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New King County bicycle map now online

King County’s new bike map look is similar to the design of the official Seattle bike map. It’s far easier to read than the old map design, and readability is an important part of getting more people riding:

The old county bike map

When adults give riding a bicycle a try for the first time since they were kids, one of the first things they need to figure out is where to ride. Odds are, it’s not going to be on the same roads they are accustomed to driving. A clear, easy-to-understand route map makes bicycle riding feel less intimidating. Combined with clear pavement markings and route signage, people getting started will be less afraid of getting lost or stranded on a dangerous roadway.

There are other great tools available for anyone who wants to have more bike route information at their fingertips. Just as One Bus Away has made transit use far easier and more efficient for the smart-phone-endowed in our city, Ride the City’s iPhone app makes finding a good bicycle route within Seattle incredibly easy. It costs $3, but it is worth it. Just type in the address of where you want to go, and the app draws a route from your location to there. You can also use RTC in a web browser.

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My favorite part of RTC is that it changes the color of the route line depending on how safe each stretch of the trip is. That way you know when to expect troublesome or busy spots. Too cool. And because data for Ride the City is user-supported, the route information will only get better as more people submit changes and suggestions.

Ride the City warns users that the bicycle route conditions become less safe as you enter the infmous Ballard missing link

Having safe bicycle routes is only part of the battle. Having the tools available to easily find them is also important. Luckily, just like the region’s bicycle facilities, these tools are getting better and better.

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14 responses to “New King County bicycle map now online”

  1. I really like this map!

    My only beef is that streets with a bike lane in one direction and sharrows in the other are shown as bike lanes. My preference would be to err in the opposite direction (show them as shared roadways) or else dedicate a separate symbology to this type of roadway treatment.

  2. biliruben

    Man. Are they serious about that signed bike route from Magnuson to Greenwood? Four steep hills later and you wish your were dead.

    Follow the creek and save 10,000 calories. Or scoot through Ravenna.

    Whoever thought that was a bike route is either a masochist or they don’t ride.

    1. Andres

      Seriously. Any bike map of Seattle should include grade markings or contour lines, *especially* for noobs who’ll need some time to develop those thighs of steel.

  3. Steve

    ?? Looks about the same as the old one to me. I guess leaving off the topographic shading makes it slightly easier to read. But the new one is also missing the points of interest the old one has like library locations, trail restrooms, park and rides, etc. I think I’ll stick with the old one for now.

    1. Merlin

      The points of interest are in a layer that can be turned on and off.

  4. Merlin

    More generally, I don’t find the maps very useful in finding routes with low traffic and good separation for bikes. For example, I live on Capitol Hill and commute across the hill to South Lake Union. I use the east-west residential streets, which incorporate many traffic calming features including dead ends that block cars but let bikes through. This is way more comfortable and safe than taking the sharrow route on Aloha – which despite the sharrows is a narrow road with relatively high traffic and poor visibility. Another example – Eastlake where it merges into Stewart. There’s a sharrow painted on the road that switches from the curb side of the right lane to the left side of the right lane so as to allow buses to pass on the right. Can you imagine a first-time cyclist being willing to do THAT?? This 4-lane street is packed with buses and cars. I’ve biked all my life and it still took me over a year to get up the nerve to get off the sidewalk there. So to me the maps are of little help in looking for the safest routes for inexperienced cyclists. We have a long way to go, both in Seattle and outside.

  5. RachaelL

    Awesome app! I didn’t know about it. I already submitted a route alteration though. :)

    The general comment about crazy bike routes is pretty well taken. Take Dexter Ave N. Why is that the bike route to Fremont and not a separated cycle track (or at least a wider multi-use path) next to Westlake where it’s flat?! Similarly, a lot of the sharrow markings in Seattle seem to be painted with the belief that if you paint something it automatically becomes better for cyclists. No, those sharrows on Eastlake (near Lakeview) do not magically make doors not open into you or cars not buzz you!

    Of course the bike map isn’t at fault for the poor routes but it’s been frustrating using it and finding the routes insane. It almost needs footnotes. :)

    1. NickN

      Most any map should be taken as guidance and not gospel. This one is a decent start and at least gives you some options.

      There are several street segments along my commute that should be categorized differently based on personal experience. However, I have the suspicion that some, or all, of the ratings are based on the periodic car counts (those little tuby things stretched across the road).

      To me it would be interesting to know what the local traffic engineers consider ‘high’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’ volumes and have a few regular cyclists contribute their perspectives in an organized fashion so that these tools can be better representative of how we use the infrastructure. The side benefit also being it would provide good, data driven guidance to SDOT, King Co., etc. for further improvements rather than the somewhat haphazard state we have now.

  6. Merlin

    My impression in general is that the first phase of the Bicycle Master Plan was aimed at legitimizing arterial routes that were already used by seasoned fearless cyclists – essentially just telling car drivers, Hey , bikes belong here! Once the sharrows and bike lanes were painted on those roads, the mapmakers decided that those marking indicated safe routes for cycling. I hope the next phase of the Bike Plan will focus on identifying truly safe low-traffic, low incline routes for novices and creating separated bike facilities along arterial routes.

    1. NickN

      My discussions with SDOT partially support your impression. The folks I have talked to just simply said ‘Well, this is the main road for traffic so we thought we’d add bikes to it as well’. It definitely didn’t–still doesn’t– give me hope for smart route development.

      1. Merlin

        I attended one of several big mass gatherings when the bike plan was being developed – maybe 10 years ago? It was very exciting – SDOT had put up giant maps and provided markers for people to mark up the maps to indicate preferred routes and areas needing improvements. But we were all people who were already riding the Seattle streets before there was ANY bike infrastructure (well I do remember a couple bike lanes that went for a few blocks then disappeared). Speaking for myself, I was thinking about the problems I encountered on my routes – not how to make cycling safe and welcoming for everyone from kids to old folks. I would make very different marks on those maps today. And I hope I get a chance to do that!

  7. William C Bonner

    I liked the topographic information that was visible in the old map, but agree that the new map having layers works much better when zooming in and out. If you zoomed in on the old map, the layers and icons just got bigger since they were embedded in the image already.

    I’m sure that the new map will be able to be adjusted much easier as well.

  8. Jennifer

    At least the driver’s in Seattle know how to share the road with cyclists. I live in DT Bellevue and it’s all manner of crazy over here since every single person is yammering away on their cell phone/texting while driving 40 mph with a car full of kids in an expensive car. When they see a cyclist on the road, their cortisol level spikes and they either start driving erratically or floor it.


    I think that is a good idea to put grade % on the hills. I do like the grade arrows as warning and it has improvement from not knowing. As far as how busy or how narrow the streets that also need improvements. Some bike routes I do question as bike routes. Example going from University to the University Mall you have pick narrow street that goes up and over University Heights that has traffic, and that is dangerious because traffic can not pass the bicycles on that street so the bikes often get squezzed or the finger. It would be a lot safer to route bike via Ravanna Creek Park trail.

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