WHEN THOSE WACKY park-planning Olmsted brothers proposed a bicycle path around Green Lake, they had no inkling of the chaos it would cause.
The narrow path circling the lake (which, unlike the road to Hell, is paved with asphalt) has historically proven a threat to Seattle-style civility. Walkers, bicyclists, runners, and roller skaters (including their modern in-line descendants) have always had problems sharing the road, let alone the far less commodious path.
The congestion grows especially gnarly on a sunny day—particularly at the northeast corner of the lake, where trail users must mix with the foot traffic between the community center/main parking lot on one side of the pavement and the beach on the other. More than a decade ago, the city tried to address trail conflicts by making rules (well, since you can't be cited for violating them, we will use the term "friendly suggestions"). Parks workers painted a stripe down the middle of the asphalt, reserving the inside for pedestrians, the outside for bikers and skaters. The voluntary codes even told you which direction to go, which the (counterclockwise) people on wheels sensibly accepted, but the rowdy, renegade walkers flatly ignored.
The situation reached critical mass a few years back when a pedestrian scolded an in-line skater for not minding the rules and promptly got slugged. Not only was this an ill-mannered act, it launched the to-this-point idle city government into frenzied action. Why? Well, the innocent citizen smacked by the rebel-on-wheels happened to be the city parks superintendent.
Which presented the City Council with a tough choice. It could: a) appeal to the citizenry to ascribe to the highest standards of behavior and courtesy, or b) widen the damn path.
Fortunately, when faced with this choice, council member Sue Donaldson made the right call. She cajoled her colleagues into a costly but necessary path fix, which was accomplished in 1996-97 at a cost of $2.6 million.
But the path still ain't Interstate 5, so as a public service to Seattle Weekly readers, we are providing these handy Tips for Green Lake Path Etiquette (or TFGLPE, for short). Enjoy.
Bicyclists: The first thing you should ask yourself is, "Am I the right age to ride on the trail?" Good question! Reach into your pocket for your driver's license. If you have one, then you're too old to be riding a bike around Green Lake. About 12 years old is tops for riding around the trail. For adults, once around Green Lake is not an especially long ride (2.8 miles), the tight quarters keep you from riding two abreast, and you can't (or at least shouldn't) go terribly fast. There are bike lanes on three-quarters of the lake's surrounding roadways, but you should really find a more challenging ride, ya sissies!
At least those nitwits who used to rent those ridiculous tricycles seem to have disappeared, already having accumulated several thousand years worth of bad karma.
Runners: You folks really lucked out with the trail expansion, as the inner gravel path was expanded and the few missing sections filled in. Thus, your feet never have to touch asphalt. The upper unpaved trail (along the surrounding streets) is even softer, making Green Lake a runner's paradise.
In-line skaters: Listen, kids, Green Lake makes a nice promenade, but a poor speedway. In other words, if you want to set the world land speed record, try showing up at 6am on a weekday, rather than, say, noon on a sunny August Saturday. But, beyond the few bad apples who assault city officials, in-line skaters aren't really a problem group. With the wider trail, wobbly in-line novices are far less of a problem here than on the Burke-Gilman Trail (there's also grass to fall on here). Skaters are the group most likely to be involved in a serious collision, but mainly because they are traveling quickly and can't always react to someone suddenly wandering in their path. For a runner, this situation can be addressed with a simple sidestep; for a skater with a good head of steam, it can mean bruises or worse.
Walkers: If you don't walk more than two abreast and pay some attention to what's going on around you, you'll do fine. Unfortunately, a certain problem group of walkers are the worst abusers of any trail system. These folks insist on walking four or five in a line, often blocking the entire path, then act uppity when people want to get by. (Losers!)
Everybody: Don't stop on the trail and chat—immediately move over to the grass, where there's plenty of room and little traffic. (Try not to trip over the novice in-line skaters lying there.) Drink plenty of fluids. Consider in advance if your body really justifies the wearing of spandex. And try not to step in the duck doo.