Posts tagged ‘Spokane’

May 25, 2012

Bike to Work. Bike to Eat. Bike to Shop. Bike to Everything.

Spokane Bikes logoThe post title is a theme we’ve used on our posters the past few years for Bike to Work Week and reflects the reason we changed our name from Bike to Work Spokane to Spokane Bikes. The Spokane Bikes philosophy is that we want to encourage people to bike for all kinds of transportation purposes, not just to and from work.

In fact, those short utility trips on a weekend—say, a run to the hardware store, fabric store, or grocery store—can be a great warm-up for transitioning into work-related riding with its greater demands for timely arrival and appropriate appearance at the end of the ride.

Once you’ve gone through that evolution from cautious beginner to full-fledged commuter, riding your bike in various kinds of conditions for different trip purposes, you might get a great week like what I had for this year’s Bike to Work Week.

Monday: In our fifth year we continued the “tradition” of having somewhat (ahem) moistish atmospheric conditions for the Kickoff Breakfast. But we didn’t get rained on. Not really.

Mayor David Condon, City Council President, and City Council member Jon Snyder all spoke, Pedals2People ran the bike corral, Spokane Transit had a bus parked for people to practice putting a bike on the rack (first transit agency in the state to have racks on every bus, in fact!), we instituted composting for our paper and food throwaways, and we got the week rolling.

I got to chat with stalwart Marc Mims, who every year leads a contingent of Spokane Valley-ites all the way to downtown for Mountain Gear pancakes and Roast House “Ride the Edge” coffee. This year he rode downtown alone—blame those threatening skies at the hour he had to leave to be downtown before 7 a.m.—but Amy Biviano, candidate for the State House of Representatives in the 4th legislative district who had ridden in separately, rode back with him. Bike-commuting State Rep. Andy Billig, now a candidate for State Senate in the 3rd LD and a volunteer for the event in years past, also attended the festivities.

Tuesday: Incredibly windy! Strong enough that when Belles and Baskets founder Betsy and I met up to have coffee, I have to ‘fess up that we wrestled my bike into the trunk of her little Honda Civic and drove together rather than me fighting my way to our rendezvous.

It was probably an entertaining sight to watch us load up, as my Donkey Boxx—while uber-awesome for hauling stuff—adds to the challenge of working with the hatch configuration of the Civic.

Further confession: I missed the Belles and Baskets group ride on the Fish Lake Trail in the evening and the post-ride chat at the bike-friendly Elk Public House, having gone home early and gotten comfy while I worked on some deadline-driven projects. I know, ladies, I missed out. Another time!

Wednesday: Energizer Stations! My sweetheart and I biked down together and stopped at Rings & Things (designated a Bike-Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists), where Polly and Amy served up Roast House coffee and bananas with the help of young Zander. For a good laugh read Marc Mims’ tale of coffee delivery woe, and shed a little tear over the spilled elixir of life.

The forecast for the day had some rain in it and I had quite a few meetings out of the office, but I had one of those lucky days where every time it rained I was inside and by the time I needed to ride the streets were drying out again. Biking has definitely made me far more weather-conscious.

At the end of the day, riding home around 7:45 p.m. from a LaunchPad event at Mobius Science Center (I can’t wait ’til it opens! Our kids are gonna love it), I saw the kinds of sights I’m sure I often missed as a driver, including a young African-American kid with one of the glossiest and most beautiful sets of long braids I’ve ever seen spinning along on a small bike and stopping to talk with his friends, and a double rainbow to the south over the freeway.

Eastbound on Fourth at Stevens I rolled alongside a man on the sidewalk who spun his wheelchair rapidly past Lewis and Clark High School, wearing a crisp white shirt and black dress pants. At the stoplight I wasn’t sure if the driver waiting behind me to turn right saw my wheeled companion since I might be blocking the view, so when the light turned green I moved slowly into the intersection to ride interference for a few yards before accelerating.

Thursday: An early-morning breakfast meeting followed by yet another meeting at Atticus Coffee, a regular stop for me thanks to the bike rack out front and the Roast House coffee served inside. (Yes, this is a recurring theme. I ride caffeinated and Roast House totally rocks the support for local bike events.)

After another busy day at work—busy because I was taking Friday off and had to pound out quite a few things before leaving for a four-day weekend—I headed to the always-rewarding Bike to Work Wrap-Up Party at Steam Plant Grill, one of our founding sponsors who every years throws a bike party for us and pours the beer they brew in-house.

