Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bike is up for the winter

Expanding job demands and many, many late nights at work have forced me to put the bike up for the winter. In fact, I had to do it way back in September. I am very impressed and humbled by all those people who are bicycling through the winter, in darkness and occasional rain, but I choose the bus when I know I could be at work 'til 9:30 at night.

Or even - sigh - the car.

Oh well. There's always next year. In the meantime, I swing very wide when passing a bike, and I am teaching my 15-year-old to be hyper-vigilant about cyclists whenever she is behind the wheel.

"Yes, Mom, I know. I saw the bike," she says, rolling her eyes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Not pedaling to Portland this year

...but John is.

Yep, I decided against doing the STP this year, even though John enthusiastically took up the challenge again. Training is so time-consuming...instead I have partially remodeled the basement and built a chicken coop for my new hobby, raising chickens.

John drastically cut back on training this year, taking the schedule we followed last year and beginning it at the half-way point, so that he only rode for 7 weeks instead of 14. He reported from the road this afternoon (because today is the 1st day of the STP) that it has gone very well. So I'm encouraged by that, and I suspect I will try to do it next year -- or, at least, some other century or double-century ride.

We went over to John's house last night for a carbo-loading feed just like last year, and after all of that pasta, I decided to ride today. With no training, other than the 10-mile round-trip commute to work that I've been doing on and off since February, I made it all the way to Marymoor and back -- 53 miles.

I was riding back through Fremont, near Gas Works Park, when about 30 naked bicyclists popped out of nowhere and began riding down the Burke-Gilman. There happened to be a "Ride the Duck" vehicle passing right at that time, and the tour guide was ecstatic; she couldn't believe her luck. "Look!" she shouted. "NAKED BICYCLISTS!!!" And out came the cameras.

I'm sure that completely made her day.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

First day of bike-to-work month

Today's the first day of Bike to Work Month, and I had a lot of company on the ride in. I always feel a little safer when a lot of other cyclists are on the road.

On the way in, I stopped at the four-way stop at Terry and Republican, yielding the crosswalk to a gangly, street-wise-looking teenager in a dark hoodie. I could have ridden forward without waiting for him to cross - there was plenty of time before he reached my bike - but this particular courtesy seemed to please the kid, who gave me a thumbs-up. It feels good to be a good-will ambassador for bikes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New bike lanes through South Lake Union

The city unveiled some new bike lanes today along 9th Avenue through South Lake Union. It's an alternate to Westlake, which keeps bikes off the trolley lines. I noticed the restriping preliminaries for the past couple of weeks, but only because I walk on foot down part of 9th when I'm walking to work from the bus. I don't know how many cyclists know about this, but I suspect not many. Anyway, there is some intriguing, somewhat confusing signage at the crosswalk of 9th and Denny - looks like some sort of alternative bike crossing signal has been installed, with a lot of bike striping.

Friday, April 18, 2008


I rode the bus Friday, because the weather service threatened snow. And sure enough, even as I took this picture of a cyclist riding by my bus stop Fridy afternoon, it started snowing. (Rather difficult to take a picture of snow wtih a cell-phone camera, I might add.)

Snow, in April?! In North Dakota, maybe, but not in Seattle. Enough with the erratic weather, already.

Light change slows us down

The city must have changed the way the traffic lights function at the intersection of Westlake and Dexter/Fremont, because this is the second time I've been trapped on the south side of Dexter while the Fremont Bridge is up. As you can see, I had a lot of company.

Earlier this year, when the Fremont drawbridge went up, you could hit the pedestrian crosswalk button and get a green light to go across even when all the traffic was stopped. In other words, you could cross to the safer side of the road and hang out on the wide sidewalk in front of the bridge while the bridge took its slow time going up and down.

But now, pedestrians/bikes on the south side of the intersection don't get a green light until well after the bridge has gone down and a full cycle of traffic has gone through the intersection. The result: a bunch of us cyclists piled up on the narrow, busy south side of the intersection, waiting for the light to change. Annoying.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Slow start to a year's commute

The unusually chilly spring we're having is keeping me guessing. My goal is to ride twice a week now -- three times if possible -- and take the bus on other days. Meanwhile, I do an OK job fitting "errands by bike" rides in on the weekends.

