Aside from some untreated ice patches, biking was a great way around Day 1 without SR 99

Bike train headed down Jackson (a major gap in the downtown bike network)

Biking around the city this morning was amazing. Sure, the weather helped a lot, with clear skies and a jaw-dropping sunrise fueling my ride to join the SE Seattle Bike Train. No matter how many times I experience it, the beauty of this place always inspires me while biking around town. But it was also amazing to see so many other people out biking and experiencing it with me.

We won’t know for sure until tomorrow when the bike counter data rolls in, but anecdotally it sure seemed like more people biking than on a typical January weekday.

I caught a ride on the inaugural run of the SE Seattle Bike Train 7:30 Local via Beacon Hill. Going into Monday, West Seattle and Green Lake also had community-organized efforts to teach people how to bike downtown and give them an opportunity to try it with a group. More of this, please!

Not everyone can easily bike to work, so there’s a fine line between spreading the word about how great it is to bike and gloating. It sucks if you are truly stuck driving in traffic, and it’s not worthwhile to rub that in. But there are a ton of people driving who could bike if they gave it a shot. And the closure of a highway is a great time to make the leap.

SDOT needs a better ice plan

It wasn’t all smooth riding, unfortunately. I have received multiple reports of unsalted ice patches in known problem areas, including the turn at the north end of the Westlake Bikeway, a section of the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Greenway, parts of the Ship Canal Trail, the Alki Trail, the Missing Link and the sharp rail crossing on the Burke-Gilman Trail near 6th Ave NW, where a true hero was out warning folks:

Viaduct closure or not, SDOT should have protocols that kick in whenever overnight lows drop into the 30s to make sure known problem spots are properly treated. Though any stretch with ice can be a problem, the worst spots are curves that are shaded from morning sun.

Deicer and cones were added to this turn at the north end of the Westlake Bikeway, a spot that gets notoriously slick when temperatures drop overnight.

The north end of Alaskan Way needs bike lanes.

I also took a ride along Alaskan Way downtown and was pleasantly surprised to find it not only much quieter (thanks to the lack of traffic on the Viaduct above) but also not particularly busy. I thought that the road would be packed with people trying to get around the highway closure, which I was worried might make an already incomplete and stressful bike route even worse. But if anything it seemed lighter than usual. Again, I don’t have official data to back up my hunch, though.

One improvement that could really help a lot more people bike downtown is a bike lane from the Elliott Bay Trail to at least Pier 66 if not the Seattle Aquarium. From there, the existing substandard waterfront trail picks up and is at least usable, though many prefer to remain in the street rather than navigate around people walking in the trail. If the city really wants to shift Viaduct trips to bike trips, this connection is vital and can’t come soon enough.

Now, here are a few scenes from the morning’s commute:

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8 Responses to Aside from some untreated ice patches, biking was a great way around Day 1 without SR 99

  1. Twonder says:

    Tom,
    Can you verify that the Spokane Street low bridge bike counter was over 1000 yesterday or was that just a glitch? I am a 4 season biker and I don’t ever remember it being that high. I do commute early so I am usually over the bridge on my way home in the 3 o’clock hour. Maybe in the summer it gets that high later in the day.

    • twonder says:

      I guess I stumbled across the answer to my question. The West Seattle Bike Connections posted the below.

      “Record set for a January day biking across Spokane Street Bridge for the first day of Viadoom:
      1,666 on the counter!
      That may be more than all but one day in 2018 – there were 1,992 on August 11. It is higher than any day in May, June or July! “

  2. Downtown Commuter says:

    “One improvement that could really help a lot more people bike downtown is a bike lane from the Elliott Bay Trail to at least Pier 66 if not the Seattle Aquarium. From there, the existing substandard waterfront trail picks up and is at least usable, though many prefer to remain in the street rather than navigate around people walking in the trail. If the city really wants to shift Viaduct trips to bike trips, this connection is vital and can’t come soon enough.”

