Eric Hess is getting back on a bike for the first time in over a decade, and he has written two pieces about his experience for Sightline. As the weather warms, more and more Seattlites will be looking to hop on the saddle and give biking a shot. Eric’s posts are good reflections on what it is like to start out from scratch.
In his first post, Eric describes his first leisurely rides down the Burke-Gilman and around his neighborhood. Among his thoughts is this:
This is a no-brainer for the cyclist set, but a bike expands your mobility—big time: A bike gets you profoundly farther than your feet in a lot less time. Within minutes I was beyond my walking radius and realized how close some cool destinations actually were–some were even reached quicker by bike than car, figuring in traffic and parking. Not to disparage my good friend Metro (Seattle’s bus system), but the bike also gives a person more flexibility than bus schedules and routes can offer.
When I first started riding (after leaving my childhood bike behind in exchange for car keys for half a decade), the incredible increase in mobility was definitely the most exciting part about riding. I was shocked by how easy it was to get so far. “Why haven’t I been doing this all along?” I asked myself.
In his second post, however, he takes on commuting from north Seattle to downtown (via the Fremont Bridge) for a week. His ride was going fine until he got into the South Lake Union bike route blackhole around Westlake Ave and Valley St:
On my first commute, I had a rough idea in my head about the route I would take. Off to a great start, I sped down the Burke-Gilman trail, traversed the Fremont Bridge, wove through the parking lots of Westlake…and then I hit downtown.
That’s when my plan fell apart. I took cues from a few other cyclists on the street, but found myself riding in between trolley tracks, navigating sidewalks, and being stranded on car-packed streets. In short, it was kind of miserable.
But, I made it to the office. Our building’s bike-friendly infrastructure, including a secure bike room and showers were welcome conveniences that I’d never really thought about before.
Over the past few days, I’ve been varying my routes and, a couple times, I’ve ridden with veteran cyclists. Thanks to their tips and shortcuts (and to Google bike maps), I’ve figured out a more precise route that’s not only quicker, but feels a lot safer, too.
I am glad Eric persevered through his South Lake Union troubles and continued to attempt new routes until he found a new one. I posted my preferred route in a previous post. Given the combination of Dexter and Mercer project construction, a lot of new bike commuters will likely have the same experience as Eric.
If you ride downtown via the Fremont Bridge regularly, what advice would you give someone trying it for the first time?