Burke-Gilman detour alternatives (that don’t include driving) – UPDATED

Following the release of the official Burke-Gilman Trail detour between Log Boom Park and the Seattle border, even King County said not to take it. The closure is scheduled to start tomorrow (June 15) and will not be open for six months. The county’s suggestion to take the bus or drive is clearly not acceptable, so this post is an attempt to compile suggestions into a more acceptable bicycle route than the official signed route.

First, to recap the challenges with this detour. Reconstruction of the trail requires that the entire stretch from NE 145th to Log Boom Park be closed entirely. There are limited access points for the trucks, which will have to use the trail to enter and exit the work site, so keeping segments open is not an option.

The only road that runs even remotely parallel to the trail and does not dead end is Bothell Way (Hwy 522). People who are willing to ride on 522 have many options (here’s one from Bike Hugger that looks really fast). But people who are confident to ride on 522 can fend for themselves.

We are more concerned about the lack of an acceptable detour for people who want to ride at a neighborhood pace. So I set out last night with my partner Kelli to find an alternative detour that meets the following criteria:

  • Does not involve riding on 522
  • Does not involve outrageously steep climbs
  • Is as short as possible
  • Sticks to roads where it is comfortable to ride at an easy cruising pace

To start, I spent some time looking at the great suggestions posted by readers on our previous post (thanks biliruben, doug, JRF and everyone who posted your thoughts). We then set out to try out a couple ideas. After a couple failed theories and dead ends, I think we have ended up with some modifications to the official detour that will work for more people.

First, here is the detour from King County:

The two biggest problems with this route are Ballinger Way and NE 145th. I do not recommend using these roads. If you are going to ride on these busy roads, you might as well take the bus lane on 522. At least then you’ll have some space.

Here is the route Kelli and I came up with that at least meets our minimum criteria for a detour (recorded with my phone’s GPS):


View Larger Map

And here’s the elevation graph if you are headed southbound (ignore the spike, which is just the GPS being funny):

  1. Heading south from Log Boom Park, follow the detour onto Beach Dr, which takes you to the stoplight at Ballinger Way and 522.
  2. This next step is silly, but it works and will save some distance and allows you to avoid Ballinger Way: Cross at the crosswalk and ride through the parking lot of the shopping center to the stoplight on the south side (45th Ave NE?).
  3. Cross at the light and turn right onto Beach Drive, which you take to NE 165th. Get ready for a hill. Unfortunately there is really no way to avoid climbing, and 165th is a wide road that is not too busy.
  4. Meet the official detour at 37th Ave NE. Follow the signs all the way to NE 145th St. Instead of turning, continue straight on 30th Ave NE.
  5. Turn left at NE 137th St.
  6. Veer right onto Erickson Pl once you cross Lake City Way. You will meet up with the official detour again. Note: This step does not work quite as well in the northbound direction at Erickson is one-way. You may want to try taking NE 130th to 30th NE instead.
  7. Follow the official detour to the trail.

Do you know of ways to make this route safer, faster and/or more fun?

UPDATE: King County and Cascade held a press conference today about the closure. Here is the press release:

King County joined with the Cascade Bicycle Club today to urge bicyclists to exercise caution and avoid short-cuts during an extended closure of the Burke-Gilman Trail while the County makes critical safety improvements to the trail’s oldest and narrowest segment.

“We know this construction project presents a significant, temporary inconvenience, but we believe that the safety improvements we’re making to this section of the Burke-Gilman Trail will benefit trail users for many decades to come,” said Kevin Brown, King County Parks Director. “I think cyclists will be among those that are going to love the final product.”

After a nine-month effort to identify and gain approval for a detour route around the Burke-Gilman Trail construction zone, King County received the permits it needed from the city of Lake Forest Park on Monday and will have detour signs in place prior to the trail’s closure on Wednesday, June 15. The two-mile trail segment from Northeast 145th Street in Lake Forest Park to Logboom Park in Kenmore will close possibly until November.

“The detour route is not optimum,” said Cascade Bicycle Club Executive Director Chuck Ayers. “In fact, the County pursued better alternatives but they were frustrated in their efforts. Regardless of how cyclists venture through the closure, we urge them to ride safely, legally, and courteously to other trail and roadway users. In the not-so-distant future, the Burke-Gilman Trail, the grandmother of our regional trail system, will be something all of us can be proud of.”
“It’s not a perfect detour, but it does balance the considerations of our many stakeholders,” said Brown. “Finding a reasonable detour around the construction zone has been challenging. The trail corridor runs along Lake Washington, with steep hills, a fragmented road and sidewalk system and busy State Route 522 on the upland side.”

