For the inaugural episode of Ask Seattle Bike Blog, I respond to a bus driver who lives in West Seattle and wants to know a good bike route to the bus yard in Sodo.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to walk through my basic process for planning a bike route if I am not familiar with the area. So even if you aren’t trying to bike this exact route, hopefully the process I follow is useful.
What’s your process for finding a bike route to an unfamiliar place? How do you pronounce “Brougham?” Let us know in the comments below.
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I start with Google Maps, making a special point to look at the street view pictures to see if the roads look safe. Google Maps also shows an elevation profile if you do biking directions, which is useful if you’re trying to avoid hills.
You’d better have very good brakes and be a confident rider to go down Fairmount plus it’s extremely steep to go up. Also, lots of cars going toward the bridge to get onto West Marginal Way, so I wouldn’t count on traffic being less because the bridge is closed.
Fairmount can be slippery and dangerous when wet. Just a warning to new riders.
I like the paper Seattle bike map. I usually have it with me on a new route. I pronounce Brougham BRO-HAM. No idea if its correct
This is a nice video showing the process of navigating the desktop Google Maps’ bike directions. Also, ditto on West Seattle Bike Connections being a great resource for those going to/from West Seattle.
As someone who rides multiple times each week through SODO (coming up 1st Ave from Georgetown), I prefer to use the wide sidewalk on north side of Spokane St and make my way up 4th Ave to Lander to get on the SODO Trail. Colorado Ave has some sections that are full of potholes, so I tend to avoid it.
For me, when I plan routes, I use a combination of:
-Google Maps (general directions, adjusting routes, bike-friendly roads, elevation)
-Google Maps Streetview (look at tricky intersections, check if a road is really just a glorified freeway)
-Strava Heatmap (highlights the roads that most cyclists are using & where drivers are more likely to expect bicycles, just keep in mind the heatmap skews towards athletes versus casual riders)
The only other thing I would add is that the return route is equally important to figure out (assuming you’re not just taking transit home). All those nice downhills one does on the initial trip become steep climbs on the way back, so really you need to plan a loop.