Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Bicycle Diaries episode six: Seattle

with 3 comments

Alaskan WayAlaskan WayInterbayInterbayInterbayChittenden Locks
Bascule Railway BridgeOne way street with opposing bike laneThe Red Door, FreemontLake Union at Westlake

Seattle Bike Ride 2011-05-13, a set on Flickr.

We rented bikes from The Bicycle Repair Shop on Alaskan Way – simply the first place we came to as we walked from Pioneer Square. We had considered a ferry ride as it was such a nice day, but apparently the islands have hillier rides than the mainland. We were given a copy of the Seattle Bicycling Guide Map which is very impressive. We never spent much time consulting it as each time we got it out a local cyclist would stop and offer helpful advice. The route along the waterfront is of course flat and easy – but with plenty of pedestrians, who have priority. They seem to retain that even when the bike path and the pedestrian path split at the Sculpture Park.

Bike path by the Sculpture Park

Bike path by the Sculpture Park - my photo

Great views across Puget Sound, and also lots of railway activity. Sadly the waterfront streetcar no longer runs although the track, wiring and stations are all still place.

By the Terminal 91 cruise ship piers we headed inland through the InterBay Industrial area. Here we hit the first incline – a steep overpass over which some wit has posted “Gravity is only a theory”. By now it was getting hot and windy at the same time. We also had to climb around the Magnolia Area before a brief but very steep and welcome drop to the Chittenden Locks. This is really the scenic highlight and cycling is not permitted – you must get off and walk.

The ride back into town took us along the Ship Canal but not waterside. The old railway tracks are not just in place but still in use and we were warned repeatedly of the hazard they present particularly under the Ballard Bridge – which was raised to let a paddle steamer through.

We stopped for a late lunch at the Red Door in Fremont which had an excellent IPA – but at 8.7% alcohol we decided one would have to be enough. Over the Freemont Bridge and then back along Lake Union – actually through the parking lots of the dense waterfront development with scarcely a glimpse of water. But an easier ride I think that the hills on Dexter.

After that it was just a matter of getting through downtown and back to Alaskan Way. Good signage and road markings made that deceptively easy – as we ended up using an elevator in the cruise ship teminal to get back to water level.

The Bicycle Repair Shop does not sell bikes. It does do repairs – of course – and its rental fleet covers a wide variety of types. All are new and well maintained. They also supply the helmet (mandatory in Seattle) and a hefty lock. I would recommend getting your own water bottle filled before you start.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Posted in bicycles, Transportation

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3 Responses

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  1. Although I haven’t yet tried riding in Seattle, it seems like a decent enough place for riding. Plenty of sharrows on the downtown streets and the road seems to get shared well enough from what I’ve casually observed, although they’re no Vancouver or Portland. I have to get out there this summer and give the Burke-Gilman trail a go.

    Alex P

    May 14, 2011 at 1:30 pm

  2. What I find interesting, besides the biking narrative, is that as soon as I opened the first photo (of course before reading the post) it was obvious they weren’t taken in Canada. We use similar building techniques, the weather is roughly the same, but there is an obvious difference in everything.

    Pity you didn’t take the LRT as they have hooks to hang a couple of bikes in each car.

    Red frog

    May 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm


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