Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mark's Wish List for Northwest Transportation

After a break longer than intended, I'm returning to the blog with my wish list for transportation in the Northwest. In the holiday spirit (and for a little fun), I'm writng this as a "letter to Santa Clause."

Dear Santa Clause,

We've been pretty good here in the Northwest. There seem to be more people riding the bus to work and just get around in general. We finally opened our light rail line in King County this year. Passenger rail has improved with the opening of an Amtrak station in Leavenworth, as well as the addition of another run to Vancouver, BC. We also have passed additional plans for light rail going to the Eastside and at least one more streetcar line in Seattle.

All that said, I want to present you with my wish list for Northwest transit. I realize time is short for this Christmas (and let's be honest, some things take time anyway). But if you can see what you can do to get some of these rolling, I think we'd all appreciate it here.

  • Expand light rail throughout the region by adding new inter-city lines, as well as intra-city lines
  • In-fill stations to fill the gaps in the existing Central Link line (one somewhere near the Boeing access road would be really appreciated)
  • Increase feeder lines to the light rail stations
  • Implement working, grade separated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) where light rail is not feasible and ridership potential warrants the investment
  • Consolidate the major metropolitan transit agencies in the Puget Sound into one agency with operations specialists in each former agency's service area to improve efficiencies and coordination between agencies, while still maintaining the existing knowledge of local needs.
  • Develop infrastructure to support transportation alternatives to the automobile (a network of bike lanes/paths, footpaths and multi-use paths)
  • Improve and increase the safe bike storage capacity at transit centers and park & rides
  • More bike parking throughout the region
  • Frequent, high speed passenger & commuter rail on dedicated right-of-ways
  • Pass a vulnerable users law in Washington similar to that in Oregon

Thank you, Santa, and have a happy holiday season!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Help pass a Vulnerable User law in Washington!

Cascade Bicycle Club Traffic Justice Summit – Wednesday, October 14 2009, Seattle City Hall

In 2007, the Oregon State Legislature passed the “Vulnerable User” law. In a nutshell, what this law does is to strengthen the penalties against motor vehicle operators found to be at fault in accidents involving “vulnerable users” (pedestrians and cyclists). As we all know, in accidents involving these parties, physics dictates that the motor vehicle will win, and the penalty is high to the loser. Legal codes in Oregon were, as they currently are in many other states, similarly slanted to the favor of the motor vehicle operator. The Vulnerable User law changed that in Oregon by assessing criminal penalties to the at-fault driver when an accident results in severe injury or the death of a vulnerable roadway user (pedestrian or cyclist).

Last legislative session, Cascade Bicycle Club, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and others tried to bring similar change, legal parity and justice to Washington with Senate Bill 5838. The bill never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In legislative lingo, it “died in committee.” Fortunately, since our legislature is a biennial legislature, any bill that dies in the first year of the legislature, isn’t really dead. When the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate convene the 2010 legislative session, the bill will be revived.

Now is the time to begin planning and working to get Senate Bill 5838 passed and into law.

What you can do:
· Attend the Traffic Justice Summit on Wednesday, October 14 at Seattle City Hall. If you are unable to attend, I’m told that the summit will be aired on the Seattle Channel and available online.
· Know your legislative delegation
· Know who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee
· Call and write your legislative delegation as well as members of the Judiciary committees and encourage them to support this bill. The Legislative hotline can be reached at: 1-800-562-6000.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New digs and up-coming commute change

I've grumped a bit about my current commute. Well, it's not going to get much better as far as timing. However, there will the possibility for more variety. Come November, Maurie and I will bid farewell to downtown living and move to West Seattle. We'll be very close to Alki beach, with it's wonderful activity and bike path. I'll still need to get into downtown to catch the shuttle to the office, but I can bike to downtown, take the bus, or get to the water taxi and take that across the bay!

Another nice thing, we'll have the kayaks at home again, and with a set of wheels for the boats, we can just roll them down to the beach and shove off! How nice is that?!

Well, that's all for now!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bicycle-Friendly Lopez Island

On Sunday of the long weekend, Maurie and I took a trip up to Lopez Island in the San Juans for the day. I'll admit, we took the car and drove around. Call it scouting for future visits (and there will be future visits). We did take our bikes, but with the wind and our wanting to see more of the island and hike around some, we ended up leaving them on the roof rack.

The roof rack brings me to an important piece of advice. If you're travelling by Washington State Ferry, bring your bikes inside your car, lay them down and lash them to the roof, or use a rear-mounted bike rack. The maximum height for vehicles without additional fee is 7 feet, 6 inches. If you go over that, you pay double. That's right, a $33 fare becomes $66. And yes, bikes will put most cars over that limit. Fortunately for us, the woman at the toll booth informed us and asked if we could get the bikes in the car or do something to lower the height to under the limit.

The ferry issue aside, Lopez was wonderful. The island is definitely a bike-friendly place. First, the roads are nice rolling roads with low speed limits. I think the maximum speed limit on the island is 35, but most drove 25-30. So much to see, and no need to rush around. Drivers all give cyclists room when they pass and there are bike racks everywhere! The racks are not all your run of the mill four or five bike rack, but some ar build to hold 30+ bicycles! Lopez Kayak and Bicycle (I think I got that correct) has build several wooden racks and placed them at parks and throughout the island at places one would be inclined to stop for a bit. We also discovered a map of the island put out by the Bicycle Alliance of Lopez. The front side is a map with some popular stops, the back has the parks and stops listed with a short write-up on them. It was very helpful to us in deciding where to visit.