I love that party. There are the regulars who have been there since the beginning, the ones who started riding that first year and have become regulars, the long-time bike advocates who’ve been at this far longer than I like Spokane Bike Buddy Eileen Hyatt, and the newbies who are thrilled with their accomplishments in their first-ever week of riding.

Spokane Public Radio, another important sponsor for Bike to Work Week, gave us some goodie bags to give away at the event. We weren’t doing a full-on raffle so co-chair Erika Prins and I hatched an idea: We would give the bags to people who have founded or established something that is making a difference and expanding opportunities and motivation to ride. Our list (and there would have been more had we had more goodies):

  • Bill Bender, founder of SpokeFest, which grew from their first ride the same year we founded Bike to Work Spokane to add Spokane Summer Parkways.
  • Marc Mims, who organizes the Spokane Valley activities for Bike to Work Week, rallied “Spokane Valley Cyclists FOR the Broadway Safety Project” to protect a key bike lane project from the ax, and put together a “Pedal with the Politicians” ride to educate elected officials about the project and the need for infrastructure.
  • Jon Snyder, Spokane City Council member and candidate for the House in the 3rd legislative district, for his leadership in spearheading adoption of the Complete Streets ordinance and all he does as publisher of Out There Monthly to highlight biking in the region.
  • Betsy Lawrence, founder of Belles and Baskets, which now has over 450 fans on Facebook and turns out dozens of women twice a month to ride, chat, and support each other in informal and transportation riding.
  • John Speare, blogger at Cycling Spokane and former member of the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board who has been a consistent voice for everyday riding and the all-important “bike hang” at various beverage-dispensing establishments.

Friday: Stayed home, attended to the Women’s Bike Blogs list so I can keep highlighting featured blogs and adding to the RSS feed on Twitter and Facebook (from a list that will number over 700 the next time I post an update!), and did other bike-related word work like this post. I wish I’d had time to ride since we had some nice sunshine, but reflecting back on the week is worth the time.

Work to eat. Eat to live. Live to bike. Bike to work (and everything else). Happy biking!

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Pretend we have unlimited goodie bags. What unsung sparkplugs (to mix a metaphor) would you give them to as a thank-you for what they’ve done for biking in Spokane?
  • How much riding did you get in during the week? What kinds of destinations?
  • Did you help anyone get started riding this month? If so, self-high-five! (raise hands over head and jump a little as you slap them together)
May 15, 2012

It’s Time to Bike to Work, Spokane! (Energizing Update)

Ahahahaha! That’s a funny joke Mother Nature played on us. Responding to pleas that we hold the Spokane Bike to Work Week later than the national week because our Kickoff Breakfast always gets rained on, we scheduled this year’s events for Sunday, May 20-Saturday, May 26.

And did you get a load of that weather forecast for this week, which is National Bike to Work Week? Sunny and beautiful. Every. Single. Day. Next week? A little partly cloudy heading our way.

But not on Monday, I hasten to add. We will have a nice morning for the Kickoff Breakfast. This is your warm-up week and next week is the real deal.

So here’s the deal: You need to sign up. We want everyone who bikes to count and be counted and that’s what your registration does.

It’s a simple little form–about 30 seconds of your time–at the Spokane Bikes website. While you’re there you can RSVP for our fun events so the good folks serving up the food know how many riders to expect.

Monday, May 21, 7-9am: Kickoff Breakfast, Riverfront Park Gondola Meadows. Founding sponsor Mountain Gear will be serving up those great pancakes, and Roast House Coffee will pour some Ride the Edge to get you properly caffeinated for the day!

Wednesday, May 23, 6:30-8:30am or thereabouts: Energizer Stations, various locations. Date/time may vary depending on the specific location/sponsor so check the map and plan your route to get a boost on your way to work or whatever your destination may be.

Thursday, May 25, 4:30-6:30pm: Wrap-Up Party, Steam Plant Grill (another founding sponsor and a great bike-friendly restaurant with that rack in their covered parking area). Pay attention, peeps–party is on Thursday! Usually we wrap up on Friday but since the change of date pointed us into Memorial Day Weekend, we thought we’d party early, encourage you to ride one more day in the week, and leave Friday for you and the family.

Commute Challenge: All month long! Use the form to share how many vehicle miles you’ve avoided by riding your bike and help add to the awesomeness.

And did I mention you should sign up?

March 22, 2012

Shop & Swap! Spokane Bike Swap Saturday-Sunday

Close-up of Nuu-Muu and Ruu-Muu fabricsC’mon down! Bike Style Spokane will hold our first shopping event of the season (it is the season, honest! Snow? What snow?) at this weekend’s Spokane Bike Swap.

