What Viadoom? Take control of your own commute by biking

What Viadoom? This could be your West Seattle commute.

What Viadoom? This could be your West Seattle commute.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is closing Friday for two weeks as Bertha tunnels precariously under its foundation. As people who drive and take the bus (especially in Viaduct-dependent West Seattle) fret about the threat of huge traffic backups, there is one dependable way you can take control of your own commute: Bike.

Aside from the fun and adventure of biking across town every day, a bike commute takes nearly the same amount of time every day regardless of traffic. In a city where a single highway seafood spill can bring the entire motor vehicle system to crawl, dependability is a huge reason so many people have switched to biking.

You don’t need to wait until 2033 for light rail service to free you from traffic. You can take control yourself today. All you need is a bike that works and the will to give it a shot.

While the viaduct closure will impact many commutes, we’re going to focus on West Seattle for this post since it is the most Viaduct-dependent.

And thanks to the wonderful people at West Seattle Bike Connections, we have an extremely handy map to share for anyone interested in giving a downtown bike commute a try. The map below compiles three popular route suggestions the group posted recently to get people ready to the Viaduct closure. If you click on any of the route lines, you’ll see a link to view that route in detail on RideWithGPS. From there, you can even download turn-by-turn directions. Pretty cool, eh? Thanks, WSBC!

If it has been a few years since you made the ride to downtown, you may be pleasantly surprised by some significant route improvements. There are still a couple problem spots and bike lanes in need of an upgrade, but most of the route from the West Seattle Bridge to downtown is in a bike lane or on a trail.

Another great option is to bike to the Water Taxi (the blue ships on the map above), which is very bike-friendly. The West Seattle terminal is a long walk from most of the neighborhood, but it is a perfect bike destination. Plus, it’s beautiful:

IMG_4380

The Viaduct closure even comes just in time for Bike Month, when workplaces and organizations put extra effort into helping people get into biking, especially to work. WA Bikes even has a handy website to help you track your bike trips, which some people find helpful for developing a biking habit.

Remember, those hills only get easier each day you bike up them.

Are you interested in a bike commute during the Viaduct closure, but have questions? Ask them in the comments below!

Are you a regular commuter who wants to help guide your neighbors on a comfortable and inviting ride to work? Post an event listing in the Seattle Bike Blog calendar. Just pick a starting time and public place (coffee shops are perfect) and tell people where you’re heading. I’ll help spread the word.

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33 Responses to What Viadoom? Take control of your own commute by biking

  1. meanie says:

    Yancy street in west seattle is still closed, which blows most of these routes.

    • LWC says:

      You can get through the Yancy Street closure on bike – I’ve done it several times over the past week.

      • meanie says:

        Sign says closed, and I have been physically blocked by equipment and a pissed off construction worker, YMMV

    • b says:

      People walking and biking can still get through to 30th @ Yancy and detour one block south on Dakota. Just one extra snake on a snakey route.

    • bill says:

      The routes are hardly “blown.” Continue downhill to Spokane St and get on the trail. Or if you want to see how fast your bike can accelerate drop down Andover. Coming home I recommend the trail to Avalon. That’s longer but less steep than the alternatives.

      • meanie says:

        Are the turn by turn instructions accurate, yes or no?

        I didn’t turn around and go home, but its not good advise for a bunch of new commuters to point them at unsigned construction detour.

      • bill says:

        WSBC is a volunteer organization. The members do the best they can in the time they have. One assumes one is addressing adults who can deal with a bit of the unanticipated.

      • bill says:

        “drop down Andover.” My mistake. Andover is where the construction is. I meant Genessee, where there is a signal. And a much more exciting downhill.

  2. Ints says:

    While there isn’t any car and truck traffic on the viaduct over the next two weeks wouldn’t it be nice if they allowed bike and pedestrian access to the viaduct? They could even restrict it to spring street north and it would still be a treat as well as help get people through downtown.

    • Matthew Snyder says:

      Interesting idea. Beyond using it just for transportation, it would make a fun experiment in temporary public space, sort of like JSK talked about when she spoke here last month. They could turn a section of the Viaduct into a kind of bare bones version of the “High Line”-style park that a small group of people have advocated — a two-week test drive, to let people occupy the space and gauge reactions.

      I’m sure there are a million reasons not to do this (insurance, emergency access, etc) but it’s a fun thing to think about.

  3. bill says:

    A word about the 5-way Chelan intersection at the west end of the bridge. SDOT has improved the intersection for cyclists but it could be far better. New commuters please complain to the City! New voices can only help.

    If you are eastbound from Harbor/Avalon, the bike box on Chelan did not have a bike sensor the last I checked. You need to hit ped the button on the island.

    Apart from that, the bike sensors work. The signal takes a long time to go through its cycle. Be patient and wait. If you opt for the crosswalks it will take at least two cycles to get through the intersection.

    At Spokane and West Marginal city-bound cyclists traditionally go left on the sidewalk and then swerve across Marginal in various dicey ways. It is safer to use the crosswalk at the intersection. That light cycles pretty quickly. If you’re impatient the intersection has good sight lines so it is a safe place to run the light.

  4. SeattleBikeCommuter says:

    this is what it looked like to get through downtown towards West Seattle by bike the last time the Viaduct was shut down (for the overturned truck a couple weeks ago)….definitely an adventure… At least now it seems like the 2nd Ave bike lane is done being upgraded so one doesn’t have so find alternatives like 1st Ave and Western.

