For the moment, bicyclists need not worry about any changes to the present system of loading and unloading bikes on state ferries. Washington State Ferries chief David Moseley has stated that the ferry system will not be seeking to adopt a marine industry panel recommendation to load and unload bicyclists after all motorized vehicles. He indicated that a WSF response to the panel’s report (due to the governor and legislature November 15) will simply say that ferry managers will further examine the issue. “We definitely do not want to make any changes at this time,” said Moseley. “I don’t know if these are changes that we would want to make if the structures in place can’t be improved. We want to have discussions with our bicyclist customers to see if collaboratively we can make it better for everyone.”
In a meeting with bicycle representatives November 4 attended by Washington Bikes executive director Barbara Culp and Squeaky Wheels vice president Gordon Black, Moseley was reassuring that on the list of issues facing the ferry system that the bike loading was “not hot.” Among the panel’s list of recommendations are highly sensitive issues related to crews and union contracts. The bicycle loading issues are, by contrast, relatively low in the hierarchy of challenges the ferry system is facing. State ferries are under financial pressure to cut costs.
Members of the panel drawn from passenger ferry operators around the US visited Washington State this summer and drew up a report issued in early September. It drew a highly critical response from bicyclists, fearful that the present system of three loadings for bicyclists dating to 1999 would be negatively changed. At a meeting called by Squeaky Wheels September 28, some 30 bicycle commuters voiced concerns and ideas to improve safety.
The loading issue won’t be back on WSF’s agenda until after the 2011 legislative session, which is scheduled to end sometime in May. In light of the loading issue and on-going problems with space for bikes on the Seattle-Bainbridge ferries, Moseley responded favorably to the idea of setting up a regular forum with bicyclists to discuss all bike-related issues. Details of a future advisory committee on bike issues will be discussed in coming months. Squeaky Wheels will be represented on this new committee – and will be working to protect and promote the interests of bicyclists.