The event offers plenty of reasons besides our bike stylin’ cuteness to head on out to the Spokane Fairgrounds, and with a forecast of 57 degrees for Saturday and 59 for Sunday you’ll be itching to think about bikes (and what you’ll wear riding, of course).

The deets–

Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon

Spokane Fairgrounds, Annex A

Entrance fee: $5 (kids 12/under free)

Proceeds benefit the Friends of the Centennial Trail, who have worked for decades to provide this great community amenity.

Once upon a time I was a volunteer for the North Idaho Centennial Trail Committee as we worked to construct the trail segment on that side of the state line, before I moved back to Spokane to a location that lets me ride along the Spokane River pretty often (but never often enough).

If you’re in the market for a bike for yourself or a kidlet in the family, you’ll have an array to choose from, both new and used–everything from mountain bikes to recumbents. If you’re ready to trade up or get rid of a spare you can sell your bike too ($10 fee to sell).

You’ll find bikes and gear both new and used, the chance to practice getting your bike on and off the bike rack on a Spokane Transit bus, helmet fitting, bike tour info, and more–and of course, the chance to hang out with Spokane’s friendly bike community and talk shop.

Bike Style will be there with a sampling of some of the cute products we carry and a new item or two you haven’t seen yet, with special pricing on a few items just for you.

Pop quiz: What’s one of the distinguishing features of the Spokane Transit system as it relates to bikes? Post your guesses in the comment section below and I’ll post the answer later.

Poster for Pedal Panties: Underwear for extra comfort on your bike saddle that fits under regular clothes. Made in US.

Pedal Panties. You know you want 'em. Or need 'em. More than underwear, less than a bike short.

February 11, 2012

Unmindful Biking by Yours Truly

At times I try to approach biking as a genuine mindfulness meditation. The immersion of self into the experience feels really wonderful when I get there.

At times, though, I’m immersed in something more like dumb-ass-ness. Herewith, three stories of times I was not 100% mindful on the bike (all of which took place some time ago and believe me, I learn from each one):

Dumb #1

I’m 3rd in line (taking the lane) behind a car and a pick-up truck at a red light (westbound on Spokane Falls at Bernard, for you Spokanites–in front of FedEx Kinko’s).

Light turns green. Car goes. Pick-up goes. I go.

I look down to check what gear I’m in or some such.

Car stops for unknown reason. Pick-up stops. I am looking down so….

I run into back of pick-up, fall over, and scrape myself up badly enough that I’m still bleeding when I arrive at the meeting I’m going to.

Good news: The driver stopped to ask if I was okay and if I needed any help.

Dumb #2 (although I give myself lots of latitude on this one because of the cause)

I’m turning left onto the Southeast Boulevard bike lane from our street. As is our ritual whenever one of us leaves and the other is still at home, Sweetest Husband is on the front porch waving to me.

I make sure it’s safe to make the left turn but…. in my love for my sweetheart and my desire to wave back, I manage to take the turn a little too wide, clip the curb, and fall over, scraping my knee. (There is a theme here.)

Good news: Sweet Hubs didn’t see my fall so he didn’t have to be all alarmed and rush to my rescue. However, I may hear about this now that it has been confessed to the Gods of Google.

Dumb #3 (could have been life-ending)

Sometimes–for some deeply masochistic reason–I ride at least part of the way up Stevens on the South Hill. It’s a heart attack hill with four lanes that split into two two-lane roads, one climbing farther up the hill as Bernard, one swinging left and dropping down to join Grand Boulevard.

As I go more and more slowly up the hill I eventually give up and move to the sidewalk to push my bike up. Someday I’ll climb the whole thing again–I used to ride up Bernard on a heavy old big-box special I called the Iron Maiden.

For the record it’s a 6.8 percent climb for this particular stretch, from Fourth Avenue up to Ninth. If you search for a Google Maps route on this stretch with the Bike option they don’t put you on Washington at all; they quite wisely send you up the much quieter side street Bernard, where your huffing and puffing aren’t slowing people on a four-lane arterial.

As the lefthand lanes swing left they also top out. This is a relatively blind corner for drivers who are accelerating up the hill on a major arterial.

Map of a portion of South Stevens Street, Spokane, WA

You don't want to climb this unless you're in training. Besides being steep, it carries a sometimes scary volume of traffic around blind corners and drivers don't expect cyclists here.

Like an idiot–and I have done this more than once and lived to tell the tale–instead of continuing to push my bike on the sidewalk at this point I get into the lane, clip in and start riding again.