We'll be back to Lopez sometime soon. There were lots of bays and coves in which to paddle our kayaks, and lovely terrain for cycling. Maybe come April, I'll ride the Tour de Lopez!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My new adventure in transit

I started a new job yesterday. I'm now working the help desk for a health care organization. When I was called to come in for an interview, I was excited. I mean, the organization has the naming rights to a velodrome, they sponsor a women's cycling team for women on staff, and they have been sponsors of Bike to Work day here in Seattle. What better place for a cycling nut?

For all that, cycling access to the administrative campus is pretty lacking. Sure, there's the Green River Trail, which lets out onto Interurban Ave about a mile away. But that mile from the trail to the office, is along a narrow, winding road, that just happens to lose any sidewalks for about half a mile, and all shoulder for about 200-300 yards...around a curve. I watched several tractor-trailer combos rubmle down this road yesterday. So, that's out...

So, if I don't want to drive myself, that leaves transit or carpool/vanpool. Metro has an agreement with my employer to allow use of buses bound for South Base as a shuttle. These run quite frequently, until just before 8 am. My shift starts at 9, so taking a shuttle puts me there 30-45 minutes early! That's the most reasonable transit option, timing wise. Since my shift ends at 6, coming home looks to be worse. The last shuttle to Seattle leaves at 5:30. I can walk 1.3 miles to a Park & Ride and catch the 150 to downtown. I did that yesterday and got home at 7:15 (after leaving the office at 6:02). Or, I could wait 25+ minutes for a bus to the Rainier Beach Link station, and take the train. This will get me home, oh, about 7:15.

What's aggrivating to me, is when the Link was put in, it was routed along the south end of Boeing Field, and then south to Tukwila International Blvd., along an industrial corridor with scattered office complexes. From Rainier Beach to Tukwilia International, there are no stops. None to service Boeing (I mean come on, one of the region's major employers, and Sound Transit couldn't have put a station in for them?); not further down East Marginal Way for other businesses!

So, now I'm left with adventures in transit to get home

Monday, August 17, 2009

Slow posting

Once again, I've fallen behind in my updates. I'm back into job hunt mode after my contract ended at the end of July. Lots to write about, and I'll try to get back to updating more frequently.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bikeshare demo in Seattle

Last week, we walked down to the South Lake Union Discovery Center to check out the Bikeshare demo being put on by Metro.

I'm really very excited about the prospect of a bikeshare in Seattle. I've seen a lot about the City Bike program in Copenhagen and Vélib in Paris. In the past couple of years, we've started to see these programs start up in the US.

At today's demo were three systems (I guess that's what you'd call them): B-Cycle, Bixi, and the Bikeshare Program. Each of the systems has an "open cockpit design" bike which can be checked out for point-to-point, or round-trip travel. Fare structure would be set by the "owner" of the program. In the case of Seattle by Metro and the city.

Looking at the bikes, I was most impressed with the B-Cycle bikes, followed closely by the Bixi bikes (I preferred B-Cycle's closed basket, and liked the handlebars better than Bixi's). The Bike Share Group's system has a more protected storage mechanism than the others. It shows that they are the local guys, knowing how bikes need a little more protection from the elements in our damp Northwest weather. This means that their bikes have more points of adjustment to get the bike ready to ride. This is both a benefit and a drawback. It's a benefit in that you can adjust the bike to better suit your size (by adjusting both seat and handlebar height), whereas the others only allow for the seat adjustment. The drawback lies in that there's more to do to get the bike ready to ride. All bikes are equipped with fenders and lights that are powered by a dynamo hub. Bixi and B-Cycle have spoke guards that allow riders to wear long coats or skirts without worrying about them getting caught up in spokes.

I can see a bike share being a wonderful addition to our growing list of transportation options. It would be great to see bikes stationed near transit stations as well as downtown. Even though I will often bike places, I can see using such a system when I've started out by foot or transit, but decide I'd like to ride somewhere a bit out of the way of the transit line I'm using.

With the hills in Seattle, a key to making this really work will be to ensure that bikes don't end up all at the bottom of the hills. Paris has a crew that is constantly redistributing bikes to ensure that there's sufficient availability. Seattle will have to mimic this sort of arrangement. Another thing that will need to happen is a repeal of the mandatory helmet law in Seattle. The target market for bike shares (tourists, casual riders, and those who wouldn't ordinarily ride) are not likely to have a bike helmet with them, and the idea of sharing a helmet from a communal pool is not too sanitary. Mandatory helmet laws are said to be a barrier to people cycling, and it certainly would be a barrier in the community embracing a bike share in Seattle.

Monday, July 27, 2009

First ride on the Link

**No pictures yet. I'll add some once I've uploaded them from the camera**

Saturday brought a surprise for Maurie and me. Our first ride on the new Central Link light rail line. We'd gone down to Pike Place to look for something, but after being in the crowds for a bit, we didn't really want to go back into a hot apartment with all the noise from the Seafair Torchlight Parade going on that evening.

We ended up going down into the transit tunnel (feels weird not calling the bus tunnel any more!) I was hoping to get a look at a Link train. But none were at the platform. Maurie says I was a bit crestfallen at that. While we were on the mezzanine, one did pull in. We looked down on it, and Maurie suggested taking the train for a ride. So, off to figure out how to do the payment and ride.

One of the Sount Transit folks told us I could just tap my ORCA card to the reader, and Maurie just needed to show her Puget Pass if asked. So, we boarded and headed south to Tukwila station.

The ride was very nice. Quite quick to get down through Seattle. We left Westlake station at about 6, I think, and the southbound train was full. No vacant seats, and a lot of people standing. As we went south, nuturally, it thinned out some. But by the time we reached Tukwila station, there were still plenty of riders.

We de-boarded at Tukwila, thinking we'd have to move over to the other track for the northbound train. There was no indication that the train we just arrived on would just reverse direction from its place in the station. So, after looking for a bathroom (and finding one open porta-potty that badly needed service), we got on what we thought was the next northbound train.

