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Thorness: Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Lake Washington Bike Path

Newspaper clipping headline: Bicycle Path Is No More
From the June 23, 1905 issue of The Seattle Daily Times. Male newswriters back then were seemingly incapable of writing about bicycling without saying something pervy about women who biked.

The Lake Washington Bike Path turns 125 this year! Or it would if it weren’t torn up in 1905 to build Interlaken Boulevard.

Bill Thorness, author of “Cycling the Pacific Coast” and “Biking Puget Sound,” wrote a story for the Seattle Times about the history of the old path. Thorness also spoke with yours truly to fill out some of the history:

In a way, said Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog, “bike paths themselves shaped the city.” The city’s roads, its neighborhoods, and parks like Roanoke Park got their start thanks to bicyclists.


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Fucoloro, whose book on Seattle’s cycling history, “Pedaling Uphill in the Rain,” is due out from University of Washington Press next year, said that, as the last decade of the 19th century began, “Seattle was behind the bike craze because there wasn’t anywhere to ride your bike.” A bike path network was envisioned. Cotterill, who would later become mayor and was also a leader of the Queen City Cycling Club, traced 25 miles of paths around the city.

Fevered bike club members raised money, volunteered labor and lobbied for progress. Along with the trail to Lake Washington, another traced Magnolia Bluff to what is now Discovery Park. They encircled Lake Union, went to Fremont, linked to Ballard, then went on to Green Lake and circled that, too. Many of those areas had yet to be platted for homes.

Read more…

Thorness is leading a Lake Washington Bike Path history ride June 19, and there are still a few spots left. Tickets are $50, which will go to the Phinney Neighborhood Association.

If you’re into the history of this path, you should watch my video where I searched for remnants of the old path route.


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2 responses to “Thorness: Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Lake Washington Bike Path”

  1. Hi Tom,

    I smiled when I saw your blog post on my article. You are so right, of course, that it was converted to a road. I probably should have included that with my mention that many of the bike paths were converted to boulevards. I’m just grateful there is still a spot that traces the first long bike path where cars currently cannot go. And especially since it’s the section where that “Halfway House” rest stop stood.

    Maybe we should lobby for getting some upgrade to the park to honor Seattle’s cycling history? A place where people could rest at some Halfway House benches without the noise and fumes from passing autos.

    I appreciated your input for my article. Please keep up the great work for Seattle’s cyclists. I look forward to reading your book!

    Bill Thorness

    1. Gordon Padelford

      Hi Bill,
      It would be awesome if you could mention the modern effort to bring a more people focused design to Lake Washington Boulevard (Mt Baker to Seward Park): stayhealthystreets.org/lwb
      thanks and have a great ride!

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