    Ha! Logic is not welcome here. The City has no plans for that section as it’s not part of the Waterfront redevelopment (or budget) and they have no idea where to install a bike trail around the cruise terminal, where SDOT and the Port expanded parking lanes! To encourage driving to the terminal? It could have so easily been used for a trail, but instead we get more parking.

    We should come up with a good name for it like “The Missing Mile” or “Missing Link 2.0.” I’m sure the next 3-4 generations will look back at the stupidity of this and wonder what we were thinking (or not thinking) as they battle decades of litigation with the Cruise Terminal to convert parking to a trail.

  3. AW says:

    +1 on thank you to the enthusiastic man on the BG in Fremont and assume he was where the trail crosses the tracks with two sharp right angle turns. I went down at that spot last year and so knew to go very, very slow but the rider in front of me didn’t and so I watched him go down; this was before anyone was out there. It must have been him who also threw salt on the area too. Thank you.

    I did notice that another biker rode around that spot by going around the block into the industrial area – I am going to try that tonight.

  4. Law Abider says:

    Monday morning was like Mad Max: Winter Bike Edition. Leaving Ballard before 7:30, it was pretty icy. The fledglings, trying their hand at winter bike commuting during Viadoom, were struggling with the ice on what may have been the first winter commute for a lot of them.

    I witnessed a crash on the Missing Link under the Ballard Bridge (rider was OK, got up and rode off), then I saw the enthusiastic bike shop man tending to a crashed cyclist at the BGT rail crossing (rider OK, bike not so much) and finally saw a medic response and a cyclist on a stretcher at the north entrance to the Westlake Cycle Track.

    These are three notorious trouble spots that I deal with on a daily basis, all three of which I’ve personally wiped out at some point in my biking tenure. You only have to wipe out once and you’ll treat those trouble spots with respect from then on, but these trouble spots just shouldn’t exist:

    1. The Ballard Bridge rail crossing could be solved by Just Building the Damn Missing Link™.

    2. The BGT rail crossing near 6th could be fixed by abandoning the last 40-50 feet of rail to the southeast, that peters out before it crosses 40th St. Maybe once or twice a year I actually see that section used by a rail car. Seems like the Ciy could work with the Ballard Short Line to remove that last section and eliminate the trail-rail crossing.

    3. The north end of the Westlake Cycle Track is just stupidity at its finest. At one time, the plans for the Track showed a much less sharp curve, slope and connection. Some point during design they tightened it up, likely to save a parking spot. That resulted in the steep, sharp corner, where you end up leaning out of the curve. It doesn’t take ice to make it a dangerous connection. I wiped out there once literally at a dead stop because the cross slope caused my wheels to swing out to the side due to the ice. Now if there’s even a hint of ice, I get off my bike at the top and walk it down to the flat. That’s not good infrastructure design and frankly is opening the City up to a lawsuit, which I hope the unfortunate individual in the stretcher on Monday does.

    • sirmarksalot says:

      I was one of three people who crashed in the space of about 2 minutes under the Ballard bridge this morning. I partially blame the construction crew for closing the painted track, with its clearly marked perpendicular path over the rails, and forcing cyclists to cross the tracks on the street.

      • Law Abider says:

        I would recommend making a complaint to SDOT about the construction company violating SDOT DR 10-2015. They’ll probably tell you the same thing they told me, which is essentially “tough luck, we don’t have any intention of enforcing DR-2015”.

        Also, I’d recommend emailing O’Brien (assuming you live in District 6) and mention that SDOT is failing to enforce SDOT DR 10-2015 and it’s resulting in injury and property damage.

        DR 10-2015 deals with mainly pedestrians, but there is a provision in there for bicycle facilities.

  5. sirmarksalot says:

    Searching through the text of DR 10-2015, there is only one instance of the word “bicycle” and no mention of injury, fatality, death, etc. The only reference to cycling is that the Director may at their discretion evaluate traffic patterns including cars and bikes.

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