We rode back north to Columbia City where we got off the train to see a movie. The first thing we noticed when we got off the train was that in the small park next to the station was a sign listing what was nearby...restaurants, cinema, shops, a market, etc. Maurie had been commenting on the ride north that something like this would be very helpful for riders.

As we walked through Columbia City, we noticed that the business district was still fairly lively. Several folks walking the street, a few businesses still open, lots of restaurants and bars open. In nearly every window was a poster welcoming Link riders. Most every business had a special for people who show their ride ticket or ORCA card. For example, the Columbia City Cinema offers $2 off adult tickets in the evening (I can't remember what they were for matinee showings).

We dropped into the Columbia City Alehouse for an appetizer and beer and then walked the neighborhood until our 9:40 movie.

After the movie, we caught a 12:30 train back to Westlake. This train had a handful of other riders. The south-bound trains out of Seattle were more full with people leaving the city.

We really enjoyed the ride. It will make it so much easier to get to points south of downtown. A couple of observations:

  1. Bathrooms at the stations need to be better maintained (only porta-potties at one? what's with that?)
  2. Fare/payment system is confusing. Require every rider to obtain a ticket from the ticket vending machine. And fit them to read Puget Passes!
  3. The art work at the stops is awesome! It really makes the stops more inviting.

All in all, I'm glad we had the unplanned evening out on the train, especially since I turn in my ORCA pass on Friday at the end of my current contract.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Successful Link Opening Weekend

Well, I've still not ridden the new Link light rail in Seattle, so I don't have much I can say about it. However, on Sunday as we headed to the coast for day relaxing on the beach, we did see a couple of trains running along I5 (one north-bound, one south-bound) and both looked packed to standing room only. It may have been a weekend of free rides, but it looked promising. Reports are 92,000 riders over the weekend. I've still not seen ridership reports for Monday, but I'm confident that while reports are that they were low, that they'll grow as we get used to having light rail, and development happens around the lines, we'll see those numbers go up.

Seattle Tranit Blog has been all over opening weekend, and is following the latest on it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I first read Callenbach's book Ecotopia for my Basic Inquiry class at Lewis & Clark College my freshman year. At the time, I was 18 and fresh out of the suburbs. I was ideallistic, when it was convenient (which wasn't too often). Not much of the book stuck out to me, except that most of us (all freshman from predominantly suburban backgrounds) thought it was a cool idea, but wholly unworkable. I read it again in 2001, only to find myself seeing a little more "hey, that's cool" in it, but it didn't strike me as much.

Now, nearly 20 years after reading it for the first time, I just finished reading it for the third time. Having spent the last year really thinking sustainability, a lot more stood out to me.

The transporation system put forth by Callenbach in Ecotopia really stands out. In the book, the country has virually banned internal combustion engines and private car ownership. Intercity tranportation is facilitated by a widespread Mag-Lev rail network. Small city groupings spring up around major rail hubs, branching out like spokes on a wheel (or so I envision it). Tanporation within cities is predominantly foot, bike, and public tranport via electric minibuses.

I think the first two times I read the book, I was still in a car-centric frame of mind. When I read the chapter on trasportation, I realized that this is close to a reality I'd really love to see. I'm not in favor of outright banning cars. They are useful, and even necessary for some people. However, I'd like to see more options and infrastructure to make not taking a care a whole lot more convenient and accessible.

What can you do on your commute?

Just looking up from the computer as the bus wisks me to work this morning, I noticed the following happening:
  • Woman across the aisle from me knitting
  • Several people reading books & magazines
  • Friends holding conversations
  • One or two people taking a nap
  • People working on their laptops (doing stuff for work? Blogging? Reading web comics?)
  • People reading books & magazines
  • Some just staring out the window at the traffic, water, birds, mountians, etc

What do you do on your commute? Today I'm blogging and listening to music.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Opening Weekend for Link

In case you've missed it (and if you live in or around Seattle, I'm not sure how you could have), The Link light rail line from downtown to the airport will open on Saturday. Sound Transit has details on the opening here. The folks over at Seattle Transit Blog have been counting the days to this, and I have to say that Ben and company really seem ready to party as a result of the long-awaited opening.

There will be free rides all weekend. Be prepared for long lines and crowded platforms and trains all weekend. Also, there are no round-trip rides. To give everyone a chance to ride, once you get to one end, you have to get off the train and get back in line. There will also be shuttles running the route if you don't want to wait in line again.

Personally, I think I'll be waiting to take my ride on Link until after the festivities

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why can't it be like this?

I found this video on YouTube the other day, and it makes me long for days I never even knew!

It does bring back memories of my cycle tour in Europe in '86. In particular it reminds me a bit of the first day of cycling. We were riding Nantes to Angers (in France). We had a headwind and none of us had been on our bikes for a couple of weeks. Only two of the students on the tour made it all by bike, the rest of us ended up on a train for part of the way. It was great. The French train system accepted our bikes with no additional charge and we didn't have to stow them in a baggage car. Once on, we were able to have a glass of wine as the countryside whipped by on the way to Angers.

I wish that we still had an extensive rail system in the United States, and that it was convenient and inexpeinsive to take our bikes on the train to a destination.

Ah, well, I'll just watch the video again and dream...

Friday, July 3, 2009

King County Water Taxi ridership record

Yesterday on the shuttle to the Overlake Transit Center, I heard that the King County Water Taxi set a new ridership record for June. Total passengers transported by the service in June were 33,865. This is up 12% from the 30,046 passengers carried in June 2008.

The newsbit on the radio attributed the increase to people coming from West Seattle for Mariner's games. OK, so I can understand wanting to avoid the traffic and parking near Safeco Field, but is that really the reason? How about it's a great way to get to and from West Seattle from Downtown (or is it the other way around?)

