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Do you travel to or from the Eastside? You gotta give biking the 520 Bridge a try

Biking across the 520 Bridge during a sunny evening commute this week, I was floored by the sheer number of people biking across Lake Washington. I knew demand for a biking connection on this bridge was going to be big, but seeing it in action is still inspiring.

In fact, as more and more people discover the bike trip possibilities this new connection opens, it’s not so hard to imagine a commute-hour pattern with more people biking, walking and taking transit across 520 (especially if you include people on employee shuttles).

That’s where you come in, person who regularly travels across Lake Washington. The 520 Bridge just brought a lot of jobs and homes into bike range for the first time. That may include yours.

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Biking from downtown Kirkland or Bellevue to the University of Washington is now a 7-mile bike ride, which takes about 40 minutes at a casual pace. Without traffic, that’s not much longer than taking the bus. During heavy traffic, it could be faster.

But more than that, it’s also a lot of fun. Instead of fuming in traffic, you could experience the freedom of being outside in the middle of Lake Washington. The bridge trail includes cut outs along the way where you can pull over, sit on a bench and take a few moments in awe at the beauty of the place we live.

It’s better for the environment, better on your budget, better for your health, and better for your soul.

Below are a few maps from WSDOT showing some bike connections to the trail. They’re not perfect, but it sure beats stop-and-go traffic.

Redmond area.
Eastside bridge connections.
Seattle bridge connections.

Has the 520 Bridge Trail changed your travel habits? Let us know how in the comments below.

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13 responses to “Do you travel to or from the Eastside? You gotta give biking the 520 Bridge a try”

  1. Kate Johnson

    Thanks for the blog post on this topic! Here’s one more map to consider – the City of Bellevue’s bike map – located at http://www.ChooseYourWayBellevue.org/bike (scroll down a little bit). It has just been updated.
    -Kate Johnson, Associate Planner, City of Bellevue Transportation Dept.

  2. Robert

    I cross that bridge from time to time to get to my job in Redmond. It is a wonderful bridge and a marvel of engineering.
    My only complaint about the bridge itself has already been raised many times: The brackets on the bridge make for a fairly jarring experience, especially when you’re heading downhill.
    Also, on a windy day, it can be a somewhat hair raising experience to keep your bike stable in the strong crosswinds. But that’s not the WDOT’s fault!
    Let’s just say the 520 Trail is a work in progress. Many of us have already raised the point of the less than ideal stretch along Northrup Way, where you do have to mix it up in rush hour traffic, even with the bike lane. Not a deal killer for an experienced cyclist, but I could see a newbie being terrified of it. But hey, you gotta become an experienced cyclist somehow, am I right?

  3. Jack Nolan

    It’s added more miles to my commute, which is great.

    Can you tell the WSDOT to fix the counter? It’s been out for two weeks.

    1. SR 520 Team

      Hi Jack – SR 520 Team here. Our crews are working with the manufacturer to resolve the issue and plan to have it working within the next 2 weeks. They believe it’s an electrical issue with the display.

  4. asdf2

    I’ve started to ride it occasionally to Kirkland. The bridge is great, the only annoyance is the lack of connection between the 520 trail and the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail, in spite of being just a couple of blocks apart.

    I came up with a zig-zag uphill route that avoids the steepest hills, and has only one (flat) block to deal with where you’re on a street without bike lanes. Downhill, I prefer to just take 108th down to the 520 trail and ride in the street.

    1. They aren’t even a couple of blocks apart. The SR-520 Trail passes over the Cross Kirkland Corridor.

      I think the eventual goal is to make this the connection between the two.

      1. asdf2

        That connection is fine for people coming from the east (Redmond), but it’s too far out of the way for people coming from the west (Seattle). Coming from the west, the obvious connecting route is 108th, but the street design provides nothing except a bike lane that abruptly ends halfway up the hill, where transportation engineers decided the space was needed for turn lanes instead.

        As I said, I did manage to find a zig-zaggety route that avoids the worst of the problems. In particular, it completely avoids the need to interact with cars on 108th because the half block segment on 108th is on the sidewalk. But, it is completely not intuitive and lacks any kind of signage.