The detour is circuitous, hilly and longer by 2.3 miles, but it does provide a safer option for getting around the work zone and is an alternative to riding on State Route 522, which is considered unsafe for bicycles due to heavy car and bus traffic.

“State Route 522 between Bothell and Lake City is a very busy transit corridor for both Metro and Sound Transit,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “It has a dedicated transit-only lane that helps keep bus service moving, but that lane is only 10 feet wide in some places and there is no room for buses to safely share that lane with bicyclists.”
Brown said the County worked collaboratively with the City of Lake Forest Park, the City of Seattle, the City of Shoreline, the City of Kenmore, the Cascade Bicycle Club and many other stakeholders for nearly a year to identify a safe, temporary detour route to be used during construction of the trail.

Trail users can download the detour map and find turn-by-turn detour directions on the project website www.kingcounty.gov/burkegilmantrail, where weekly construction updates will be posted during the project.

For the first few days of the closure, King County Parks will also have staff at north and south ends of the detour route during commute times and through the coming weekend to inform users about the closure and the detour.

King County has established a 24-hour hotline – 206-462-6348 – to provide updated information and to answer any questions about the construction project.
Brown said that for many bike riders and commuters, the best option will be to avoid cycling and ride the bus or carpool until construction is complete. He said riding on State Route 522 is not safe and recreational riders should simply avoid the area during construction, perhaps exploring one of King County’s many other regional trails. Three Metro and one Sound Transit bus routes provide service along this corridor every six minutes during commute times; all with triple bike racks. Additional bike lockers have been installed at the Kenmore Park and Ride.
This major trail redevelopment project has been in planning and design for more than five years, and has received significant input from a Citizens Advisory Group with broad representation from trail user groups, and local and state governments.

The redevelopment project will improve trail safety, with a new, 12-foot-wide asphalt surface and soft-surface shoulders, enhanced traffic controls, improved sight distances and better drainage. This portion of the trail currently has cracked and uneven asphalt and standing water that can create dangerous conditions for some trail users.

Contractor J.R. Hayes and Sons, Inc. will do the trail redevelopment work at a cost of $2.69 million. Funding for the project comes from the 2008-2013 Parks Expansion Levy and Real Estate Excise Tax funds.

Brown said it was necessary to close the trail segment during construction due to topography constraints and for public safety, as heavy trucks will have to drive up and down the corridor due to limited trail access. Closing the trail segment also allows construction work to be expedited, thus reducing construction time and minimizing impacts to the community. The contractor has incentives for early completion.

The Burke-Gilman Trail runs more than 18 miles from Shilshole Bay in the City of Seattle to the City of Bothell where it intersects the Sammamish River Trail. The trail is managed by Seattle within the city limits south of Northeast 145th Street and by King County outside Seattle.
Construction information is also available by subscribing to King County Parks’ construction alerts at www.kingcounty.gov/parksalerts or by “Liking” King County Parks on Facebook at www.facebook.com/iheartkcparks.

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33 Responses to Burke-Gilman detour alternatives (that don’t include driving) – UPDATED

  1. biliruben says:

    I don’t think that’s too terrible.

    I haven’t ridden up over the cemetery, but I’ve driven it, and I recall it being pretty darn steep. Not too bad? Better than crossing back East of 522?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I mean, it’s a climb, but the grade is never too crushing. Riding on 522 from 38th Ave NE (near NE 156th) to NE 145th, then cutting over to 35th might not be a bad middle ground for someone okay with a little 522 riding. It would be a significant shortcut, and there does appear to be a bus lane and sidewalk on the west side of the road most of the way.

  2. elise says:

    I saw on the facebook page for the Seattle Century that someone helped them find a good alternative. I looked on their website, but it doesn’t look like the route maps have changed to reflect it. Anyone know what the plan is there??

  3. Bob says:

    I think you’re probably right about 145th being dangerous, but the official route on Ballinger is a sidewalk, so really not so bad in terms of traffic. Thanks for your efforts!

  4. Melinda says:

    I emailed WSDOT to ask if it was them who said that people couldn’t ride bikes on 522, and got an inconclusive reply.

    I just want to know which government agency to be annoyed with, and I have been thwarted in that effort.

  5. Bob says:

    This might not be too practical, but I just wonder if people with trucks or bike racks who are driving south on Bothell way, could swing by the parking lot in the LFP town center parking lot (just north of Starbucks, where a lot of weekend riders park) and pick up bikers and their bikes, and drop off at 145th, where it is not too bad to get down to the trail south of 145th, I think.