I do always check to make sure no cars are coming. Since there’s a traffic light a couple of blocks down it’s relatively easy to recognize a burst of traffic and wait for it to pass so you’re in a clear zone. But that’s no guarantee, as traffic can come from side streets out of sight around the corner.

On one particular occasion–the last time I ever did this maneuver–I had trouble getting started pedaling after I’d clipped in and almost fell over before I could get my foot free to catch myself.

My pulse raced beyond anything I’ve achieved on a hill climb as I realized how easily I could have died if a driver had come whipping uphill around that blind corner just then.

Good news: I learned the lesson without paying the ultimate price. Never again.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • I’ve confessed some of my dumb-ass-ness. What near-miss did you have that shook you out of some of your less mindful or more careless/complacent biking habits?
February 8, 2012

It Pays to Pay Attention

Back in the saddle again after almost a week in New York City, where people on bikes share streets with New York cabbies and millions of people, and what happens? Tuesday morning I have possibly my closest call ever with a moving vehicle, reinforcing yet again the importance of mindfulness for safe riding.

The scenario: I am riding northbound on Sherman between Fifth and Third, in a stretch that has two vehicle travel lanes and no bike lane.

I need to move into the lefthand lane because I want to be in the turn-only lane to head west on Second, which is a newly paved street (and a bike route). I always make this lane change in this block because the block between Third and Second is really short. There isn’t much time or room in that stretch so I am making a safer move by executing my lane change here–usually.

I do what I always do for a lane change. I look back to make sure the lane is clear, signal the lane change with an outflung left arm, and move into the left lane.

At the same time I am keeping an eye on a big white SUV a few yards ahead that is waiting to pull out of the Primesource Credit Union parking lot on the left side of the street and into the street on which I am riding.

This is the mindfulness part: Always be scanning your environment. Always.

My Sweet Hubs, who spent years in the Marine Corps (active duty and reserves), calls this “situational awareness.” You need mindfulness/awareness when you ride the way you need tires and brakes: essential equipment for arriving at your destination.

I see the gray-haired driver turn her head in my direction. I can tell from the way she does it that this is one of those fake scans. She turns her head but I will bet you anything her eyeballs don’t fully register what is coming downhill toward her. She doesn’t keep her face pointed uphill long enough to see for real.

I know for darn sure she doesn’t see me because she pulls out directly into my path.

I see this coming and am hitting the brakes, turning in the same direction she is heading because that’s how you avoid a collision.

But she isn’t turning into the closest lane to her—the legal turn—the lane I was occupying when she initiated this game of chicken.

Instead she is turning into the second, farther lane, the haven I’m seeking as I maneuver to avoid hitting her. (Oh, the irony—if we collide it will be me hitting her because she pulled out into my path. Who is at fault here?)

She ends up in the righthand lane. I am behind her, my heart going 60,000 miles per hour. I ride up behind and knock a couple of times on her rear quarter-panel, wanting her to see the cyclist who is now behind her. At least I’m not under her.

She makes the right turn onto Third, driving slowly and looking back to see if I’m following, now that I finally have her attention.

I debate rapidly in this moment. Should I turn behind her and wave her into a parking lot, talk with her, tell her how close she came to injuring or killing me through her sloppy and inattentive driving?

Perhaps wrongly, I decide against this. I proceed on my way, and so does the driver of a late-model white SUV, Idaho plates 7B 533. She’s from Bonner County—that’s what the 7B on her plate signifies. That’s an incredibly low license plate number so she’s had it for many years. (I used to live in Idaho; low numbers are a point of pride because they signify you’re not a newcomer.)

At this moment I am strongly reminded of the near-miss I had as a pedestrian a few years ago in the middle of the campus where I work. That driver, too, was gray-haired and not looking.

I am reminded of my father, whose driver’s license was the subject of years of effort before we could get him off the road and end the danger to others that he represented when he kept driving long after his hearing went and after any belief he’d had in the need to follow instructions on traffic signs (like, say, “stop”) had evaporated.

I am reminded of the bicycle/vehicle collisions in our area–some of which have resulted in fatalities and ghost bikes planted as memorials–and collisions around the country that I read about on biking blogs.

I am reminded—yet again—that mindfulness is the most important cycling skill I have.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you have a near-miss story?
  • Who wasn’t paying attention?
January 23, 2012

Just Like Riding a Bike—Or Not

Alternatively you can point your right hand for a right turn, which I use more often because it's more intuitive.

When someone describes something you learn once and never forget, that person often says, “It’s just like riding a bike!” Meaning you can just get on and pedal away and muscle memory will do the rest.

