Category Archives: Commuting

Seattle’s First Bike Box

We got our first bike box last night, on eastbound Pine at the corner of 12th. I’m pretty excited, as it’s on my daily commute and is one of the more dangerous corners for cyclists. In my early days of bike commuting, I had two near-misses at this corner from cars turning right without looking for bikes. I’ve since learned to just claim the lane, which the bike box makes easier and more obvious to do.

Here it is in all of it’s shiny green glory.  The car in the second photo was a little unclear on the concept:

Pike Street: Good for Drinking, not for Riding

Thanks to construction east of the Paramount, my primary route home – up Pine Street – has been closed for a while.  So I escape downtown up Pike.

What’s not to like about Pike?  It’s steeper than Pine.  It’s narrower.  It hasn’t even got the gratuitous “door zone” bike lane found on Pine.  Drivers on Pike don’t seem aware of bikes.  And while Pine has one bad pedestrian spot (where Cal Anderson park -goers traipse across the street to get overly-fancy ice cream at Molly Moon’s) the club zone on Pike is a shooting gallery of clueless peds.

Sure, there’s more happening on Pike, but I’ll be happy – and safer – when the city gives me Pine Street back.

Secure Bike Parking

My office building has a new owner, and one of the first things they did was add a secure bike parking room in the garage:

secure bike parking

Rumor has it they’re also building out showers and changing rooms.  Our lease is up in May – these developments are going to make it harder to consider moving.

Commuting Progress

I try to ride to work every day.  As I’ve noted before, this is less of an accomplishment than it might seem – after all, it’s the fastest way for me to get to work, and the only way I get any exercise.

My goal for this year is to ride to work 200 times.  That should be doable, although business travel and vacation will make it close.  I’m ahead of pace with 110 rides through June, but I’ve got a lot of traveling coming up in the second half.

And if it snows again, like it did two Decembers ago?  No chance I’m putting my life in the hands of Seattle drivers’ ability to navigate through snow and ice . . .

Cycle Track for Broadway?

As plans for a streetcar down Broadway develop, CHS Capitol Hill Seattle reports that SDOT is considering including a “cycle track.”  Presumably the cycle track would run down the center of Broadway, along with the streetcar.

I think I like the idea of a cycle track; there aren’t any in central Seattle (or elsewhere in the city, as far as I know), but Portland has been experimenting with them.  The idea is to create a traffic-separated lane for bicycles, sort of a bike path attached to the road.  Cyclists on a bicycle track are thus not contending with cars or doors, at least until they try to exit the cycle track.

It would certainly be a step up for bicycle infrastructure in the city.  While Seattle likes to tout its bike-friendliness and hundreds of miles of bike routes, most of these are indifferent or downright dangerous “improvements.”  For example, the lion’s share are sharrows, those ubiquitous painted stencils of cycle-and-chevrons.  Painting a few sharrows and calling it a bike route is hardly progress.

seattle sharrows

Others are worse; the bike lane down Pine attempts to squeeze cyclists into a narrow space next to parked cars, often occupied by delivery trucks and continually bedeviled by right-turning cars and brazen pedestrians.  For riders, it’s far better (and safer) to  just claim the lane and gain some visibility and maneuvering room.

pine street seattle bike lane

In fact, the only bicycle route I can think of in downtown Seattle that offers a positive alternative to just riding in traffic is the uphill bike lane on Pine.  While it suffers from the same narrowness and proximity to parked cars as its counterpart across the street, the speed differential makes all the difference.  I’m a lot less concerned about getting doored when I’m standing in my pedals, climbing the hill, than when I’m bombing down it.

My biggest concern with the cycle track is, in fact, the lack of maneuverability.  How easy will it be to ride around slower cyclists, or groups of club-going pedestrians when they cross the cycle track?  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that, just as with the downhill bike lane on Pine, it’s better to just keeping riding amidst the cars.

Why Single Speed?

Bike Shop Girl had a nice post last week on single speed and fixed gear basics, noting the primary benefits of going gearless: greater pedaling control and lower maintenance.  My road to single speed started some months after starting to ride to work every day, as the realities of daily use started to take their toll on my bike.  Despite the slipping gears and weekly dérailleur adjustments, it took me over a year to finally make the move to single speed.

The reason for my delay was simple enough:  facing me at the end of every day was the ride from downtown up Capitol Hill; 300+ feet of elevation gain in the first two miles.  The only people I ever saw with single or fixed gear bikes going up Pine Street were rail-thin hipsters, and many of them were pushing their bikes.  I vowed that wasn’t going to be me (the pushing part – I’m at least 80 pounds and 15 years over the hipster limit).  But when I’d try making the climb in a single speed gear ratio I could never make it all the way without shifting down.

The answer was to burn my bridges.  So on the spur of the moment I sold my bike and bought a single speed.  I won’t pretend the first few days riding it were easy, but I never had to push it up the hill.  Turns out the increased “connection” to the drive train you get without a dérailleur in the way makes a world of difference – and, for some reason, it’s just a hell of a lot more fun riding without all those gears in the way.