So far, the service has carried 85,784 passengers. Not bad for three month's worth of service.

Next year, the Water Taxi will begin running year-round.

Click for Schedules for the Water Taxi.

You can take your bike on the Water Taxi for no additional charge.

There are also free Shuttles from the West Seattle dock to Alki, the West Seattle Park & Ride, and West Seattle Junction (among other stops).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cycling Friendly Cities

I came across this video today. The resolution on the YouTube version is poor. If you'd like to see a higher resolution version, you can find the video podcast (for iTunes users and those with m4v players) here.

What I appreciate about this is the effort that cities have put to make their cores livable areas; taking the emphasis away from motorized mobility, and putting it on human-powered mobility.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Veer -- the review

Last Thursday (June 2), Maurie and I went to see Veer. As mentioned below, the showing was a benefit for the Major Taylor Project, which is a project of the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation.

We arrived at the Columbia City Cinema shortly before 8:30 for the panel discussion. The panelists for the discussion were David Hiller (Advocacy Director at Cascade Bicycle Club), Willie Weir (bicycle touring travel author and columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine), Davey Oil (BikeWorks and The Bikery), Erica Barnett ( and formerly The Stranger), and Greg Fredette (the filmmaker). The discussion covered topics from legislation to the demographics of cycling, to the overall cycling culture. Much of what they discussed related directly to the film. Those of us who were there for the 9:30 showing were at a bit of a disadvantage as far as knowing what they were talking about.

One observation about the panel discussion; although the theater in which we were viewing the film and holding the discussion, it was difficult to hear. Some sort of PA would have made it easier to hear the discussion. Also, and this is a hazard of wooden floors and an abundance of cyclists, it was impossible to for many to walk through the theater quietly. It wasn’t the fault of the individuals; it was their cycling cleats on the wood floor!

The movie is fantastic. The trailer barely touches on how good it is. The film maker did not simply follow five individuals who are active in Portland’s bicycling culture, but he showed how the facets of the bicycling community, no matter how different, all contribute in a real positive way to the health and vitality of the culture as a whole. We followed Scott Bricker of the Bicycle Transportation Association as he lobbied for Oregon House Bill 3314 in 2007, seeing it to passage and signed by the governor; one of Portland’s famous (infamous?, notorious?) “Zoo Bombers”; Scott, founder of Exchange Cycle Tours as his organization packs up to move out of one location, and the search for a new location and finally the grand opening in a new location which has been underserved in terms of cycling accessibility; A staff member and cycling educator from the Community Cycling Center as he runs an after-school bike club for elementary students; and finally one of the founding members of the Sprokettes “mini-bike synchronized dance team.”

I walked out of the theater with a real strong sense of how closely tied all these aspects of the cycling community are, and how they fed and fuel others. Rather than rant and rage about what the others are, or are not, doing, those profiled seemed to really see the positive in what the others were doing; the Sprockettes and Zoo Bombers bring an aspect of pure, unadulterated fun (and possibly insane adrenaline) to cycling, the BTA really focuses on the policy aspect and the ECT and CCC at getting others into cycling.

Another thing I really appreciated is that the film showed interactions with the police, for the most part, in a positive light. No aggressive confrontations, no bashing—just an acknowledgement of the job the police have to do.

There were also some poignant moments of the film: the final field trip and graduation for the bike camp kids; the aftermath of a break-in at the Community Cycling Center and the Portland Ride of Silence.

The film was truly outstanding. I don’t know how the filmmaker plans to distribute it, whether in DVD only, if he plans to continue to tour it for viewings in various cities, or what. If you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend making the effort to do so. If there’s no city near you that is listed in their screenings, contact them from the form on the website, and see what you need to do to arrange one.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cascade Farmer's Market Ride

It was a 1.25 mile bike ride from our apartment in Belltown to the new Cascade Farmer's Market over in South Lake Union . Along the way I rode some on side walk, some with traffic and some in actual bike lanes. The more I ride in this area the more I realize the need for more bike lanes - on Denny for instance. I arrived at the north entrance of the Market and walked my bike through to the south entrance, where after not having seen a bike rack yet, I asked the volunteers where the nearest bike rack was. They didn't know. They thought there must be one someplace near the Cascade P-patch or around the park. I walked through the area, then through the back of the p-patch to the road on the other side and still hadn't found one. I made my way south and east again along the sidewalk back towards the volunteers. It was from this approach that I spied a bike rack on the south side of the intersection they had been at. I locked up and headed back into the farmer's market. (You can read more about the market experience itself soon at This Northwest Life.)

After browsing and purchasing a few things I finished up by taking pictures and stopping to talk with someone at the Farmer's Market Booth. I asked them, too, if they knew where more bike racks were and they didn't , but guessed there would be some near REI. I pointed out that this was something cyclists visiting the market might want to know and he agreed it would be good to have that information.

I unlocked my bike and did a ride around several different blocks to find that the next nearest bike racks were across the street from REI. There are three along that road, all able to hold two bikes each. They were half full at around 4 pm. I figure they will fill up more in the evening when people are coming to eat at the local restaurants. With the market running till 7 pm I hope there will be enough bike spaces for everyone - once the market gets better known I wonder if there will be. Many of the restaurants in the area don't have any bike racks nearby at all.

I have to admit I was surprised to not find bike racks at the Cascade play area. Maybe they were hidden somewhere?

For Mark and I, cycling would be the main way we would get to the South Lake Union neighborhood, possibly combining bikes and the street car. At this point we won't find many places to safely lock our bikes while we are there. There is a serious need for more bike racks in the area, especially with a new Farmer's Market to come to and an increasing number of interesting restaurants.

The Tour comes to Seattle!

No, not the Tour de France! The Tour de Fat!

