Details on Seattle “Bike Culture”

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.

In addition to the above, here are some articles I’ve enjoyed and thought insightful.

Not Specifically Bike Related but Connected

Nerdy Stuff, APIs, and Bike Data

Seattle Bike Map

I’ve probably missed things that are of excellent usefulness, if something comes to mind, do comment with a link to additional resources!

East Link Light Rail Extension to Bellevue & Redmond

Here are two other videos about the Link Light Rail Extensions to the east side of the Lake Washington.

East Link Extension Alignment Animation
Part of the I-90 Bridge Construction

LINK Light Rail Flyover Videos (for 2024 Routes)

Consider this a *bookmark* post for quick links to these two Sound Transit flyover videos of the LINK Light Rail spine extensions north and south. I did make a few comments/notes about both of these animations below the videos.

This first flyover is the route heading south to Federal Way from the existing Angle Lake Station.

Here is the Federal Way extension fly over.

Here is the northern expansion to Lynnwood.

The auto traffic shown in videos kind of cracks me up, because it isn’t going to get better any time soon. It will likely be as bad as it is or get worse in the coming years – it’s literally how it works. So forget that free flowing traffic you see around the light rail lines. That traffic, when you’re on the light rail, will as often as it flows smoothly will be backed up all the way to downtown Seattle and probably south to Federal Way! Take that as a thing to smirk about as you enjoy that freely moving light rail trip to Federal Way in the future, it should be pretty nice!

Another thing about this entire light rail project is how much of the project actually ends up being “road and automobile” spending. The entire project should be renamed “Something something automobile enablement and a small rail transit project” to be more accurate. The hundreds and hundreds of millions for parking garages, road rebuilds, intersection rebuilds, new lights and new configurations just to make it easy to *drive* to the transit is mind boggling. But alas, in ole auto-dependent, non-walking, non-transit using America it is indeed what a city often has to do to encourage ridership from the suburban communities. I’m all here for that, it’s just sad we have to subsidize suburban ridership so much when there’s more than enough expansion opportunities inside the existing city urban areas that still need service!

I’m also curious, and articles will be forthcoming as these open up, about how the compounding ridership of each stop will end up creating an extremely packed ridership situation on the stop further in toward the city. Eventually, branch lines are seriously going to be needed to sprout off of the main trunk! In the meantime, it’s gonna be a great improvement!

Bike Collection & Gear: All-City Macho Man Disc, AKA “Pop Rocket”

I picked up an All-City Macho Man just a few weeks before I got the Space Horse Disc built at Back Alley Bike Repair here in Seattle! From here on though, I’m going to call the bike by it’s now given name of Pop Rocket.

The Pop Rocket has traveled with me to well over a dozen cities over the last few years. Except for the fenders, everything on this bike started out stock.

Specifications

  • Headset: Cane Creek 10 series
  • Stem: Salsa Guide, 1-1/8th threadless, 31.8 clamp
  • Handlebar: Salsa Cowbell 3, 31.8Tape Black
  • Shift/Brake lever Shimano 105
  • Brake: Hayes CX-Expert, 160mm rotors
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano CX70 31.8 with 28.6 shim
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105, short cage
  • Crankset: FSA Gossamer 46/36t
  • Bottom Bracket: FSA MegaExo
  • Seatpost: FSA SL280, 27.2
  • Saddle: Brooks England B17
  • Cassette: Shimano Tiagra 12-28
  • Chain: KMC X-10
  • Hubs: Formula DC20/22 6 bolt 32 hole
  • Rims: Alex Black Dragon 32 hole
  • Tires: Continental Gatorskins 700×35

NOTE: As with the past bike posts, no sponsors, just informational. To check out the Macho Man from All-City check out the link here.

Conference @ SEATAC Trips

A few months ago I attended a conference out at SEATAC and haven’t, until now, managed to get a trip report written up. This is simply the story of my trips to and from the conference, with a little added context and information Transit Sleuth style.

Outbound to SEATAC

Let’s talk about the strange town of SEATAC. First thing, SEATAC stands for Seattle-Tacoma, and is the combination zoned area between Seattle and Tacoma. This area is where some people in yesteryear decided there ought to be a shared international airport. In creating this airport they also decided to incorporate and turn it into a self-governed geographic region. Eventually this self-governed region with an airport became a self-governed town with an airport.

The conference for various reasons was being held in a space out at the airport, directly across the street from Airport Way. This made it an obvious transit trip that would involve the light rail. The only question for me was would I connect at University District or in downtown Seattle at Westlake. I could take either the KC Metro 44 Bus from Ballard to University District or KC Metro 40 to connect downtown at the Westlake stop.

