Biking around Seattle?
June 13, 2013 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Hi! I'm visiting Seattle for the first time next week, and my friend (also visiting) and I want to explore the city on bike. What are our options?

I know there's no bikeshare there yet. I'm ok with renting normal bikes, in which case I need advice on affordable options.

But my more pressing question.. is it safe to bike in Seattle? I'm not much of a cyclist - I've generally done short trips in places with clearly marked bike lanes. I'm slightly nervous biking around Boston (my current city) via Hubway, the thought of using Citi Bike in NYC (my hometown) outright terrifies me, I've used DC's bikeshare which was OK... how would Seattle compare? Are there dedicated bike trails?
posted by The Biggest Dreamer to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
King County used to put out a nice bike map but apparently it's online only now.

Seattle is a very bikeable town, especially if you stick to bike routes. There are some wonderful bicycle-only trails and pretty good bike lanes. However there are some roads/intersections that are definitely dodgy on a bike. Compared to Boston and NYC though you'll find things pretty peaceful.

The other thing to be ready for is the hills!
posted by rouftop at 12:50 PM on June 13, 2013

I'm not sure how Seattle compares on bike safety but Bike Alliance might. You can look at some bike maps of Seattle to get a sense of where you could go. There are a number of places which rent bicycles; I've gone to Gregg's Greenlake Cycles before, which was nice (but I don't remember the price).
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:52 PM on June 13, 2013

Seattle is great for biking. Over the past few years they've created a lot of new bike lanes, and even when you're on roads without them it's pretty good.

I've lived all over town and biked a lot since I was a little kid.

There are bike trails, but they aren't like... Greenways that actually go places through the core of town. Just loops around a lake, or old rail lines. It's not like Portland where there's "bike only streets". That said, the Burke gilman trail is beautiful and definitely worth exploring. Like, New Zealand in lord of the rings kind of beautiful.

If a friend of mine was visiting town and wanted to bike around I'd be enthusiastic, it's definitely a good place for it.
posted by emptythought at 1:07 PM on June 13, 2013

You might enjoy riding on the Burke-Gilman trail starting from the University District. You can rent bikes at Recycled Cycles, and along the trail you will find Gas Works Park and the Fremont neighborhood (many restaurants and whimsical shops including the Theo Chocolate factory). If you are feeling particularly brave you can head to the Ballard neighborhood (also many restaurants and whimsical shops), the Locks, and the end of the trail at Golden Gardens, though for a while the trail disappears and there are no bike lanes. For braving the missing link you can reward yourself with a glorious sandwich at Paseo! (Go early, they run out of bread.) If you do this on a Sunday, there is a farmer's market in Ballard and a crafty market in Fremont. Another option for relaxing Sunday riding is Lake Washington Boulevard, which is partially closed to traffic on select Sundays.

[Edited to add: I've taken friends on the U-District - Ballard route and had a great time. Think about how far you want to go, though, because you will have to pedal all the way back to return your rented bikes.]
posted by esoterrica at 1:53 PM on June 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Lots of little surprises for cyclists in Seattle. The good kind. I've never felt out of place biking on city streets, and there are some lovely trails - I live near the Burke-Gilman trail, and concur that it is AMAZING in some spots. Seattle in general is full of great views.

I just hope you're prepared for a lot of uphill riding...
posted by egypturnash at 1:54 PM on June 13, 2013

It depends on how hardcore you are and what your goals are. If you want D.C.-style casual tourist biking, I wouldn't recommend using a bike as your only means of transportation. You could make a good long day out of the Burke Gilman, going from Golden Gardens beach to Magnusun park or further around Lake Washington, and stopping by the Ballard Locks, Fremont, Gasworks Park, and the UW along the way.

But if you want to see the tourist attractions in Downtown, Seattle Center, Capitol Hill, etc., in a short span of time, it's going to be a lot of hills and streets with heavy traffic and possibly some rain, too. Downtown Seattle is especially unpleasant for bicycling.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2013

You can ride north on the Burke Gilman, too! I admit there isn't as much as if you stick to Seattle, but it's also less crowded up here. It'll take you near Matthews Beach (where you can swim), near Third Place Commons where you can get lunch and shop in Third Place Books, get some beer at a brewery right next to the trail, go to an old school bakery for some good apple turnovers or sausage rolls (this is a block or two off the trail).

The trail goes all the way to Idaho, I think. You'll probably want to turn around before then.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:06 PM on June 13, 2013

Yes hills. Skip Queen Anne Hill (the sidewalks have stairs). If you need to practice out in Boston take the Minuteman rail trail out as far as Park Ave and go up it although up Menotomy Rd off Mass av is more like intense parts of Seattle.

You should have no trouble finding a rental. Greenlake is flat and interesting for people watching, the Seattle Arboretum is great and very bikable, or bike over and rent a canoe. Downtown is urban but not especially scary to ride. You can take a bike on a ferry, there's a small one over to West Seattle Alki Point, or across to Bremerton, although that's quickly rural and make sure you know the return schedule.
posted by sammyo at 6:07 PM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived in Seattle for years and biked a lot--there are a lot of bikers around and drivers are pretty respectful. For the most part, anyway.

There are some places that are fun to bike, like the Burke-Gilman trail--that'll take you through much of the city, that should satisfy your itch. Just know that Seattle is hilly and while there are some flat places, much of it is not. Also, be prepared for rain. It's rarely heavy, but it does rain quite a bit.

If you figure out the bus schedules, you can load your bike on the front of a bus rack and it'll take you and your bike to the top of hills. When the bus stops at the bus stop, go straight for the rack, lower it, put your bike on, and lift the bar over the front wheel--it's easy but takes a bit of practice. Only two bike slots, though! You may way for a bus only to find the racks already taken.
posted by zardoz at 7:17 PM on June 13, 2013

When I was unsure about whether or not to ride in New York, I did a bicycle tour first. Riding in a group gave me the confidence that I could do it by myself, and I hired a bike after that.

This one gets good reviews.
posted by kjs4 at 11:07 PM on June 13, 2013

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