  6. Eli says:

    Hey Tom — You wouldn’t happen to already know exactly how to take a bus around the closed segment of trail? (e.g. where to take it on each end & what routes?)

    No worries if not, I’ll check Google Maps. Thx for the great coverage here!

    • Eli says:

      PS – I also put in an e-mail to Gina who said she’s going to investigate it for the BGT construction website/FAQ.

  7. JAT says:

    Why exactly is State Route 522 so unsafe? (rhetorical question – and note how it’s referred to by its intimidating highway name rather than its friendlier street name Bothell Way) Isn’t it because motorists cannot be expected to suffer the inconvenience of altering their unreasonable expectation of speed at any time? Why is this tollerated?

    And isn’t it true that at rush hour motorists are creeping along bumper to bumper at walking speed on this very same route?

  8. Nat says:

    Thanks, Tom, for staying on top of this. Your route looks like a better choice than the official detour. Question: Erickson Pl and 35th Ave are busy. Did you consider cutting across on 135th to 42nd Ave and then down to the trail? The shot down to the trail is very steep, but was used as a detour route during the mudslides this winter. Another option is 125th St to Sand Point Way. These are also busy roads, but I think there’s a usable shoulder for much of it.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Those sound like good suggestions. Cutting down 42nd is a good idea for those headed south, but won’t really work for northbound unless you want a workout. But no reason why your route needs to be the same in both directions.

      • Nat says:

        I’ve come to learn that my suggestion has a big problem – the connection between 135th and 42nd includes a LOOONG stairway. I’ve made this mistake before but somehow the painful memory doesn’t stick in my brain…

      • biliruben says:

        Yeah I had assumed you meant 145th, which allows you to weave down to the trail. 123rd works better, however.

  9. BikeNut says:

    Does anyone know if this project is going to be run like every other construction project I’ve ever seen, 6am to 4pm M-F? ‘Cause if it is, I’d be sorely tempted to ride around the barrier up to the actual site of work, then walk around whatever they are currently doing.

    Every site I’ve ever walked around has had a path for the workers to avoid the new concrete etc. Yeah there are sharp stuff lying around, rebar, nails etc, but with a little effort you can avoid the stuff, then a about 100yds later it’s all clear and you are free an clear.

    You couldn’t do that in the morning, but by the time you ride home, I bet those guys will have knocked off for the day. And even when I’ve run into actual workers they couldn’t care less whether I was there or not, especially if I’m not a jerk or in their way.

    • Tom R says:

      BikeNut has the right attitude. I love it.

      Governments need to know that the people just need a trail, and once the work is done for the day, bicyclists will gladly tiptoe around the work in progress to use the trail they’re used to. And all the neighbors with all the unexpected bicyclists crusing their neighborhoods in the morning will be glad to see them gone in the evening.

  10. NoahFect says:

    “It has a dedicated transit-only lane that helps keep bus service moving, but that lane is only 10 feet wide in some places and there is no room for buses to safely share that lane with bicyclists.”

    Sounds like the buses’ problem to me.

    • john juge says:

      right up until the bus runs you over. then it kinda becomes your problem. I learned real quick not to pick a fight with a Metro bus. 50% of the time the driver cant see you, and the other 50% they are aiming for you.

  11. biliruben says:

    From King Count Metro Transit (sent via email):

    A 2 mile segment of the Burke-Gilman Trail between NE 145th St and Lake City Way NE
    and 61st Av NE and NE Bothell Way is closed for maintenance for approximately 6 months.

    Bicyclists who normally use the trail are detoured onto SR-522 – Bothell Way NE – in
    both directions between Lake City and Bothell. This is already a very busy traffic
    and transit corridor.

    King County, Metro Transit and the Cascade Bicycle Club urge all drivers, bicyclists
    and pedestrians to use caution and courtesy when traveling in this area during the trail
    closure.

    Complete details about the closure, the detour and related information and links are
    available on King County’s website.

    Your patience during the closure is appreciated.

    Travel safely.

    • biliruben says:

      It sounds a lot like there was a lot of bikes in the bus lane today, and it’s interesting to see they said they were routed onto 522, which isn’t the case.

      Talked to someone who took the official detour today, and there were “No Trespassing – private property” signs all over the place, even on public roads it sounds like.

      She tried to deviate a block off the official route, and the cops lining the route wouldn’t let her, even though that’s where her house was!

      Things are going to get plenty fun.