The folks at our favorite national sustainable brewery, New Belgium Brewing, who love cycling so much they named a beer for it, is bringing Tour de Fat to Seattle on Saturday, August 8.

The event will be held at Gasworks Park and will include a bicycle parade, beer garden, a general celebration of all things cycling and the presentation of a brand new bicycle to one lucky person who agrees to give up his car in favor of a bike for a full year!

New Belgium Brewing donates everything for the event, and it's free two attend, with two exceptions: there's an entry fee for the parade and you have to buy your own beer. All proceeds, however, go to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and Bikeworks.

The Bicycle Alliance is looking for volunteers to help with the event. You can even enter to be the lucky winner of the new bicycle!

Hope to see everyone there to celebrate cycling. Oh, if you go, be sure to click the link to the Tour de Fat site, and read the "10 Commandments of Tour de Fat"!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Veer, the movie Thursday, June 25 @ Columbia City Cinema

I'm excited about this! The evening of Thursday, June 25 Cascade Bicycle Club is hosting two viewings of Veer, the movie. Showings are at 6:30 and 9:00 PM. In between showings (at 8:30) is a talk with the film maker (Greg Fredette), David Hiller (Advocacy Director at Cascade Bicycle Club) and others.

The viewing is a fundraiser for Cascade's Major Taylor Project.

Here's the trailer for the movie:

More details on the Calendar at Cascade Bicycle Club's website.

There is a bike check next door to the cinema for $3. Ride your bike or take the bus (Metro's #7 goes there from downtown).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Something to get you excited for Link!

I found the video below on Streetfilms last week. It adds to my excitement for the opening of the new Link line running from downtown to the airport.

The Seattle Transit Blog also covered the opening of this line in January and February.

I've been excited for Link to come to Seattle for some time. Tacoma's had their line up and running for a few years now, but the community that could really use a ton of help with transit options, has been without a large-scale light rail option. Now, in less than a month, it will be a reality here. Don't get me wrong I like both the monorail and the South Lake Union Street Car, but their service is really limited in scope.

A couple of things stood out to me about the Phoenix system:

  • From its beginning it links three cities (including two university campuses)
  • Ridership exceeded expectations from the beginning
  • The line has become a magnet for urban development

I'm hoping that Seattle will embrace Link the way that Phoenix has. I've been in the Puget Sound area for 30 years now. In that time, I've seen our traffic get worse, and relief slow in coming. The creation of Sound Transit helped start us on the way to fixing that. Now I look forward to expansion of Sound Transit's service through light rail to really help change the way we look at our mobility and our cars.

I'm confident that once Link goes to the U-district and finally to the Eastside we will see a real transformation of the way we travel through our region.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thank you for not driving!

We saw this sign in the window at Free Range Cycles in Fremont today while we were visiting the Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade. I wanted to shout out "Your Welcome!" when I saw it.

The Fremont Fair always makes trying to drive through Fremont even more of a mess than usual. To help people get to and from the fair, not only did Metro have the usual bus routes running through Fremont (well, at least they did when the parade wasn't going), but they added a shuttle service (PDF link) to the event today. Cascade Bicycle Club even got on the "don't drive to the Fair" bandwagon and had two rides going to the see the parade.

We caught a shuttle this morning at Dexter & Denney. It was the second shuttle to depart the stop after we arrived. The one we didn't get on, as well as the one we did, were filled to standing room only. It reminded me of playing "sardines" in middle school!

We were dropped off at the south side of the Fremont bridge and walked across into Fremont. We'd opted not to ride our bikes becuase we knew that it would be wall-to-wall bikes, with them locked to anything and everything reasonably solid. We were right. It seemed like every railing, street sign and fence had a number of bikes locked to them (sorry no picture, when we thought of taking one, we weren't near a good spot, and when we were, well, I forgot). Unfortunately for most of the cyclists, I believe Hal Ruzal would have given them pretty poor marks on thier bicycle locking (see here, here, and here to see why).

The highlight of the day was definitely the community-organized, human powered Solstice Parade, complete with its contingent of cyclists. Hmm...I wonder if any of them joined the Cascade ride to the parade...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Preparing to commute by bicycle

In a previous post, I discussed preparing to commute by bicycle from a purely equipment-oriented point of view. While having the right gear for commuting is important, especially when your commute gets longer, there are other factors to consider when deciding, ultimately, to start your cycling commute.

How long is your commute?

This will be critically important in your decision of whether or not to ride to work. Logically, the longer you have to ride, the less realistic it might be for you to actually do so. This could be due to the sheer distance you’d need to ride each way, or perhaps due to time constraints before or after work.

Will you mix your ride with other modes of transportation?

This goes hand-in-hand with the consideration of how long your commute really is. A very long commute can easily be done by a combination of cycling and transit use. In fact, many cyclists do just that.

Is there a secure place to lock your bike?

You probably lock your car when you park it, wouldn’t it make just as much sense, if not more, to lock up your new, ultralight, easily carried-off vehicle? Does your place of business have good bike racks or another means of storing your bike securely? Do you work in an environment in which you can bring your bike into your office?

Are there showers or locker rooms?

Most businesses would probably frown upon you going through the day in your cycling gear. Does your place of business provide a place for you to clean up and change into your work clothes? Is there a place you can hang up wet clothing to dry after riding in wet weather?

I’ve cycled to work off and on since 2001. Each place I’ve worked has provided facilities for me to change, there’s been secure storage for my bike and even a place to hang up wet gear. Unfortunately, not every place of business will be able to make such accommodations available. If your place of business doesn’t, don’t give up. Look around for alternatives. There are facilities for cycle commuters popping up in cities all over. Seattle has Bikestation downtown. For a modest membership fee, you have access to secure bike storage and a locker room. There’s even a bike shop to perform repairs on your bike while you’re at work. Chicago has a similar facility as do other cities.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What do I need to start bike commuting?

