Cruising Claremont is illegal, but who notices?

Somehow I don’t think Dr. Dre was on the radio.

Herald copy editor Bill Pedigo recently took his 90-year-old mother on a slow-mo joyride down Claremont Way in Everett in his economical hybrid Prius. They were testing the law by breaking it (in sunglasses, so you know they meant business). Their crime? They cruised Claremont, even though there are signs that explicitly forbid the practice.

I’m told by the authorities that the pair will escape the $1,000 fine — this time, anyway.

In honor of Cruzin’ to Colby, which wraps up on Memorial Day, we’re devoting this column to cruising and the laws that prohibit it.

Come on, let’s cruise

Pedigo said he gets a kick every time he drives Claremont and sees the “No Cruising” signs.

“For the uninformed, back in the day there was a burger stop on Claremont — Herfy’s — that was a popular hangout for those of us who grew up in Everett and had nothing better to do than hang out — and cruise from Herfy’s to downtown Colby and back, again and again and again,” he recalled.

Herfy’s is gone, replaced by the Assistance League thrift store and other businesses.

Would those businesses notice if cruising happened today? Pedigo headed out to find out.

“I first drove around the block six times, which I felt was frequent enough to constitute cruising,” he said. “On this cruise, I took my 90-year-old mom. It’s the first time we had gone cruising together on Claremont. Back when cruising was the thing to do, it wasn’t cool to bring your parents along for the ride on Claremont or Colby.”

It probably goes without saying that no one found the pair to be a nuisance.

In fact, nobody seemed to notice them at all.

Notepad in hand, Pedigo went to talk to local business owners about his cruising and came back with their responses.

“No, I didn’t notice,” said Renee MacDonald, who works at Annex. “I do notice speeders. Cruisers are kind of crazy.”

The ladies at Assistance League were too busy to notice, Pedigo reported, but they know about cruising. “It was the thing to do. It was a highlight of my Fridays,” said Cheryle Wood, of Snohomish.

Darrell Storkson, owner of Evergreen Lanes, recalled the traffic jams caused by cruising back in the day. Cruising then was far more than a single car — congestion was so bad then it was ruining his business.

Did he think anyone noticed Pedigo’s trips around the block? “No, I don’t think so,” he said laughing.

“I escaped a ticket that day,” Pedigo said. “I imagine Everett police have better things to do than look for Chapter 46.48.010 violators on Claremont.”

The law, then and now

I called officer Aaron Snell of the Everett Police Department to find out.

“Personally, for Cruzin’ to Colby, I think we should go down there and cite everybody,” Snell quipped. “But I guess we can’t.”

Kidding aside, it’s true that the law hasn’t been enforced in a long time, Snell said.

“The times have changed a bit,” he said. “We’re dealing with 911 calls and other concerns in the community.”

But that doesn’t mean the law is coming off the books, he added.

“If it becomes an issue again, we would utilize it,” Snell said.

And it was an issue in 1987, when the no-cruising law was enacted in Everett, effectively ending the city’s 30-year run as the unofficial cruising capital of the Northwest.

Although cruising brings up images of the 1960s with the Beach Boys on the radio, anti-cruising laws are relatively recent.

The laws started in the 1980s and rolled into the 1990s and even as late as 2003. Places like Miami Beach, Florida, actively enforce their anti-cruising laws.

By the time Everett passed its no-cruising law in 1987, Everett police were spending about 8 percent of their time on the cruising problem. The city was attracting up to 6,000 cruisers on weekends, according to Scott North’s reports in The Herald at the time. One crackdown resulted in 150 citations, more than eight in 10 going to people who didn’t live in the city.

Everett was at the front end of the wave of anti-cruising laws in the country that sought to combat not just congestion but the other problems that came with it, including violence, vandalism and public urination.

Among Snohomish County cities, only Marysville has a similar law to Everett’s. Marysville’s law was passed in 1993 and prohibits cruising on State Avenue.

In a sign of the times, Edmonds’ only anti-cruising law is against motorized foot scooters (2004).

I’ll just let that one sit there.

Nostalgia’s alive

Perhaps it’s a testament to the power of nostalgia — or just the amount of Baby Boomers — that the mention of “cruising” in 2015 still evokes chrome, fins, pin-up girls, and burgers and shakes.

At the Everett Public Library, the index for Herald articles from the 1980s reference “CRUISING: see ADOLESCENTS, LEISURE TIME; ADOLESCENTS, QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES.”

“It is ironic that many of the baby-boomer legislators passing anti-cruising laws today may have been cruisers themselves in the 1950s and 1960s, a time when cruising, at least in the light of nostalgia, seemed entirely innocent,” wrote Steven N. Gofman in a 2002 law journal article. “But to many communities, cruising today presents problems not seen in the 1950s and 1960s, such as congestion, crime and excessive noise to the extent not seen in the past.”

What kind of cruising will we be discussing in another 30 years? Or will cruising be dead and gone for good?

I can’t speak to my own generation’s version of bass-heavy cruising, or to the street-racing type that came after me. I grew up in Monroe, where cruising was a 20-mile loop rather than a 2-block loop, killing time on winding back roads you felt good driving because you felt some pride in simply knowing they existed, compared to those city kids. (Now, everyone can check Google Maps.)

In any case, I think it’s safe to say Pedigo, his mom, and most of the cruisers on Colby this weekend aren’t (and probably weren’t) hell-raising teenagers.

But, hey, that law is still on the books …

“To all you Colby Cruzers, show Claremont Way some love Monday,” Pedigo said. “Take a few laps just for old time’s sake. If enough of you do it, somebody might notice.”

Have a question? Email me at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence. Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

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