Finding Bike Routes Home Again
I stopped biking to work regularly at about the sixth month of pregnancy. Almost five years ago! I kept trying to get back into it but with kiddo management and time, I just never did get into a regular cadence again. Since this is May, some coworkers of course organized and encouraged folks to get biking again so I've been trying!
The route to work is easy. We walk or bike with the kiddo to her preschool at the top of Beacon Hill, then I practically coast downhill to SODO. The bike route home is trickier. I'd been trying some routes just based on memory. If I was picking up the kiddo, I'd bike up Holgate as far as I could (not very far) and then walk to the top of the hill. Otherwise, maybe up to the trail that connects to the I-90 trail or along the SODO trail (next to the light rail) or up 6th Ave S into the International District and zigzag to Dearborn and around. Today I decided to ask Google which way to go and I was shocked!
Shockingly, it doesn't show any route I would have picked myself, except the hilly one up Holgate. Absurdly it suggests biking on Rainier Ave even. This is what the elevation profiles look like:
That sharp bit near the beginning is really steep. I've never done it ever (on my internal gear 8-speed). The flattish routes I've usually done home look like this:
While that looks reasonably flat and straight, the reality is 6th Ave has really bad pavement, frequently car conflicts and then when you get up to International District it's kind of confusing to get to Dearborn (with three turns, one of which sometimes takes a while). There's the SODO trail just the west, but it adds another weird turn and is even more confusing.
Since I stopped biking regularly, the stripe-only bike lane on Dearborn has been partly upgraded to ... a bit more paint which is wider and occasionally some plastic markers. There's also a bike lane that joins it from Airport Way to 7th Ave S, so tonight I thought I'd try that. This is that route (except I didn't bike on Rainier and instead went to Hiawatha):
This was ... a mistake. The turn onto Airport Way was easy enough. I then proceeded to get buzzed multiple times quite close even though traffic wasn't very heavy and folks could have changed into the second lane to pass. Then the bike lane appeared:
Well, that's nice. What's not so nice is there's literally no connection to it. Here's the view behind from this exact spot:
Here's what the online bike map shows (note the thin blue on 7th Ave is a lane or climbing lane):
Note that there's literally nothing connecting to that bike lane from Airport Way to 7th Ave. Just nothing but two roads with lots of multiple lanes of car traffic that zoom past you. I will not be going that route again I don't think. :(
But now the new bike facilities on Dearborn! Mostly it's about the same, except slightly wider bike lanes and some plastic thingamajigs (some missing). It's nicer, sort of, except the spot where you have to merge through the traffic turning onto the freeway. But what's really WTF is the nonsense that happens when the bike lane ends at Rainier. Before the lane just ended well before Dearborn and didn't pretend to be reasonable for a person on a bike. Now we have this:
It's hard to see in that hastily taken picture as I was waiting in traffic deciding what to do because I'd missed that I was supposed to stay to the right of the turn lane, but that sign says "Bike lane ends. Bikes use ped crossing." Yes, that's right people on bikes are supposed to go use a pedestrian crossing, which only changes like every 90 seconds due to the light timing, as well as dodge cars turning into the car sewer to the I-90 on ramp. This made me very sad. Also I was really confused and never made it there and ended up trapped between two lanes.
After that it wasn't bad. Hiawatha is lovely. I wasn't even too annoyed to have to wait two minutes to cross Rainier because it gave me time for a selfie!
No big conclusions here except the obvious: our streets don't prioritize people feeling safe. Having not biked regularly in years, this is so much more obvious to me than it would have been in the years when I was a vehicular cyclist who just dealt with it, only with some grumbling. Now I have a kid and I would love to be able to bike everywhere with her, but that doesn't seem reasonable at all. I would dig into the bike master plan to see what should be according to previous years plans, but I suspect I'll be saddened.