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How to bike downtown during the emergency Link service disruption

Link light rail trains will only be running through the downtown transit tunnel every 32 minutes during a period starting now and lasting an estimated two weeks, Sound Transit announced Thursday evening. Mike Lindblom at the Seattle Times reported that the construction crew working on the Pine Street rebuild damaged the lid over Westlake Station earlier this week, and an investigation found that damage was more extensive than originally thought.

As regular Link riders know, one train every 32 minutes is not nearly enough. Hopefully Sound Transit finds a way to squeeze in some more service. But for now, anyone who can bike instead of taking the train probably should. I guess Bike Month started a few days early this year.

The good news is that biking downtown is actually pretty great these days, depending on where exactly you’re trying to get. So if you have never biked downtown or haven’t biked there in many years, you may be surprised. Bell Street, 2nd Ave, 4th Ave, 7th Ave, 8th Ave, these streets are downright pleasant to bike on, something I could not imagine writing a decade ago. I do it every day taking my kid to preschool, and I love it.


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Depending where you live, the most difficult part will likely be getting to downtown, not through it. Below is the downtown excerpt from the 2022 Seattle bike map (the most recent version):

Downtown section of the bike map.
Legend for the bike map.

In general, downtown trips involve a “north-south” street. 2nd Avenue is still the best bike lane downtown, but the 4th Avenue bike lane ain’t too shabby, either. Take whichever one gets you closer to where you’re going. Avoid the waterfront if you can. It is full of construction, and there is no complete and continuous bike route at the moment.

South Seattle folks want to get to 5th and King in the International District, where a protected bike lane begins that runs up 5th to Main before turning west and connecting to the 2nd Ave bike lane. The primary entry points are Dearborn or the Jose Rizal Bridge, both of which involve biking through the International District on relatively low-speed streets.

People coming from the Spokane Street Bridge want to make it to Yesler Way and Occidental Ave, where a bike lane connection to 2nd Ave begins.

People coming from most points north have more options than those coming from the south. But in general, the goal is to get to 9th Ave N, and the Westlake Bikeway is definitely the best way to do so. There are Eastlake options if you really want to take the University Bridge (this is what I do), but simply riding to Fremont and taking Westlake is not much longer and is less complicated and less stressful. It’s a real joy, and you’ll have plenty of company.

If you’re coming from Ballard, take the Fremont Bridge at least until you’re comfortable with the ride. Avoid the Ballard Bridge even if Google Maps tells you to take it. Just go to Fremont. You’ll have a better time, and it’s not that much longer.

If you’re coming from Capitol Hill or northern parts of First Hill and the Central District, Pike and Pine are the main connections. Just be aware that some sections are under construction. Further south, King Street is a pretty good connection across Rainier Ave and through the International District to the bike lane that begins at 5th and King. Avoid Jackson Street due to the streetcar tracks even through it has the best grade for biking. Yesler is a fun way to get down the hill, but not so fun the other way.

If you want to bring your bike on the train and then create your own “bike bridge” between Stadium and Capitol Hill Stations, take Royal Brougham Way to Airport Way, then take 6th Ave S to King Street. From there you could take the 5th Ave/2nd Ave bike lane route to Pike Street and then Broadway. Or you could turn east on King Street and take 12th Ave to Denny. Just know that the 12th Ave bike lanes are not complete or protected. Trains north of Capitol Hill and south of Stadium will be running more frequently than the downtown segment, so there may be more space on those trains.

If you have any questions that would help you navigate to or through downtown during this light rail closure, please ask them in the comments below. And enjoy!


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4 responses to “How to bike downtown during the emergency Link service disruption”

  1. J-Lon

    Maybe I’m seeing things through my ebike eyes, but it seems like it might be simpler to get off the train at Beacon Hill Station and bike to Capitol Hill Station from there, rather than getting off at Stadium. From Beacon Hill Station, take 15th Ave S or 18th Ave S bike blvd down to I-90 lid, then continue over the Jose Rizal, ride up 12th into Capitol Hill, cut over to Broadway at Union Street, and continue on to Capitol Hill Station up the Broadway bike lane. This route keeps you completely out of downtown.

  2. Skylar

    I find that the stops on the 2nd/4th couplet is better timed for more riding going in the contraflow direction (southeast on 4th, northwest on 2nd). I also find it safer dealing with the left-turning drivers across the bike lane, because I’m facing them and can see when someone is going to blow a red light.

    There’s a short connector between the 2nd and 4th bike lanes by the courthouse to get between the two without needing to spend time in traffic.

  3. gm

    It would be nice if SDOT made a temporary bike lane on 4th to connect stadium station with the 2nd/4th Ave bike lanes. I think that would make the train and bike option more viable for a lot of people.

  4. Dave

    The downtown bike network is awesome. Are there any updates on the connections to it? I’m thinking Eastlake, waterfront along Yesler to 2nd, the Pike St gap, etc. Would be awesome to get some movement going on expanding out now from downtown.

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