This is something I've wanted to post for quite some time, and with May being Bike to Work Month, what better time.

What makes a good bike for commuting? What equipment do you absolutely need?

Really, some of this is purely subjective and personal opinion. There are a few things that are absolute necessities, and the rest really are up to you.

The necessities

A bike - OK, OK. I know you're sitting there thinking "Tell me something I don't know, Mark." Yes, I am telling you that you need a bike. But here's the good part: It doesn't matter what kind of bike you have! You want to ride a titanium frame racers? Great! A dual-suspension downhill mountain bike? Good for you. A 1950's beach cruiser? Cool! As long as you are comfortable riding the bike, ride what you want, even if it's a Radio Flyer tricycle (go for it, I dare you!). Make sure the bike fits you well, is comfortable and in good working order. I recommend caution with department store bikes. Some brands you will find at department stores use lower level components which are not easily exchanged or upgraded. Other brands, however, can be upgraded with new parts. If in doubt, take a cyclist friend with you.

A helmet - In my mind, this is a non-negotiable item. You have insurance for your car, consider this your very inexpensive insurance policy against head injuries. A helmet is not the magic force field that will keep you from sustaining any injuries, but it can protect you from potentially serious injury that will ruin your day, commute, and possibly much more. You can get a decent helmet for the price of a tank of gas for the average car these days. It's well worth it.

Lights - Unless you are able to commute both directions in daylight (and when it's not dark and stormy), this is probably a non-issue. But for most of us, we're not that lucky. Lights are a must in twilight hours, not to mention in the flat out dark. You should have a good bright white light for the front, and at least one red light in the back (preferably one that can be set to flash or trace to be better noticed). A recommendation I've seen is to have two lights up front; one bright fixed beam and one flashing LED. The flashing lights are supposed to draw a driver's attention to the fact that you exist. Remember, many cities/counties/states will require lights between dawn and dusk, or longer.

Basic repair tools - Patch kit, allen keys, spare tube tire irons and an air pump (make sure it's appropriate for the valves on your tubes). Having these things with you, and knowing how to use them, will allow you to get yourself going again quickly after a breakdown. Forget them, and you may find yourself hoofing it to the nearest bus stop, or the intersection to call a taxi.

Something to carry your stuff - Backpack, messenger bag, rack and panniers, basket on the front or back of the bike, trailer. Really, it doesn't matter. There are many, many options out there. Look for what you like and go for it. Many backpacks, panniers and messenger bags are now made to be truly waterproof, not just coated nylon; definitely consider these if you ride in wet regions and need to buy something new. If you already have something you'd like to use, you can always pack your books, clothing, laptop, whatever, in plastic sacks inside of your existing carrier to keep it dry. Be aware that whatever you choose to carry your stuff may affect your balance and the over all ride. If you can test options out with your typical load it will help you decide how to carry your stuff.

Lock - Unless you have a place that provides secure storage for your bike, you'll want a good lock. Invest in a heavy-duty (and heavy) U-lock such as those made by Kryptonite. Cable locks and light chains are easily cut, but the hardened steel on the U-locks is much more difficult to cut, and is also quite resistant to prying/jimmying.

Knowledge of traffic laws applicable to cycling - Most are the same as the rules that apply to motorists, but there are some differences. Know them and follow them. You CAN be given a ticket for breaking them.

Special clothing - You can ride in your work clothes. In fact, if it's a short ride, it may be preferable. If you have a longer ride, you might want to set aside clothing dedicated for your rides. You don't have to buy the fancy spandex stuff, a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and sweatshirt work fine in most cases.

Rain Gear - Well, here in Seattle, this may need to be in the necessities section, but if you're a fair-weather commuter, you may be able to get away without it. Again, you don't need anything fancy, just something to keep you dry from the outside, and preferably something that vents well to keep you dry on the inside as well.

Fenders - These are great to keep the road muck off your clothing in the rain and wet. If you choose to commute in your "street clothes" these may move more into the necessity range (you may not want to go into that business meeting with the skunk-stripe of mud and road muck up your back), but if you have separate riding clothes and you change at work, you may not want these.

Water bottle or "hydration system" - A ride of just a few blocks probably won't require this, but it's always good to have something to satisfy your thirst as you ride. For longer commutes, it will become more of a necessity.

Really, in the end you don't need a whole lot to get going. Many of the requirements can be found at very reasonable cost. And while new gear is shiny and looks good, it quickly starts to look like the used stuff. Consider picking up used gear where ever possible. You'll save a bit of money and help reduce waste by filling out the useful life of something someone no longer wishes to use. A well maintained bicycle can have a very long useful life!

Now, size up what you have and determine what else you need and start riding!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coming events - Week of May 18, 2009

A couple of events are happening this week that you may be interested in.

Intro to Bike Commuting: It's how we roll
This is a free class offered by the Cascade Bicycle Club to help you get ready to begin commuting by bicycle. Covers traffic laws, basic equipment and strategies for commuting.
Date/Time: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 from Noon to 1 PM
Location: King County Chinook Building, 401 5th Ave, Seattle 98104, Rm 123

Ride of Silence
Free lesiurely ride in honor/memoriam of those injured or killed cycling. This is a slow-paced ride in which riders are to keep together. Black or red arm bands are encouraged, as is spreading the word through facebook, twitter and other social media.
Seattle ride info:
Date/Time: Wednesday May 20, 2009 from 6:30 to 8:00 PM
Location: Gasworks Park
Cascade Bicycle Club link & ride info:
Main Ride of Silence Website (contains information for national rides):

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Opening day for the Water Taxi

Travelling to West Seattle from the waterfront is about to get easier again. The Water Taxi will start its season on Sunday, April 5.