My friend John wants to do the STP again, I can tell, but I've decided this year that I don't want to commit that many hours to bicycling. It's not that I don't love it, it's just that I want to grow a good vegetable garden this year and have enough energy left over for commuting and errands. Those seem like good planetary goals, and riding my bike 50 or 100 miles every weekend leaves little energy for other things. Maybe next year.

We ordered pizza the other night from a new Ballard location that makes all deliveries by bicycle! It was really good pizza, too. I think the place was called Snooze Junction. I didn't get a good look at the delivery guy's bike, as it was dark, but he had a heck of a headlight on it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Winter is almost over?

Let me be recorded that I rode my bike to and from work for the first time this year on Feb. 22. It helped that I was able to get out of work a bit early. Still, it was pretty dark by 5:45 p.m., so the headlights were necessary. In another two weeks, it will be much better because of the start of daylight savings time.

Not that many cyclists out there. Some, not a lot.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter hiatus

Well, I'm sad to say that I did stop riding my bike to work a few days before Thanksgiving, for the season. I own a bus pass now, and I know how to use it!

Although I felt fairly safe riding home, it was taking an extra 10 minutes to get home via my very low-traffic, but poorly lit, back route. The low light caused me to slow down significantly, and so I was getting home at 6:40. This, in turn, was making my family just a little crazy with worry. So I decided to buy a Metro bus pass instead (useful for lots of other reasons!) and stick to biking during daylight hours.

So now I'm using the bike instead to run errands around the neighborhood -- to the library, the hardware store, the grocery.

It's been a funny winter, weather-wise, and of course it's far from over so it's hard to say how it will turn out. But we've had long stretches of dry weather punctuated by extreme days of incredibly high rainfall. This is what the climate scientists said would happen. Are the predictions coming true, or is it just a coincidence? Will we ever know?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I had to drive the car on Tuesday - a complicated family schedule made the car a necessity - but I observed, while driving down Aurora Avenue, that traffic is pretty slow at this time of day. In fact, it took me 21 minutes to get to work. Usually it takes me 32 minutes if I ride my bike.

I rode to work on my bike Wednesday, but not Thursday - predictions of steady rain in the evening were all too true. Time spent walking to, waiting for, then riding, the bus from work to home: about 40 minutes. Normal bike commute time from work to home: about 45 minutes. (I'm slower on the way home because it's dark and there's a big hill to climb.)

I took my bike Friday. So, 1 day of driving, one day of busing, 2 days of biking. I never would have guessed I could ride so frequently in November, normally our wettest month.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Riding in the dark

This really was the week that I expected to quit. And yet, armed with my flashing lights and a homemade vest striped with reflective tape, I went forth into the darkness each night at 6 p.m., riding across Westlake and along Dexter, then over to the Burke Gilman trail and on home in a new, winter-time route that takes me on back streets for a good portion of the way.

And it's just fine, thanks.

Still. Every afternoon, as afternoon fades to evening darkness, I fight a rising sense of panic that I am doing something irrational and I really ought to quit. Sitting at my computer in the newsroom, I cast my eye over to the window and notice how very dark it is out there. When it is time to go, I don my winter riding clothes in the locker room, thinking to myself, this is nuts. I should not be riding in the dark.

But then, when I get outside, some of the panic starts to fall away. The city is well-lit by streetlights, after all. My blinking lights in the back are visible for blocks. My front lights are more than adequate for illuminating dark stretches of roadway. My jacket is screaming fluorescent yellow-green, and my homemade vest glows in headlights.

I go down Boren to Republican, both side streets at the edge of the downtown core. I stop at the stop signs, pull in behind cars at the traffic lights. I get onto Dexter, joining a small group of other cyclists who are doing the same thing. We ride through the Mercer intersection and climb the hill, our tail lights flashing like some sort of moving Christmas-tree display.

I cross the Fremont bridge, where I count seven or eight similarly-adorned cyclists. I go left now, getting on the Burke-Gilman, which is very dark. I ride slowly, perhaps 9 or 10 mph. The trail is quiet. The darkness is pleasant in a private, almost secretive way that I had not anticipated.

Every commute is an adventure.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bridge in the fog

These recent mornings have been especially beautiful because of the play of light and fog. The Aurora Avenue Bridge was as striking as a modern sculpture.

I'm tracking the amount of time it takes to commute, from my door to the bike cage and back. I took a different route home through the neighborhood yesterday - more hills, fewer cars, 37 minutes.

The ride to work this morning took 31 minutes.