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Biking on the high bridge to West Seattle

People with bikes on an empty highway with the Seattle skyline in the background. The tops of skyscrapers are shrouded in clouds.

It’s been 30 years in the making, but people were finally allowed to bike on the upper West Seattle Bridge. For a few hours, anyway.

The 2024 Emerald City Ride on Sunday routes people south on the SR-99 viaduct through SoDo and then up onto the West Seattle Bridge, a limited access freeway typical reserved only for motor vehicles. Well, when it isn’t on the verge of falling into the Duwamish River that is. Luckily, it did not fall down while I and about 3,000 others were biking across it.

It was the first Emerald City Ride since 2019, and it was great to see one of Cascade Bicycle Club’s most exciting annual traditions return. The riders generally feature sections of major car infrastructure that are otherwise off-limits to biking, creating unique ways to experience the city and region. Past rides have used the I-5 Express Lanes, the old Alaskan Way Viaduct, the new SR-99 tunnel, the 520 Bridge and the old I-90 Express Lanes (before they were dedicated to light rail).

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Photo from on top to the bridge, two people biking past with water and the city skyline in the background.
People bike away and down the car-free bridge toward West Seattle.

Cascade worked on the idea of a West Seattle Bridge ride for years. The SR-99 and West Seattle Bridge closures only lasted a couple early morning hours, and were the first stage of a 20-mile loop around West Seattle. Though 20 miles is short for a Cascade major event, they made riders earn it by including a couple very steep and long climbs up from the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. A lot of people were introduced to SW Barton Street for the first time.

A group of people with bikes standing around at an Alki rest stop. The bay and downtown skyline in the background.
A large group of people bike on Alki Avenue SW.
People bike past a Healthy Street sign on Alki Avenue SW.
Some people ride while other walk their bikes up a long steep hill.
Look at all those people biking uphill in the rain!

Ironically, the ride back on non-freeway streets proved a bit more troublesome. One person was reportedly injured on a sharp turn at 16th Ave SW and SW Dawson Street. By the time I arrived, a helpful family was waving to riders and telling them to slow down before the sharp and wet turn. I also saw medics assisting a rider to crashed on a particularly-deteriorated section of E Marginal Way.

As with past Emerald City Rides, the 2024 event was a chance to experience the city in a way that usually impossible. While the West Seattle Bridge is never going to have the appeal of a central artery like the I-5 Express Lanes, it’s great to have the chance to experience new things. What other pieces of limited-access freeway around the region should they consider for the next one? Let us know in the comments below.

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9 responses to “Biking on the high bridge to West Seattle”

  1. DOUG.

    It was a fun ride yesterday. SW Barton Way was indeed a pleasant discovery for me. I can definitely see doing this loop on my own soon.

    A few complaints for Cascade:
    • No porta-potties at the start/finish line
    • Getting a reprimand from a volunteer at 8:15 that we needed to clear the West Seattle Bridge ASAP
    • The ridiculous hard right from a very steep Andover onto Delridge. 23rd Ave SW looked way less steep and would’ve been a better option (especially in the rain)

    As for future rides, has the Mt Baker Tunnel ever been a part of the Emerald City Ride?

    1. Andrew

      The restrooms were just hidden behind stadium vendors and lacked signage. I wandered around unable to find them until the location was announced over loudspeaker a few minutes before start.


    2. Becky

      Yeah, I got super spooked going down Andover, and realized I have taken 23rd in the past, and it was not scary. Wish we had gone that way.

  2. Daigoro Toyama

    It was a fun ride! So glad it didn’t rain nearly as much as had been predicted.

    I wonder if there’d be an alternative route to that long and steep hill around the 12-mile mark? I was able to take it (thanks largely to my 34T cog), but I saw a lot of people – even those on road bikes – walking it up.

    1. bill

      That’s SW Barton. The alternative would be to get coffee and a snack at Bel Gatto and call your S.O. for a pickup.

  3. asdf2

    I think all the Seattle freeways have been pretty much covered by now. I think the 520 or I-90 bridges would be nice to do again, as it’s a good lake view.

    If I-5 express lanes is done again, though, I think the route should have the bikes exit at Mercer, not Columbia. I-5 downtown is just too loud with the regular lanes open to traffic and all that concrete acting like a sound chamber.

  4. Reginald Heber Thomson

    How about closing Lake Washington Blvd for a cycling event? ;)

  5. bill

    Tom, are you sure this ride happened? The Times hasn’t published a word about it.

    1. Greg

      Ah, but they did publish that lovely editorial on March 26th: “Public roads should not be closed to raise lobbying money for special interests”. Horrors! Nattering nabobs of negativity. https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/public-roads-should-not-be-closed-to-raise-lobbying-money-for-special-interests/

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