  12. Tom -LFP resident says:

    Save some time and hassle (eliminate 2 crossing lights on 522). After crossing over 522 at Ballinger to LFP mall go through the mall (or 522 transit lane) to Brookside Blvd.(between Arco and Shell), turn right on Brookside, go to the end and turn left, one block, left on 37th (Brookside grade school) south on 37th until you meet 165th and continue. There is also a small jog that lets you eliminate most of Brookside by crossing the little bridge by Wired Nick’s to Hamlin or the new foot bridge (with stupid yellow eyes) to Hamlin then a right that will take you to 37th near the top of the hill.

  13. Doug Hansen says:

    Thanks, Tom for doing the research that the county should/could have for almost no cost.

    This is a much better detour than the one proposed by the County. Ridiculous that they would say 522 is too dangerous to ride upon and then propose that cyclists take 145th which is even more dangerous, albeit for a shorter stretch.

    The county should amend to Tom’s detour.

    -=Doug

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Mine does not work perfectly in each direction and involves riding through a shopping center parking lot. I understand why the county would/could not make it the official route. I was just trying to give people a way to weasel around some of the worst parts of the detour. I also have the advantage of not needed to get approval from a handful of jurisdictions…

      • Doug Hansen says:

        Yeah. Good point, Tom. I think you are right. I was a little fired up when I posted that. But I still appreciate your leg work. :-) and the alternates.

        I have ridden it a few times and it’s not too bad. I do find myself improvising a bit. I also like 130th across Lake City Way up to 35th.

        Also, I ended up taking Sand Point on the northbound ride, connecting from 110 of the Burke (missed the official detour exit at 90th?). Sand Point does not seem bad overall in either direction, but there are some tight spots such under the Burke Gilman bridge at 95th.

        I know some people have sugggested taking 125th off of 35th and connecting to Sand Point. But I would call that an “advanced” route.

        Finally, there is an upside to the detour an addition to getting some hill work. I realized how rusty my turns have become from so much Burke riding over the winter/spring!!

  14. Aron says:

    Loaded my bike southbound 312 bus for downtown around 8am today. No other bikes on the bus and no others loaded for the entire trip. I had expected bedlam. Maybe in the weeks to come?

    Now for the ride home.

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  17. Todd Holman says:

    So for 5.5 million bucks and 6 months — to do 2 miles of renovation — is it going to be gold plated?

    • biliruben says:

      Gold Plated?

      Solid Titanium.

      The article I read says $2.78 mil, IIRC. Where are you getting the $5.5 mil number? Maybe the higher number includes all the studies, re-studies, re-re-studies, lawsuits and red-tape LFP has made the county go through over the last decade to get to this point.

      I was actually thinking it was cheap after looking at the specs.

  18. Victor says:

    I have ridden several times on Lake City Way to Bothell Way on 522. I have seen many cyclists in both directions. I think people are getting comfortable with 522. Its really quite safe. I have ridden during rush hours and during the weekends. Ride on the bus lane and I have rarely had a bus pass me. To be honest, I kind of like 522, more than I do the BGT !! Its more fun. Going northbound on 522 from 145th is a fun downhill ride.

  19. Doug Bostrom says:

    I live on 35th avenue, just across from the Meadowbrook Community Center. Tremendous increase in bike traffic here, and I have to say I’m pleased to see the civilizing effect y’all are having on motor vehicles otherwise given to plunging down the hill here without regard to the speed limit. So, –Welcome– to our neighborhood, cyclists; please be aware that for every inexplicably terrified and thus loud nimby there are probably 10 quietly accepting and encouraging folks such as ourselves who are happy to accommodate you!

    I have to say it’s quite bizarre that the portion of BG that is being denied to commuters yet is perfectly usable is actually longer than the bit under construction. Would it not have been a perfect time to work out an additional, permanent access to BG for people joining the trail midway??

  20. Doug Hansen says:

    Old string, I know but I have been looking around for others’ experiences with this. Haven’t found much. Thought I would share mine…

    I live near this route and off and on ride the lane. Sometimes I use the bus to get to the top of the hill and take the straight drop down 153rd > 37th > 150th > 39th > 40th to Riviera to the Burke, about a 90 second descent at a slow safe speed.

    Bus drivers when I ride their bus have been telling me it is no big deal to for them go around the cyclists they encounter in the lane. And cyclists I have spoken to say they feel safe riding it.

    If you don’t, I suggest using the bus rack for two stops and taking the drop route to the Burke described above. It is about a six minute ascent up the hill from Ballinger to 153rd for me so during rush hour you will be encountered by 2-3 buses. Another caution… Riviera is flat but very rough. Probably more dangerous than the drop … or the bus lane.

    YMMV. But that is my experience. Anyone else care to share theirs?

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