        Alternatives considered:
        1) https://goo.gl/maps/Xh5sxDZfPZK2
        The curb ramps are situated so as to force you to take the sidewalk and cross Northup Way at the light like a pedestrian. You have to navigate multiple right-turn islands which encourage high-speed turns (and discourage right-turning drivers from yielding to pedestrians). It’s easier to just make a vehicular-style protected left turn onto Bellevue Way and not have to deal with this mess.

        2) https://goo.gl/maps/VGydoMXb7NB2
        Missing curb ramps prevent you from getting onto the street before the intersection and merging into the left turn lane, so this option requires waiting two light cycles to turn left into 108th at the crosswalks. Then, the bike lane abruptly ends halfway up the hill, so you have to merge into the traffic lane while struggling to maintain 5 mph. You can avoid the cars by taking the 108th Ave. sidewalk, but the first block (Northup->38th Pl), the sidewalk is quite narrow, and, during commute hours, usually blocked by people waiting for the bus.

        There are some simple improvements that could be done make the connection between the trails suitable for people that don’t want to ride in traffic, which don’t require massive engineering efforts. The first step is to add a crosswalk (ideally with push-button-actuated flashing beacon) where the 520 trail hits Northup Way, so you can use the parking lot to avoid 108th Ave. and Bellevue Way altogether, like this. Then, add a missing curb ramp to an already-existing sidewalk connecting two parking lots across a row of hedges, so that you can continue your journey like this. The final leg would use the South Kirkland P&R access road and the 108th Ave. sidewalk, like this. Here, the sidewalk has about the minimum tolerable width for bike use. It would be even better if they could widen it by a couple feet and move the utility pole out of the way, but that might be relatively expensive.

        The above probably has some jurisdictional issues to work out, since the parking lots to cut through may technically be private property (which means one anti-bike landowner could unilaterally scuttle the whole project), but it’s still worth looking into.

    2. Todd

      Get over it.

  5. Brian

    Now that the weather has improved, I plan to bike to work in Redmond. Before, I had would have to go up the Burke-Gilman to the Sammamish River Trail which would have been a three hour commute. I estimate that the 520 trail should reduce the travel time by half.

  6. Chris Burke

    I rode south on the Cross Kirkland Corridor the other day, intending to connect with the 520 Trail and cross the 520 bridge. I *should* have turned right on 108th Ave and coasted downhill to the 520 Trail. But the trail now continues invitingly across 108th into Bellevue, so I tried that route, expecting some sort of connection to Northup Way near where the old rail line crosses 520.
    Big mistake! There is no connection; you just keep riding south, and eventually make a giant loop east, then north, to Northup Way. The loop is bigger than the “suggested route” above, because the whole loop goes around a giant construction site. I believe it is going to be Sound Transit’s eastside maintenance facility. I had the added pleasure of sharing 120th Ave NE with big construction vehicles, and the traffic on that street seemed to be speeding, as a rule.
    I also found the signs a bit confusing once I did get on the 520 Trail. It wasn’t always clear which way led to Seattle. Let me add that I found the 520 Trail to be surprisingly hilly. It’s always been a slog to climb the hill from Redmond, but there were more hills through the Points communities, and there is even a hill on the bridge itself! Maybe my old bones are just too much in winter shape, but I found it something of a slog. I know, minor complaints overall. Thanks for the new trail!

  7. JAT

    I rode it for the first time on Fri (Bellevue to Seattle) where 84th Ave NE becomes Hunts point Rd (after the roundabout) there’s a sign with an arrow directing Pedestrians/Cyclists to the trail pointing down and left which was exactly the wrong direction to go.

    And I agree the plates covering the joints in the bridge deck are jarring (the auto lanes don’t seem to have these…)- but certainly better than no bridge at all!

  8. Mark

    I just did this today, and the “40 minutes at a casual pace” from UW to downtown Bellevue seems a bit ambitious. It took me just over 45 minutes (especially having to get over Clyde Hill), and I was pushing pretty hard. Headwinds on the bridge were also pretty draining.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Good to know. I may not have properly calculated hills into it. Thanks for reporting back!

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