Auto Blog

Beating the Anti-Cruising Ordinance on Alki Beach (1)

 

On Wednesday, June 5, 1988, it became illegal to drive in the same direction more than one time over a four-hour period on Alki Avenue Southwest in Seattle, Washington, the Emerald City’s premier beachfront road. By no coincidence, it was the beginning of summer. From an article published on that fateful day in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

“As the sun slid behind the Olympic Peninsula last night, all was quiet on the Alki waterfront.

Gone was the rumble of muscle cars, the cacophony of automobile stereos.

And it only took several minutes to drive the beach-front strip on Seattle's hottest day of the year - not the 45 minutes to two hours it used to take when the road was clogged with cruising drivers.” (1)

About the same time, the Seattle Police Department released “The Alki Cruiser’s Guide” which stated the ordinance also prohibited amplified music, loitering, cutting through business parking lots and alcohol. 

The idea was to kill the summertime beach fare generally inspired by cruising Alki, which often did include loud music, underage drinking, fights, loss of business from merchants who claimed their customers were unable to reach them during profitable summer months, and the sweet smell of exhaust from a sea of idling cars. 

Years later, similar bans on cruising throughout the region have effectively broken the spirits of many law abiding citizens who would have liked to enjoy the simple pleasures of driving down a happening stretch of road on a sunny day without fear of being fined up to $250 if they have to turn around more than once to find a parking space. From an article published in late May of 2000 in the Seattle Weekly: 

“A decade of law enforcement seems to have throttled the local cruising menace. People actually drive to restaurants on Alki Beach; traffic flows freely on Lake Washington Boulevard in Kirkland. In Edmonds, the city combined reconfigured parking with enhanced enforcement and chased the cruisers off Sunset Avenue. ‘We'll get a few calls here as soon as the weather gets nice from people on Sunset,’ says Edmonds Police Chief Robin Hickok, ‘but it's nothing compared to what it was 10 or 15 years ago.’” (2) 

Another decade has passed since that last article was written. Several months ago I moved to West Seattle, just up the street from the strip on Alki beach where the anti-cruising ordinance purportedly reigns supreme. 

As summer crept in, I took the free Water Taxi down to the beach on the first hot day of the season with a picnic basket and a beach towel, to see for myself just what was left, if anything of the cruising scene. What I found was a telltale sign of the times: 

On any given sunny day along Alki Avenue Southwest, there are still plenty of custom, vintage, collector cars and motorcycles of every variety driving down the road. And back. Once. And then they’re gone. 

I witnessed the most disheartening display of this terrible new ritual on my stroll back up to the Water Taxi after consuming the contents of my picnic basket. 

With traffic moving at a crawl along the strip, a group of young urban socialites cranked their music to a reasonable level and emptied out of three pimped-out SUV’s to “Ghost” their respective “Whips” down the street. 

Their dance moves were cordial. The entire procession barely lasted 30 yards before they piled back into the vehicles and split off the strip up California Avenue and out of sight. 

That’s what cruising Alki has been reduced to; a measured level of obedient fun under the sharp supervision of the ever encroaching omnipresence of “The Man.” 

It’s sad, sickening even, but I’ve found a glaring loophole of irony in the plot to eradicate cruising entirely from Aki beach:

At multiple businesses along Alki Avenue Southwest, it’s still perfectly legal to rent a long board, bicycle, rollerblades, pretty much anything that rolls, and legally cruise the pedestrian boardwalk running parallel to the strip as long as your wallet will last you. 

“But Brandon, this is a CAR blog,” you say. 

And you’re right. That’s why I’m going to rent a Surrey (pedal buggy) and cause my own scene.

Stay tuned. 


Sources:

1. http://www.seattlepi.com/neighbors/alki/bg4.html
2. http://www.seattleweekly.com/2000-05-24/news/hot-wheels/
 



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