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Thorness: 5 Seattle holiday light bike routes

A person and kid on a cargo bike in front of some holiday lights.
My spouse Kelli and our kid riding through Candy Cane Lane by bike.

I like holiday lights as much as the next person. In fact, I like them so much that I never took the lights off my house after last winter!

But sitting in idle traffic in the middle of a neighborhood waiting for a chance to see some lights outside a car window? No thank you. Biking and walking is without a doubt the way to go.

To that end, Bill Thorness wrote a piece in the Seattle Times highlighting five short-to-moderate bike loops in all parts of the city for folks looking to tour some holiday lights. Check it out and let us know if you have any favorite holiday season bike routes in the comments below.

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11 responses to “Thorness: 5 Seattle holiday light bike routes”

  1. Braeden

    I wouldn’t recommend the South East route at night on a bike. Lake Washington Blvd is a poorly lit speedway with no bike facilities, and the climb through the neighborhood is over 200ft with a good portion at 6%+ grade. Not exactly a fun family activity as advertised.

    1. NickS

      To be fair to Thorness, a little less than 1/4 of this loop is on LWB, and it’s probably one of the least dangerous sections. I rode LWB on my morning and evening commute, and the section between Mt. Baker Beach and the Mt. Baker Rowing and Sailing Center (aka Stan Sayres) was always more scary. I would agree with the grade making this not particularly family friendly, unless one is on an electric cargo bike.

      1. Bill Thorness

        Thanks for your comments, Nick and Braden. Points well taken. The short section of LWB, esp if you and your friends’ bikes are lit up like I suggest, would be managable with the car traffic, I think. And yes, there’s a sidewalk if nec. But the grade–there’s no way to get around that unless you go farther north on LWB to a sketchier turn. The steepest parts are only a couple of blocks and one is right where you’d see the house with the crazy amount of lights so you’ll probably dismount anyway. When I lead rides, people are willing to walk a block of steep if it’s too much. Of note, I didn’t suggest this as a family ride in the article. Safety, esp for kids on bikes, is top of mind for me.

      2. Braeden

        Thanks for your comment Bill. I enjoyed the article. The route you suggest is one of the better options. I do parts of that loop often, including the hill climb through the neighborhood, but mainly on foot.

        As others have noted, I think you did a good job of highlighting the relatively poor options we have on the south end, whether that was intentional or not. If someone were to complete all of your suggested routes, the contrast in investments would be stark.

  2. Steve Campbell

    I rarely ride on Lake Washington Boulevard after dark on my commute home anymore. You’re guaranteed of at least one punishment pass. It’s a real shame because it used to be a really nice fun evening ride. Especially if it was a full moon.

    I can’t imagine recommending riding LWB in its current state at night as a fun family activity.

    1. NickS

      Fair, while I ride LWB at night, I also probably wouldn’t call it a fun family activity. Much of the section of LWB that’s on the route does offer a reasonably wide sidewalk (between Orcas and the Ferdinand St. Boat Launch).

      I hope that the Seattle process doesn’t derail the plan to make part of LWB a trail between Seward Park and Mt. Baker Beach. I can’t express how excited I would be to have a wonderful lakefront bike facility in SE Seattle. Watching little kids and a diverse group of neighbors of all ages use LWB on Bicycle Sundays / Bicycle Weekends fills me with joy, and I can’t wait to be able to experience that year round. Having that trail in place would certainly negate your concerns about LWB (if not the steep grade issues that @Braeden brought up).

      Unrelated: I hope that SDOT gives thought to the road racer set that uses the Lake Washington Loop trail, and how to integrate them into planning for a walking/rolling/riding trail along LWB. Riders trying to make their mark on Strava or set personal bests don’t mix well with little kids on trikes or training wheels, groups of walkers, elderly folks moving slowly, etc. These fast road bikes have been significantly more of an issue on the many bicycle weekends I’ve attended than e-bike users, the latter of which were mostly puttering along in no particular hurry. I’m not sure what the solution is, other than enforcing a speed limit; if there’s a barrier between the trail and the general purpose lane, which I hope there will be, it’ll make it even more difficult for faster riders to pass, and that won’t sit well with many. Road / trail rage with impatient and entitled bicyclists is just as real as with cars, if typically a little less lethal.

      1. Bill Thorness

        Nick, I am with you. The boulevards were Seattle’s original bike routes, but Share the Road on LWB is the toughest.

    2. Bill Thorness

      Thanks Steve. I understand the aversion. In a group with a lot of lights, I think it would be fun. But not one to take the kids on.

  3. Greg Barnes

    I don’t understand his aversion to bike trails after dark. Yes, they are usually dark. But you’re supposed to have headlights. And the chances of hitting a car are obviously way lower.

    1. Bill Thorness

      Greg, thank you for reading the piece. I admit it’s a pet peeve of mine that they don’t light the trails. But also, I’ve crashed over an unmarked obstacle due to trail repairs, gotten blinded by someone else’s headlights, come up against people in dark clothing with no lights of their own, even unlit cyclists coming along fast…there are just so many situations. Not to mention personal safety, which is a dealbreaker for me when I think of recommending a route. Let’s make them truly useful and friendly for all hours!

  4. Aimee

    Yeah, living in Rainier Beach there’s no f**king way we are biking Lake Washington at night…so sad the Times is, as usual, ignoring the incredible lack of infrastructure for safe cycling in Southeast Seattle, particularly for bike commuters. My husband commuted 19 miles roundtrip before moving here, but in the winter where he’d be stuck biking in the dark most of the time? He is now bussing it. LWB is dangerous for both cyclists and cars. By bike, obviously there’s no escape route when there’s crazy drivers and insane curves. By car, the cyclist etiquette is often total sh*t, with solo riders more often than not deliberately going right down the middle of the road instead of staying to the right, with zero way of drivers being able to safely pass. And any of us who have bike commuted know how annoying it is to have a driver riding your arse while your on two wheels.

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