18 September 2016

Cycling in Seattle in September

Lake Washington -- from Warren Magnuson Park boat launch ramp
I recently spent a week in Seattle, at and around the University of Washington. I must say that I was impressed with the support that Seattle offers for cycling, in many ways similar to that seen in Portland, its neighbor to the South. My past experience with Seattle, featuring Interstate 5 traffic jams, a big city downtown, and a couple of seemingly endless local trips out to the suburbs during rush hour, had led me to think that Seattle might not be a good place to be a cyclist. I stand corrected.
Typical I-5 traffic approaching Seattle from the South 730AM one morning.
The first revelation was the bike share program -- lime-ish green bikes sponsored by Alaska Airlines, in contrast to Portland's orange Nike-sponsored bikes and New York's Citigroup bikes. These bikes have been around much longer than Portland's, and the racks I saw -- one just a block from my hotel -- had many open slots with bikes out for use (or repair).
Bike share station in the University District
The second revelation was on the SIR brevet.  I could not discern much leaving town starting from 6AM Saturday and heading out to the South/Southeast along the shore of Lake Washington. Of course, at that hour, there was almost no traffic.
On a trail near Renton southeast of Seattle. Gravel surface here.
But coming back into town along the paved Burke-Gilman trail was really great. This route brought us more than 25 kms from the edge of town all the way past the University, all on a dedicated trail. Most of the way it was relatively wide, smooth and fast. Somehow in a very hilly city, it managed to avoid any steep grades -- understandable where it is a former railroad bed.  Of course, the hard-core SIR members on the "gravel grinder" included a number of folks who ride everywhere, in city as well as out.

Then on Tuesday at the university, I noticed some nice support for cyclists - parking with a roof, bike storage lockers, pumps and repair tools available, convenient parking. This is summarized at the UW bikeshare website, which notes that UW is a "Bicycle Friendly University", the only one in Washington, America's most bicycle friendly state! And on a ferry trip to Bainbridge Island for dinner at a friend's places, I could see many spandex-clad cyclists, taking the ferry on an intermodal ferry/bicycle commute.
At least there is a roof over your bike when it rains.
No need to bring wrenches on a daily commute
$140 a year according to the UW bikeshare website.  Lots of other support.

The beauty of Seattle's skyline from the ferry -- photos do not do it justice. Magical on a calm, warm evening.

Next, mid-week, I took a ride on the Bantam Oregon randonneur bike into town to visit a high school friend who lives between Seattle Center and downtown.  Most of the way I was in a bike lane or otherwise a well-travelled commuter route.  Very nice.

The next day I took a quick exercise ride back out to the North and East of the University District.  I thought I would find Burke-Gilman, but somehow missed it and ended up at Warren Magnuson Park. Eventually I found the trail and took in on a very fast return trip.

Appropriate sculpture for Boeing's town - airplane stabilizers as sculpture at Magnuson Park.

Rain always close, even when you can see blue sky.
If Portland is Beervana, Seattle is coffee paradise. The city is home to Starbucks, of course, but also Tully's and Seattle's Best, among myriad others.
All-in-all, a very bikeable city, even if fenders and good rain gear needed most of the year!
Mt. Rainier from my hotel -- finally shows itself fully near end of the week!

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