All day on Sunday, you can ride for free between downtown and West Seattle. There will be music and events at Seacrest Park from noon until 2:00 pm, give aways, a drawing for an Argosy cruise, and an opportunity to meet the King County Ferry District board (as well as neighbors and local business owners).

The service is being re-branded as the King County Water Taxi, instead of keeping the Elliot Bay Water Taxi name.

More information can be found at:

Don't miss the boat on Sunday!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Surfin' while I'm ridin'

On Tuesday morning as I boarded the 545 to go to work I noticed a logo next to the door. Apparently, my bus had WiFi access.

In five trips since I noticed the logo, only once has there not been WiFi access (twice the bus hasn't had the logo, once it did have wireless, once it didn't.

Sound Transit has started a pilot project to provide WiFi on select express routes and on the Sounder. According to the web page about the pilot, the most common routes to find WiFi are the 545, 522, and 577.

I've got to say, it's a nice addition to the commute. I'm sure many of my fellow riders appreciate it too, given the number of laptops I often see open each ride!

Community Transit in Snohomish county has been offering the service since Autumn 2005 (see the press release here)

Back on the bus again!

Now that I'm working on a contract for the next few months, it's back to commuting. Today marks day three that I've been riding Sound Transit from downtown Seattle to the Eastside for work. I've got a 10-15 minute (depends on how much energy I have at the time) walk to and from bus stops, but it's a good commute. Yesteday I sat on the bus while we were stopping and going and not having to worry about anything but what I wanted to. if I could just find a cup of coffee before leaving the apartment!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bicycling: A Sustainable Choice

Attention all bicycling enthusiasts!

Friday, February 27, 2009 at the Seattle Central Library downtown Cascade Bicycle Club is hosting the next in their presentation series.

The event will be from noon to 1 PM in the Microsoft Auditorium.
The speaker will be Niels Tørsløv--Director, Traffic Department Technical and Environmental Administration for the City of Copenhagen

More details can be found here.

This is one not to miss for a glimpse at what we can do to promote cycling in our city.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Funding new ferries with tourism dollars

In reading the sound off on an article on the Seattle PI website, I found a reference to this topic. It seems that a handful of state senators have realized that in addition to being a vital piece of the state highway system (let’s be honest, it’s the only road onto some of the islands in the Puget Sound, and considerable time-saver to get back and forth to the Olympic Peninsula from the Central Puget Sound area), it is also a very popular tourist attraction. Based on this realization, they have introduced Senate Bill 6005 this week.

I’ve read the bill, all 7 pages (small as fiscal and transportation bills go) of it. The bill would tap tourist revenue such as stadium and exhibition hall funding to pay for the replacement of ferries in counties with over one million residents. To be honest, a lot of the technicalities went a bit over my head and I don’t fully understand the entire thing. It appears to me, though, that the bill will tap currently unallocated tourist dollars in these counties to fund ferries. In counties like King County, with two stadiums to pay off from these funds, the money won’t be touched until the current obligations are paid, and then the money will be allocated to paying principal and interest on the purchase of new ferries.

I hope that this bill goes before the Senate Transportation committee soon so I can see a bill analysis that explains the details in more layman’s terms.

From what I understand of the bill right now, I do have some concerns:
  • Will it divert funding from existing tourist attractions such as museums, parks, galleries, and other publicly funded tourist facilities?
  • There is a potential imbalance in funding the ferry purchase; what if one county has over one million residents and taps that funding, but a county at the other end of a ferry line from it does not, it would seem that the larger county pays the entire bill, and the smaller county reaps the benefit.
  • Is this a replacement or supplement to Department Of Transportation funding for the replacement of the ferries?

In the end, we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Metro Transit expands bike loading downtown

Maurie saw this rider alert yesterday while on the bus. Starting February 7 (hey, that's today!), cyclists can load and unload their bikes at any bus stop in the downtown area, during off-peak hours only. Metro is also allowing bike load and unload at any stop in the transit tunnel, whenever it's open. During peak commute hours, however, cyclists will still be limited to loading and unloading their bikes at the first and last stops in the ride free area. I'd love to see this change so we can load and unload anywhere in the downtown area, at any time, but baby steps, you know...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Enhancing cycling in NYC

Here's an older video I came across on Watching it and seeing what New York has done on ninth avenue to accomodate cyclists gives me some hope for what other cities can do if they make it a priority. Looks like it's time for me to download and read the bicycling master plan for Seattle. I would love to see how many similar items will be incorporated. I know that there are areas that grade separated routes for bikes are in the plans (the 520 corridor, Alaskan Way).

Anyway, here's the video...enjoy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Take a moment for the beauty around!

Since my daily "commute" right now is across the apartment to the den, I am trying to get some exercise first thing in the morning. I'd been grumbling about cold toes when I ride, so we got me some cycling booties this weekend, and I'm back to taking a quick morning ride.

This morning, I got out a little later than normal, and could see the light breaking over the top of the cascades as I looked out the apartment window.

This morning's ride was a quick coast to the waterfront, and then a fairly quick paced ride up the Elliott Bay Bike Trail. I rode to where the path leaves the waterfront, at which point I turned around. Heading back south and towards home, I got to the end of the waterway that comes off the bay to see Mt. Rainier in all her beauty. She was looking like she rose right out of the bay and was shrouded in all sorts of colors. It was absolutely beautiful to if I needed another reminder of why I love where I live!

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me, so no picture to post. I'll have to just savor it in my memory.

