Photo courtesy of Nik Rebhuhn.
Last year's Ballard Criterium.

Annual Ballard Criterium has maritime industry worried

The annual Second Ascent Ballard Criterium is set for Saturday June 7. Commonly known as “The Ballard Crit”, the bicycle race is a Seattle classic and a favorite among both racers and spectators.

It’s the 21st year of the race, and like past years the racecourse is circular going west from Dock Street up Ballard Avenue. The track heads back down Vernon Street to Shilshole Avenue, then back west to Dock Street. Those streets will be closed from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“The Ballard race course location offers a very unique combination of “old school” road conditions with the brick streets and bars and restaurants right on the course for people to enjoy and view. That is why it has remained the same course for the last 20 years. As the event organizer, our main goal is to put on a fun, safe and successful bike race while also being considerate of the businesses we affect with the road closure,” said Nik Rebhuhn, one of the organizers for the Second Ascent Ballard Criterium Race.

But not every one in the community is ready to peddle.

Doug Dixon General Manager for Pacific Fishermen Shipyard and PFI Marine Electric received a courtesy announcement from Rebhuhn last week.

“One part of our notification process is to go out 30 days prior to the event and visit the businesses to drop off a notification letter. We typically go out at 2 p.m. on a Saturday so that we will be able to interact with the businesses that are open at that time and answer any questions they might have. That notification not only includes the businesses on the course, but a few extra blocks in every direction. We also reached out by email to several of the large waterfront businesses in addition to the written notification," said Rebhuhn.

"Last year it seems as though Mr. Dixon’s business was missed on that day and we have taken steps to ensure that does not happen again,” said Rebhuhn.

Upon reading the email announcement, Dixon sent a mass email to maritime industry members and SDOT, conceding the race will disturb freight transportation during a crucial launch time for the fishing fleet.

“This is a critical time for the fishing fleet to load provisions and heavy equipment preparing to leave for the summer salmon, cod and pollock seasons. Last year [the race] adversely affected many, many businesses and people’s lives, both financially and personally. This year with the Ballard Siphon Project reroute of Shilshole to Ballard Avenue, it will be impossible. ...The delays are devastating to the fishing community,” said Dixon.

The Ballard-News Tribune asked Dixon if he thought SDOT would reroute the race, and Dixon replied, “Is the newspaper staff smoking the good stuff?"

Rebhuhn said he doesn’t understand Dixon’s reaction to the announcement. He said that the race has been happening the first week of June for the last 21 years and that they have largely kept the same course.

Combined with the Siphon Project, whether or not the race is a major disruption for the maritime industry remains to be seen.

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