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Watch: Biking to Pike Place Market via the U Bridge in 360 and hyperlapse

I’m trying something new on the blog today. I’ve got two videos for you. Well, really they are two very different versions of the same video, which I shot while heading downtown to pick up my daughter from preschool. The first is a short hyperlapse video showing the route at 15X speed:

The second is a 360-degree video the plays in real time. You can view this 360 video in a number of ways. If you play it in a browser, you can click on the video to drag the view around. If you play it on a phone in full-screen, you should be able to move the phone to look around. Or you can play it in a VR headset:

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There’s no consensus about the best way to bike from the University Bridge to downtown because, well, there’s no route that is all good. Eastlake Ave is the most obvious and direct option, but there are no bike lanes and the pavement is terrible for most of it. I can handle some bad pavement, but trying to dodge big bumps while also looking over my shoulder for car traffic? No thank you.

If you’re headed to Capitol Hill, there’s a pretty nice route via Lakeview Blvd, though it has its own challenges. But if you’re headed to the downtown core, the Lakeview route requires extra hill climbing. This is my second choice.

So that leaves one other option: Fairview Ave. There are really two Fairviews. Fairview Ave E is north of Fairview Ave N (because Seattle), and it connects from the University Bridge to South Lake Union. The skinny lakeside street is typically quiet, though it is lined with parking. Nobody seems to expect to be able to drive fast here, making it a quality bike route. Well, except for one big problem. There is a missing piece where the Mallard Cove development blocks public access. To get around this, you have to bike up an extremely steep hill, then down an alleyway that also has intense up and down grades. Able-bodied people might be able to handle it OK, but it will never be an all ages and abilities route for this reason. Well, at least not until the city builds a path through Mallard Cove (stay tuned for a post about some interesting old ideas to solve this problem).

I bike the Fairview route most of the time when doing preschool drop-off and pick-up. I think it’s the least-bad option. I’m often happy to trade dealing with car traffic for a short steep climb. It’s not quite as fast as taking Eastlake Ave, but it’s not too much slower since there are no stop lights. Plus you get some great views along the way (hey, I bet that’s why they named it that!).

Do you have a preferred route that I didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below. Also let me know what you think of the two video formats. I’m still figuring out all the things I can do with this 360 camera, including how to edit footage. I want these to be useful for people looking for a route option, but also entertaining just to watch. I’m open to your ideas for the next one.

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14 responses to “Watch: Biking to Pike Place Market via the U Bridge in 360 and hyperlapse”

  1. Gary Yngve

    I used to work in an office building south of REI. My preferred route was Eastlake during rush hour, when there is no parking allowed in the rightmost lane. I would control the lane, and cars would pass me in their own lane. Outside of rush hour, Eastlake was awful, because I would alternate to the right most lane when no cars parked and changing lanes and controlling the inner lane where a car was parked. I did not consider riding in the door zone or having cars straddle/aqueeze by to be safe.

    Sometimes I took the Fairview option. The half-block cliff you mentioned sucks, And then Fairview south of the bridge is kind of ugly with the tracks.

    But my favorite was when it was not raining and I had extra time… Greenlake -> Ravenna Ravine -> Union Bay Trail -> Montlake Bridge -> Montlake Playfield -> Delmar/Interlaken -> Volunteer Park -> Lakeview. Few cars most of the way and lots of luscious greenery.

  2. For me, I definitely prefer eastlake. The alternatives are just too slow. However, if I had a cargo bike and a kid, I’d probably take fairview. I don’t really see fairview being a popular commute route, so we need to go ahead with the bike lanes on eastake. Unless…

    … the connection at mallard cove can be made flat. Note that the city owns the property aligned with the bisected ends of fairview. Would it be within the city’s rights to build some kind of connection ? How would that interface with boat traffic that needs to get to the innermost mallard cove docks ?

  3. Max Kauffman

    I usually just tough it out and take Eastlake the whole way down. Otherwise I just go on BGT > Westlake. I would love to see a Westlake-style route along Fairview, which would make life way easier. Maybe the RapidRide J project will help a little bit.

    The video looks great, what camera do you use?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      It’s an Insta360 One X2. Russ from The Path Less Pedaled inspired me to get one. It’s pretty wild.

      1. Stephen M

        The 360 video is great, and has inspired me to try the Fairview route. I live in West Seattle but when I get “off island” I’m gonna give that a go.

  4. asdf2

    I usually just do Eastlake. I take the lane and don’t ride in the door zone, but where there are no parked cars, I will move over to allow drivers behind me to pass. Having an ebike means far fewer drivers having to go around me on the uphills.

  5. Sean P.

    Dark horse option: unless you’re already heading down Roosevelt, just skip the University Bridge entirely and take Dexter. It is 2-3 minutes longer than Eastlake but you get a protected lane all day long instead of just two hours in the morning or afternoon and it doesn’t have any obnoxious jogs like Fairview does.

  6. Bryan C

    I do a very similar route when I’m going through Eastlake – I wish that Eastlake had as nice a bike path as Westlake does.

    There’s a very-different video format I saw recently that I think is pretty effective and thought-provoking: “plus 1 minus 2”, where you gain a point when something is nice on the route, and subtract two when something bad happens – since that kinda reflects how it feels to rate a bike route for people. This would be more editing for sure, but would make for a great route-comparison across the city! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8F5hXqS-Ac

  7. Elliot

    I ride to work on Capitol Hill from Wallingford 4-5 days/week and take the Fremont Bridge-Dexter-7th Ave-Pine St Route. There’s a bike lane most of the way and the pavement’s decent. Haven’t had any weird traffic encounters and it’s a pretty consistent 25 minutes everyday. The inclines aren’t bad.

  8. This is so great! As a family biker, I’ve done virtually the same route – though staying along the water on Fairview after Roanoke.

    I’d love both a complete calmed route connecting across Mallard Cove AND a protected route along Eastlake Ave.

    Love the videos! Very helpful to have both versions to reference. Here’s a Ride With GPS map if people could use it – I think it’s mostly the same route:

  9. Mike L

    This makes me miss living and working in Seattle so much! I never did figure out a “good” route and would mostly go back and forth between toughing it out on Eastlake and taking the longer route to Dexter.

    I feel like the 15x video could maybe be slowed down just a little bit, so it’s still a quick watch but a little more comprehensible on some of those maneuvers on the Fairview route. All in all very cool, though

  10. George Winters

    A comment about the video speed. I am an occasional out of town visitor who likes to come via express transit and then ride my bike to smooth out the final connections. I have looked at a number of YouTube efforts at sharing cycling experience or helping to show a real view of route ideas. Some of these will speed up parts to condense the view time. In every case I find the speeded up views very unsettling. The fast speed makes a route look completely untenable for me, way too hectic. This effort of yours to show two versions really highlights that aspect for me. The fast version completely made this look too hectic. The slow version lets me see a route that I would actually consider trying. Thank you for the effort.

  11. Ott Toomet

    I live in Wallingford and take either Eastlake (if going to the easter side of downtown like REI), or Dexter (when going to the downtown core, market and such). I like Dexter, it is smooth, the climb is not bad, and mostly fast riding all the way. It also connects to the downtown bike lanes south of Denny.

    Fairview feels too hilly to me, and westlake trail feels too chaotic, too narrow and too much maneuvering. I am often running on these streets though.

  12. Ian Crozier

    RE: video format – I’m most interested in the little mini-globe view used at the start of the hyperlapse video. It would be interesting to see what that looks like for a long ride, since it captures the pavement markings and buildings/tree/environment all around

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