Sunday, July 17, 2011

Seattle Jungle Gets Bike Path

I have previously written about a dangerous part of Seattle called The Jungle, a piece of downtown that literally is ungovernable and lawless.

I have also previously written about Seattle Mayor Mike "McSchwinn" and his seemingly endless obsession with building bicycle paths while ignoring major social problems within the city.   (His real name is Mike McGuinn but few people call him that anymore. That's him in the picture to the left.)

Who would have known that these two independent themes would meet this week when Seattle began a "secret" building project.  A new bike path through Seattle's notorious Jungle.

I call this move secret because the project was started without all the usual fanfare.  Seattle media, especially the local TV outlets, discovered the existence of this new public works project and City Hall quickly reacted to explain all the new construction.  Here is an excellent KOMO-4 TV report on the new project.

The idea is to "reclaim" The Jungle for Seattle by giving local residents in the besieged bordering neighborhood of Beacon Hill a chance to use the land for recreational use.  If the public begins to use The Jungle, then the small army of criminals that use the place as a base for their drug, prostitution, and other crimes will be chased away.

Nice idea, but it won't work.

The bike trail as being constructed merely underscores the danger of The Jungle.  The bike trail will wind through The Jungle fenced in on both sides by two ten-foot parallel chain link fences capped by twelve foot lights.  In other words, a path has been cleared through The Jungle but bicyclists and hikers on the trail have just a fence and some lights as protection against the criminals lurking just feet away in the dense underbrush.

When I first heard the project described, it reminded me of the old fortifications on the Berlin Wall.  Compare this photo with what I just described above.  Ignore the guard towers and take away the barbed wire and you have the proposed bike trail through The Jungle.  Looks lovely, very peaceful, eh?

Few people will ever use this bike trail, especially at night when the real character of The Jungle gets menacing.  I suspect that within a few weeks of the project's completion the fence will have a thousand holes cut through it by Jungle residents who get tired of walking around it and the copper wiring from the lights will be stolen.  It happens in Seattle all the time, maybe by the same residents of The Jungle the city hopes to displace.

Would you walk through a park at night with chain link fences on either side protecting you from what lies just inches away in the shadows?  The Seattle Police frequently find dead bodies in The Jungle.  Who wants to be the next one on the coroner's slab?

So how much is this new bike trail going to cost Seattle taxpayers?  The normal ebullient Mayor is tight lipped on this project.  Even the media sources reporting the new bike path are not quoting estimates, just the sources of the funding.

The best guess I can come up with is a 2010 estimate costing the project at $3.4 million.  Knowing the way Seattle public works projects come to fruition, the current budget must be $5 million with more cost overruns certain.

The problem with The Jungle is not its location or its geography.  The issue is the dense underbrush that permits extensive homeless and criminal activity at the site.  You literally cannot see five feet in front of you in places.  The solution is obvious.  CLEAR THE BRUSH and DEVELOP THE SITE.  The area has both genuine recreation and commercial uses but not when dozens of acres of good land are covered with weeds and shrubs, none of which are worth preserving.

Such a clearing solution would anger the homeless advocates in the city.  Just hauling away the TONS OF DEBRIS left behind by homeless (and dead) men and women causes an outcry over public "fascism" and insensitivity.  Such protest on City Hall are frequent and extremely vocal.

For example, in 1994 when they tried to clear The Jungle they hauled away 450 TONS of debris left behind by the vagrants and homeless who "live" there.

Mayor McSchwinn needs to understand that Seattle already has plenty of bike paths.  Here is the official City of Seattle Bike Trail Map.  The goal is to build 450 MILES of bike trails in Seattle by 2017.

So how many miles of bike trails does Seattle currently have?

About 285 miles of shared use and on-street pathways.

But the entire City of Seattle is only 142 square miles in size.  So today each square mile of city already has more than two miles of bike trails.

Last year the Mayor's Office proposed spending $30 million for more bicycle trails.

But even the Seattle Department of Transportation admits only 4,000 to 8,000 people a day commute to work on bicycles.  Do we really need to spend tens of millions of dollars on LUXURY bicycle riding paths for weekend professionals to use between trips to their health clubs?

This lunacy needs to stop.

The Mayor is an avid bike rider and enjoys commuting so work.  God Bless Him.  Here he is on yet another "Ride with the Mayor" photo op.

But guess who is paying for all these new bike paths?  Not bike riders, but car owners.  Seattle recently raised street parking rates and guess where the new money is going?

Seattle bike riders are not taxed.  No license is required to ride a bike.  No bike registration fee is paid.  If you can believe this, the City of Seattle even gives bike riders FREE lights for their bikes.  All at taxpayer's expense, of course.

The unfairness is obvious.

Someone recently stole Mayor McShwinn's bicycle while he was at his office in City Hall.  This criminal act speaks volumes about why people are not EVER going to commute to downtown Seattle in large numbers, especially in a city where there is little else but many big hills and constant rain.  If the Mayor cannot park his bike downtown without risking theft, can you?