Challenge for today: Slow down and find at least one thing of beauty to admire!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seattle: A walkable city

I grew up just outside Seattle. My father worked in downtown Seattle, and we’d make frequent trips in to the city to meet with him for lunch, to go to REI to buy stuff for summer camp, or to otherwise enjoy the city. Many of the trips in to town, we’d pile into the car, and make the drive across the lake into the city. Once here, we’d “do downtown” by foot. We’d often park at my dad’s office building garage, and walk from there. Now, years later, my wife and I are living downtown. We’d selected our location to be close in and able to walk more places we wish to go.

Today, the sun came out early in the day and we had gorgeous blue sky. We set out on foot to enjoy our city. We were joined by many, many people (I’m too lazy to count ‘em all, and not very good at estimating, so we’ll just say lots of people). When you approach Seattle by ferry or from the south on I5, or look across from West Seattle, it seems so far from the Space Needle to downtown, you don’t realize how close it really is. Half an hour tops, and you can walk from the Space Needle through downtown to Pioneer Square and the stadiums. Walking the waterfront is easy (well, it’s a bit slow if it’s crowded) with wide sidewalks and only two crosswalks to worry about (the ferry terminal and the driveway at the Edgewater hotel) on the bay side of Alaskan Way.

Today, the Seattle Sun Worshipers were taking full advantage of the day. People were milling about the waterfront. The Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park was busy with people walking the trails, sitting outside and inside the Paccar Pavillion. We saw many people starting up the Elliott Bay trail from Pier 70.

Seeing the number of people out on foot makes me feel like Seattle is becoming less car-centric people are opting more and more to use other means of getting around. Of course, we could all just be looking to scratch that itch for some sun that comes after periods of grey during our winters.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Viaduct Replacement: Congratulations, It's a TUNNEL!

Well, it hit the papers this morning: we're getting a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Details are still emerging at this time, and more have since I first read about it this morning, including the mention of transit in the plan.

The decision is not without controversy:
  • Voters shot down a tunnel in a 2006 advisory vote. The selected tunnel option is a deep-bore, unlike the "excavate and cover" tunnel initially proposed, but that's not likely to appease some people
  • It's the most expensive option on the table, with current estimates at $4.24 billion
  • It does not appear to provide entry/exit from the highway from Battery Street Tunnel on the north to the Stadium area at the south end
  • It does not connect Ballard to the bypass

I've got mixed feelings about this.

I like that we won't have to look at an eyesore elevated roadway along the waterfront. I like that it can be done with very minimal impact on existing businesses and current traffic patterns, which business owners should appreciate during these tough economic times. I like the fact that the plan includes for increased transit capacity, however, that does little to help matters if folks won't use the additional transit capacity. I like the open space planned along the waterfront, and hope it remains open space and is not entirely sold off to development interests.

I'm concerned about the cost during a time when we have a state deficit of over $6 billion. I'm concerned about the idea of a miles long tunnel in an earthquake-prone area (OK, so the Bay area has done just fine with BART, but you never know...). I'm concerned about the tunnel's capacity; the current plan calls for two lanes in each direction, it doesn't sound like it adds any more capacity to the roadway. If we don't get our collective mindset changed about transportation in general, and mass transit in particular, in this region, when the tunnel opens in 2015, it will be insufficient for the needs of traffic in the region.

From what I've seen in the news, there is no mention about what this means for cyclists and users of human powered transport. Perhaps I'll get answers to that tonight at the "Bikes & Bridges" meeting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cascade Bicycle Club January Presentation

Bikes & Bridges
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
7:00 PM
Seattle REI, 222 Yale St.

This is one of the monthly presentations that the Cascade Bicycle Club hosts. This month's presentation is a briefing from the project teams responsible for both the 520 bridge project and the Alaskan Way viaduct project.

This is an opportunity to hear how bicyclists are being taken into consideration for the projects and voice any concerns or ideas that you might have.

Cascade Bicycle Club monthly presentation series:

For more information you can contact David Hiller at the club. His e-mail address is on the link provided above.

A new year

The turn of the new year always seems to be a time in which we reflect on the past year (what we've accomplished, what we wanted to accomplish and didn't, how the events of the year have changed us, etc) and look towards the coming year with plans and resolutions.

Sitting here, I think back over the past year, especially the period since last June. A lot has happened since Maurie and I started this blog. We managed to leave the car parked quite a lot. We relied upon public or human powered transportation most of the summer. I lost my job. I started my own business. We moved to Seattle. Our updates to the blog slowed down considerably.

Looking forward to the rest of 2009, as it relates to this blog, I have lots of ideas. I want to write more about transportation issues in our new home town. I've never been much for making resolutions. In high school I started joking that my New Year's resolution is to stop making them. I don't know, I guess I see New Year's resolutions as these pie in the sky ideas that we come up with during the reverie of the changing of the year and the desire to begin anew. I rarely hear of a resolution being approached in a manner that bears results. There's little planning, no measurable milestones set to guage progress towards fulfilling the resolution, and consequently little to hold one's feet to the fire for sticking to it.

So, no, there is no resolution coming from me with respect to gettinaround. However, as I look at the coming year and all that I need to do for my business, for my home and family, for my health, and for this blog, I have a goal: REGULAR updates to the blog, throughout the year! I hope to be able to put up at least one post each week dealing with transportation issues. I will even attempt to keep things balanced out a bit and not terribly heavy on bicycling (although, let's be honest, it is great exercise, much faster than walking, and fun to boot!)

There's no shortage of things to write about for the blog. We are supposed to be moving forward with a replacement for the Alaskan Way viaduct, as well as a new 520 floating bridge; Seattle now has a bicycling master plan; Cascade Bicycle Club and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington have all sorts of advocacy programs and events throughout the year; the ZipCar car sharing program is huge in Seattle; there are plans for more streetcars; light rail will start service in King County, with expansion linking downtown to Capitol Hill and the University District. I'm sure there will be even more, and these are just Seattle-area things.