Result number two, a few injured get a portion of their suffering paid for.
    Result number three, yet another blue ribbon commission is formed, thereby further delaying any meaningful improvement by years.
    Result number four, The city will be required to place signs at the crossings, that will state, RCW xxxxxxxx, “all bike riders must dismount and walk East/(West) of this point.” Fines will be set accordingly for those found in violation.
    Another day in paradise…

  • 20 Mondoman // Feb 15, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    That wasn't this specific project, just a general “bike routes are good”, right?

  • 21 Bjorn Toobiewild // Feb 15, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Yes, the Burke Gilman Trail.

  • 22 Mondoman // Feb 15, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Here's a video from Cascade Bicycle Club on how to cross the tracks properly:

  • 23 Mondoman // Feb 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    Sorry, BT – but the text of Prop 1 says nothing about the “Burke-Gilman” or bike trails or bike routes. It refers only to “Bicycle, Pedestrian and Safety Programs”. Glad to know my memory isn't totally shot! :)
    Here's the link to the text:

  • 24 alex // Feb 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    It isn't that easy, for most cyclists, that missing link is there only way to get to the trail. There just aren't any options for cyclists coming from the part of Ballard, that is why it is called the Missing Link…makes sense right?

  • 25 Bjorn Toobiewild // Feb 15, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Looks like the other side of the street is in pretty bad shape for a bike.

  • 26 Bjorn Toobiewild // Feb 15, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    The section in the voters guide, written by the current mayor, says the Burke-Gilman trail and it's easy to believe the other references to bikes means the Burke-Gilman. It's going to happen.

  • 27 Mondoman // Feb 16, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Alex, there are lots of other options. Ballard Ave has been mentioned; personally I usually ride east on one of the streets north of Market st. Once you're over to 8th Ave (which has nice bike lanes), just head south to the Burke-Gilman.

  • 28 Mondoman // Feb 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    They were “abandoned” for a matter of months when BNSF decided it wasn't worth its while to serve the few customers along that line, until the local businesses served by the line got a short line (Ballard Terminal Railway) set up to run it. The group that runs BTR also runs 2 other short lines in WA state. SPG, though asked, has been unable to provide support for the assertion that BTR and/or the overall 3-line railroad loses money, so I wouldn't put my trust in that. It seems to be a private company and thus I don't know how outsiders would even find out such info. In any case, whether a private company makes or loses money is nobody's business but the owners'.

    It seems pretty clear that BTR is still there because it's a LOT cheaper to ship bulk commodities by rail than by truck. No right-of-way conspiracy theory needed.

  • 29 Ballardwatch // Feb 17, 2010 at 3:49 am

    W of the fog line, it's all gravel. It's not the roadway, so there is no right or wrong way.

  • 30 seajay // Feb 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    I'm just a guy with a family who chooses to ride to work by bike.
    Thus far… by riding safely, obeying rules of the road, and working WITH the cars around me to make life easy on both of us, I've managed to arrive home to my family every day. I'd like to keep it that way.

    I've got no agenda against cars or any goal of getting others to stop driving. I think Critical Mass is one of the worst ideas ever. I think we as cyclists could really help everyone by following the rules and being more patient and polite.
    In general cars are pretty polite to me. I've not had what I would consider a close call in more than 10 years.
    There are certainly a few crazies and unfortunately a few that are not paying attention. But I tend to believe most drivers are not out there to create havoc. We could all use a bit more education, however.

    When those minority of you who spout hate toward all cyclists think of causing harm…please consider there are many just like me out there too.

    If the trail is really going to cause all the issues stated in the past years…All I really would ask for in the Missing Link would be to smooth out about 15-20 inches on the edge of Shil Ave southbound and remove the gap between the traffic lane and that smoother section. I can ride elsewhere with my child.

    Thanks for considering.

  • 31 caddsf // Feb 17, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Sure, and reductio ad absurdum can degenerate (as it does here) to a strawman argument.

    While its clear you were paying attention in Philosophy 101, when every argument here contains something with razor blades, land mines, or piranhas (not pirhannas), it just makes people not take you seriously.

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