  5. jt says:

    Helpful! I’ve been biking from west Seattle to downtown the past month and hadn’t considered just crossing Alaskan way at King Street to reach Occidental north to Yesler. I will try this tomorrow. Any folks have experience to compare the pros/cons of this route vs going north on that pseudo delivery zone path under the viaduct from King to Yesler? I’m mostly ok with that path but it does get weird blockages by delivery trucks, and scariest problem is drivers whipping fast turns off of Alaskan way onto the side streets, often with their view obstructed by the viaduct pillars.

    My other 2 cents is to recommend taking the alki trail even if it’s a little out of the way. The gorgeous scenery and very few driver interactions make it an incredibly pleasant part of my daily commute from western Genesee hill, even though it adds ~10 minutes relative to the hilly overland Andover route.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I highly recommend taking King to Occidental instead of dealing with anything under the Viaduct. You trade a stressful ride under the Viaduct for a pleasant cruise through Occidental Park.

      And King is rarely busy. Even during game days, you can still get through (though you may need to be patient with the crowds).

      • Al Dimond says:

        If you ride through Occidental Park when it’s wet out, watch out for:

        – The brick surface, which can get slippery.
        – The rain gutters, which can steer you into a fall sort of like streetcar tracks, and are hard to see when it’s dark and wet (I have some experience with this).

        In any weather, take care around the transitions between the street and raised “park/square” areas, because some of the curbs are pretty high and the ramps may not be in your natural path (they line up with the sidewalks, sort of). And always watch out for people on foot or in wheelchairs (who have absolute right-of-way in such a space, legally and morally).

        Occidental gets you out of traffic, but it’s far from a carefree ride!

  6. William says:

    “You don’t need to wait until 2033 for light rail service to free you from traffic. ”

    But given the inept performance of our city government you may very well have to wait that long for well configured and interconnecting network of safe cycle routes.

    And why the heck to we need light rail from Ballard to downtown – Just build bike lane.

    • Anthony says:

      They aren’t going to build a bike lane from Ballard to downtown. The city wants exactly the opposite, their mission is to destroy bicycling in Seattle for good.

      As for 2033, there is no way in hell this city will ever meet that either. By that point we’ll be bogged down so bad that places like Mexico City and its eight lane one way roads will look downright reasonable.

      • Law Abider says:

        Au contraire! The Westlake Cycletrack is very quickly nearing completion. By the solstice, it will be possible to bike from Ballard to Downtown solely on separated trails. Granted, it’s from the fringes of Ballard (11th and 45th) to the fringes of downtown (Westlake and Roy), but still, that’s a lot better than most neighborhoods can claim.

        And we do need light rail to Ballard and other neighborhoods. Anybody that says otherwise is highly ignorant.

      • Curi says:

        Hyperbole much?

  7. Don Brubeck says:

    We suggested King to Occidental as a lower stress route for those new to riding into downtown. Agree with Al Dimond on the need to watch for rain gutters, etc., and take care to see and use the curb ramps at cross streets. But using Alaskan Way is good for others who want to get farther north faster. You can ride in the traffic lane or in the crappy detour shared with pedestrians, occassional campers, truck loading and people illegally waiting in cars for ferry passengers. Most people do both, opportunistically depending on traffic. Taking a right at Yesler and left onto Western is a good way to get up into Belltown, or via Blanchard to Dexter and north to Fremont. Staying on Alaskan get you to the Elliott Bay Trail and north to Magnolia and Ballard.

    Beware the middle route on WS map. Very direct to Arbor Heights, but steep headwall south of SW Alaska St and some good hill farther along.

    • Meredith says:

      And a right turn off Dexter on to Roy will take you over to Fairview/Eastlake which is actually a pretty good route to the University from downtown in the morning. Eastlake actually has fairly low traffic in the mornings

  8. Viking Biking says:

    Lincoln Park is a nice place, but I don’t think I would commute through it. :)

    • AJL says:

      Au contraire.
      For those using the Fauntleroy ferry area, or going to/from Vashon, Lincoln Park is a beautiful, fun detour if one has the time and/or inclination.

      • bill says:

        If you normally ride north up Fauntleroy a nice alternative that gets you away from ferry traffic for most of the climb is: Turn right (south) from the ferry, follow the arterial, turn left at 45th (stop sign), right on 46th, take the left branch when 46th splits, then right on Fauntleroy.

  9. Becky says:

    It’s not on my regular commute, but do people have advice on getting to/from Admiral Junction? I have gotten lost/sad/confused trying to figure out the best way to get up onto Admiral Way from the bridge/trail.

    • Tim F says:

      I used to bomb down Admiral Way regularly, but coming home I usually rode up California from the North or went all the way around to the West side of Alki and came up Admiral from the other direction. Google recommends a route past the Luna Park Cafe then up Manning.

      https://goo.gl/maps/DnSNQSEKpBR2

      Admiral had dangerously fast and high-volume car traffic compared to my slow climb when I lived there, so I rarely took the climb up the eastern side. It’s been quite a few years since I lived there, but maybe someone else can comment. California?

      • bill says:

        That Google route requires a suicidal left across Admiral. I don’t like that turn in a car.

      • bill says:

        Going up the north end of California is probably the best trade-off of steepness and traffic stress. Fairmount is quiet and leafy but very steep. Admiral has a decently separated climbing lane now. But the bike lane vanishes at the top where the road narrows. (An SDOT signature move.)

        Admiral is the most direct way. Go straight across the Harbor/Avalon intersection. Then haul your bike up the stairs. The runnels help slightly. Or work your way up and left through the little neighborhood.

        At the top of Admiral where the bike lane ends, use the ped button to cross Admiral. Then work your way west to California. Or if you want bike the whole way on Admiral, use the ped button to stop the cars and give yourself a gap to finish the climb.

        (Sorry about multiple posts. My phone is being weird.)

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