…Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

Those of us who have grown up in the Puget Sound region are deeply committed to the fishing industry, and appreciate that Seattle, as the homeport of the North Pacific fishing fleet, plays an important role in the survival and success of the companies and individuals whose livelihoods, families and history are tied to the commercial fishery.
Unfortunately, the City of Seattle seems not to appreciate our industry– and why would they? Mayor Mike McGinn is from Long Island, New York. Peter Hahn, the Director of the Department of Transportation, is also from the East Coast. They must have liked Seattle’s culture and quality of life enough to move here – why are they working so hard to change it?
The current administration has been systematically dismantling the city’s surface transportation system, replacing vehicle lanes with bike lanes, narrowing roadways and increasing traffic congestion, in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles, commercial and otherwise, on the streets of Seattle.

To add insult to injury, early last month, as the fishing fleet was preparing their vessels for the annual Alaska salmon season, putting the final touches on major repairs and refurbishments at the local boatyards, stocking up on supplies at chandlers and fuel docks and preparing for a successful season, the city closed Shilshole Avenue Northwest, the main thoroughfare that provides access to dozens of commercial businesses, for an entire day, with no notice.

For a bicycle race.

Dozens of businesses were directly affected, hundreds indirectly, and the only notice many of them received was the barricaded road they encountered on the way to their business that morning.
Bicycles and industry don’t work together very well, which is why the North Seattle Industrial Association, Seattle Marine Business Coalition and others have been working tirelessly to keep the powerful Seattle bicycle lobby, led by Mayor McGinn (former Washington State chairman of the Sierra Club) from building a bike trail through the heart of the Ballard industrial core. An effort to push through an extension of a trail that already passes through the eastern part of the city’s industrial area has met enough opposition to require an Environmental Impact Statement from the city. In response, the city is making “safety improvements” including the narrowing of lanes and the addition of a bike lane on each side of the road giving priority to bicycles over vehicular traffic.

In a state where the Fish and Wildlife Commission continues to make policy in spite of more than four years without mandated commercial representation, and the largest city can unilaterally close roads to commercial traffic or severely restrict that traffic with impunity, the lure of other ports of call is becoming stronger every day. Newport, Oregon won the NOAA fleet, and Bellingham, Washington is working hard to take business from Seattle as well.

The Port of Seattle commission has shed ineffectual commissioner Rob Holland, and an upcoming election promises to further restructure the commission, which will put them in a good position to exert some influence on behalf of the businesses that validate their jobs.

Seattle is a maritime city, and needs to retain that heritage. Mayor McGinn will probably never have the same love of the maritime heritage as someone who was raised with it, but if he can’t learn to love the taxes paid by the successful fishing industry, perhaps he should find a more suitable position in another field.