I opted for a trip to University District to start the two part trip for a simple reason. There would be numerous places that would be open early to get some coffee and food at.

I departed downtown old Ballard at about 5:25am on the 44. The Starbucks stood open at this hour in Ballard but the Ballard Coffee Works was not open. There were a few people milling about at Starbucks and a few getting on the buses coming through, but not anywhere near the number that would be in the area in about one more hour.

I boarded and we made good time, with few people boarding between Ballard and Wallingford. I write a few, but by many US standards there was a lot boarding, numbering over 25 between the two town centers. As we made our way through Wallingford however, in just those several stops, another 30 people or so boarded.

Once me made the turn in the central city area of University District I got off and walked the block over to Cafe on the Ave. It’s a coffee shop that makes a decent breakfast and other items, plus has a pretty chill environment in which to eat. At this hour, now right around 5:50am, there were only 3 patrons in the cafe excluding me.

I ordered a cap, which came in sizes, again a coffee snob alert that clearly the definition of what a cappuccino is has eluded the establishment. But I digress, it’s pretty good espresso so no complaints! I ordered the 8oz size but inquired if I could just get a traditional standard cap size, which unfortunately they didn’t have available.

I sat and did some banging on the keyboard while waiting for breakfast. In short order, just a few minutes, my eggs, hash browns, ham, and English muffin arrived along with the “8oz” fake cappuccino. The plate was the standard American foray into a plat that was as big as my side torso with a splattering of food everywhere. Far more than one should reasonably eat, even if going out to work the fields or do hard labor. Thus, I ate about 35% of what was on the plate and was a happy camper.

Finished, I departed and found a Limebike, rented it and biked over to the University District light rail stop. On my way in, like a good sleuth, I made a number of happy little observations.

Inbound observations

The beauty of the sunrise was on full display over the eastern horizon. Glimmering with an blinding brightness, impossible to view except looking askew of the rising fire orb. To the left or right however the run of light along the Earth’s surface, scattered with buildings, trees, mountains, and water screamed a gorgeous expanse. The golden tips of trees and the yellow and orange interlaced among all this was striking.

Back to the Trip

As I rolled through the southeastern intersection of walkways, a couple sat embraced as the sun rose, looking southeast toward Mount Rainier. Smiling and looking in each others eyes, budding love giving off a clear aura around those cutesies.

I rolled on as the Limebike battery started to sputter as I rolled onto the pedestrian overpass that connects to the University District station. I made it before it became a brick, locked the bike, confirmed it since sometimes the Libebike locks flake. Then I stood among the group of fellow transit riders to take the elevator to subsurface levels.

I watched the surface disappear from the elevator windows as we went down. A few seconds later the platform came into view and two LRT Vehicles stood ready for passengers. I checked which departure was in queue next and boarded the train. This departure, at 7:25am was boarded to approximately 35% capacity already (that’s about 60% of seats taken, considering a large % of capacity is standing room).

The LINK LRT rolled forth at 7:28am toward Capital Hill. In precise timing, minutes later, we rolled into the Capital Hill Stop. With short order we continued and onward through Westlake Station, University Station, Pioneer Square Station, International District Station, and onward through SODO, Beacon Hill, and the remaining stops.

More Sleuthing Observations

I’ve noted more than a few times, that something about LINK LRT is dramatically rougher in ride quality than Trimet’s MAX LRT. The thing that seems to come up as the issue is the tracks are laid funky. The few sections on MAX that had this ride quality issue in the past were replaced and haven’t had the issue since.

This issue I speak of specifically, is when the flanged wheels of the LRT vehicle hunt for the center position. This causes a jarring back and forth of the vehicle as it travels forward, and thus a somewhat rough ride. It also seems compounded, that maybe these vehicles are lighter and bouncier, suspension is bouncier, or something is causing these vehicles to hunt back and forth like this versus some of the comparative light rail around the United States.

One thing that might make this even more evident is the fact that a lot of the tracks are on raised right of way and when a vehicle is hunting between each flange at 50 or 60 feet, or higher, up in the air it’s a bit unsettling.

Last observation for this run, was the peculiar nature of the path the light rail runs out of downtown through Beacon Hill, heading east, then southeast along various neighborhoods in the street but then raises up again heading west across the interstate and rail lines. As this turn to head back south again is made one can face north and see the city in the distance and Boeing Field in the foreground. It makes it very clear that the most direct and efficient route to the airport was not the route chosen. Another one of those odd US traditions of disabling transit by purposely choosing inefficient routes so it would theoretically connect to points where people are located. It’s always seemed like one of the most inefficient methods of transit planning and operation.

…the day continued… but I just went and posted this without completion of post. Maybe I’ll be able to wrap this one up one day.