If you’ve lived in Portland, Oregon and experienced the bike culture there, it’s different. If you’ve lived in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, both of those are respectively different too. If you’ve been to New York City, Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco, or almost any other major city, they too, have a different bike culture. For this post though, I’m going to point out some of the things I have found useful in getting around Seattle, getting involved in “bike culture”, cycling, and generally nerding out on gear or picking up food via bike.
Seattle bike culture centers around a few things that you’ll find we’re all involved with in some way. There are the obvious things such as attempting to mitigate paying to keep cars away from people trying to walk, ride, or carry on with their lives since they’re an ongoing imminent threat in this country. Then there are the things that might not be obvious to the newcomer to this city. The first thing you should familiarize yourself with is Seattle geography.
You might think to yourself, “I’m no good with geography?”, and simply put, Seattle doesn’t give two shits how bad you are with geography it is a necessity in order to navigate around this city. There’s the platted standard American grid, which is great, but it ends at various points because of geographic reasons – such as a giant hill might be in the way, or a sheer face of a rocky cliff, or a giant body of water. Whatever the case, one does not simply just traverse Seattle’s geography directly, there is often, and almost always some type of mitigation in between two points. A bridge, some steps, a switchback, you name it you’ll end up dealing with these things.
Might I add though, all of these things can make getting around by bike in Seattle awesome! A few moments where I thought to myself, “wow, cycling here is pretty bad ass” include;
- The moment I traveled from Ballard (and outterlying neighborhood that used to be a different town) to downtown Seattle in 27 minutes, mostly by trail (not bike lane, not protected bike lane, but by trail!). To note, the awesome thing is I did not hurry, I did not hustle, I did not “go fast”. I just rode, and to cover the same distance during rush hour by driving takes people about ~30-65 minutes, taking the express bus is about 35 minutes, the regular local busses are between 40-55 minutes, and of course here I was at a consistent, enjoyable, epic scenery, beautiful path, chill riders, and ready for the day at 27 minutes! Of course, depending on where you are and all, things are different, but in many places you can easily bike into or out of the city as fast or faster than someone attempting to drive.
- Years ago, and this actually first occurred in Portland when I had moved to the northwest, but I still ponder this thought regularly today, “Wow, so this is the rain here. Enjoyably piddly rain, a mere rain jacket (not coat, just a jacket, like a hoodie) is rather fine for this placid mist. Now here, where I stand inside, and I’ve already ended up drying off.” Once I realized that the rain is generally, almost always, not heavy and doesn’t drench us, a few minor mitigations like a hoodie and maybe some water resistant shoes and it was no longer much of a concern.
- Mountains to the left in the distances, mountain to the right, mountains in the distance to the front and to the back of me. This is scenery I can enjoy every day! Oh and look at that, there stands Mount Rainier in its glorious, magnificent way! To boot, Seattle has multiple roads and pedestrians plazas strategically placed around the city that face – on purpose – the glorious Mount Rainier and they are magnificent to enjoy!
Of course, that’s just the few I’ve mentioned here, I could elaborate about how awesome it is to ride regularly for all sorts of reasons throughout the City of Seattle and the surrounding area. But instead of me going on and on about how awesome Seattle is for people who like to actively transport themselves from one place to another, and all the while do it efficiently and entertainingly, here are those details about things I’ve found useful.
- Seattle Bike Blog
- Cascade Bicycle Club Blog
- Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance
- No Spandex Required
- West Seattle Bike Connections
- Family Ride, albeit she rolls in Portland these days. Which also leads to another extremely important bike blog for Portland called Bike Portland, also very much a “must read”.
In addition to the above, here are some articles I’ve enjoyed and thought insightful.
- Biking in Seattle is a way of life. Here’s a look at our deep-rooted bike culture.
- Biking in the Rain
- A Beginner’s Guide to Biking in Seattle
Not Specifically Bike Related but Connected
Nerdy Stuff, APIs, and Bike Data
- Bike Counters of Seattle
- Seattle City GIS (Excellent bike map, updated effectively in real time)
- Predicting bicycle traffic counts code repository
- Bike Racks Data
I’ve probably missed things that are of excellent usefulness, if something comes to mind, do comment with a link to additional resources!
This is really great!
I feel like it’s helpful to know that Seattle was sculpted by glaciers moving north-south. Moving east-west can be super-hilly, but easier routes can often be found by following a more or less N-S route until the hills are more manageable. Meandering routes can be fun to wander, too!
Very good point about those north south routes. Albeit, there are still some solid, but usually just long long hills going up from the waterlines on the north south routes. But overall yeah they’re straight forward vs. trying to go up over east and west! Those hills are immediate and can be some serious hits to endurance!