That’s kind of funny, when you think about it: a bike analogy used routinely every day, probably by hundreds of thousands of people who don’t actually get on a bike very often, if at all, in their adult routines.

How this is accurate: Your body does remember the balancing act you learned all those years ago. You can get on a bike after years of not riding and pedal away—perhaps a bit shaky, perhaps having lost the ability to ride hands-free that you practiced and practiced and practiced in the street in front of your house, but still having the fundamental physical skills.

How this is not accurate: You most likely learned to ride a bike as a little kid. You knew nothing about the rules of the road except what your parents told you. You had never interacted with traffic as a driver. You may not even have crossed the street by yourself yet if you learned at a really young age. Your parents presumably (possibly) taught you the basic hand signals (although I don’t think mine did—when I was little we lived in the wheat and alfalfa country outside of Lewiston and there wasn’t enough traffic to warrant much signaling—I was faster than a combine or harvester).

(I remember riding last summer behind another woman on a bike who confidently signaled her right turn with the upraised bent arm–and promptly turned left. Good thing I wasn’t close enough to be counting on her to execute the maneuver she had signaled.)

Those physical skills from your childhood aren’t enough, though, for navigating city streets as an adult. You’re much more aware of the potential danger and you know more about the traffic flow, but you may not know much more about bike law than you did as a kid, particularly if you took your driver’s test a long time ago. It’s only in recent years that they started including bike-related questions on the driver’s license test.

You may misremember or misapply rules you think you know, too. I’ve seen adults riding against traffic because they’re thinking like pedestrians, but bikes are vehicles and should ride with the flow of traffic. And some places have special local rules, like the City of Spokane’s ordinances requiring you to wear a helmet and forbidding riding on sidewalks in the central business district downtown.

When I moved back to Spokane from Coeur d’Alene years ago, I remember my nephew—who had made the move before me—warning me, “It’s weird—there are lots of bike questions on the driver’s test!” We both wondered why that was. Well, now I know—it’s because drivers need to know the rights and responsibilities of people on bikes. People on bikes need to know, too.

Because riding a bike isn’t exactly, well, just like riding a bike.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What do you remember about learning to ride a bike as a kid?
  • What do you wish more people on bikes knew about bike laws?
January 15, 2012

Spending the Day Running Around Downtown: Bikespedition #4

My original definition of a bikespedition included the idea that I would target a particular neighborhood and explore it pretty thoroughly.

Saturday, though, I spent the day on a bikespedition of a different sort: just running around on my bike from place to place for a fun day of activities.

I thought I’d catalog it to show how easy—truly easy—it can be to use your bike for a day of friend time and errands. Even if you never venture into rush hour traffic on a bike, you might spend some weekend days pedaling around.

It also turned out to be a 100% “buy local” experience (counting one larger retailer that is headquartered in Washington state). Spokane’s greater downtown area is fortunate to be home to many one-of-a-kind businesses, which makes this pretty easy.

Letters below correspond to spots on the map.

A–Scout: My monthly girl gang get-together assembled at this new restaurant at First and Monroe next to the Montvale Hotel to check them out. Our crowd of a dozen or so was probably a bit much for the servers, but they were cheerful and the food was decent. This is in the same block as the tail end of Bikespedition #1 to Carnegie Square.

B–REI: To get to the north bank I headed east to Wall, then doubled back to take the Post Street Bridge up to Boone and west to REI—a slightly quieter route than Monroe. This was a quick errand; I’d been carrying around a receipt thinking I’d been overcharged but turns out I read the sale price wrong.

C–Rocket Bakery: Next I had a shopping date with a couple of girlfriends (Megan and of course Betsy of Belles and Baskets) back at Carnegie Square.

From REI I took the straight shot across the Monroe Street Bridge, although I could have backtracked via Boone to Post if I wanted to avoid the heavier traffic entirely. From Monroe it’s a nice ride along Riverside Avenue to Cedar, and I parked my bike in the rack in front of Carousel Vintage.

Fringe and Fray: In the same building as the Rocket—they don’t have a lot of dressy things but it was worth checking.

Carousel Vintage: Right across from the Rocket and Fringe and Fray. Owner Jenny Stabile knows from vintage and brought some great knit suits (perfect for riding) up from downstairs for me to check out—too bad they didn’t fit, but I’ll be back!

Megan was hoping to find a vintage dressy dress for an upcoming gala. This was the fun kind of shopping: open to possibilities but no “must find it today!” pressure.

D–Finders Keepers II: Staying in the dressy-dress hunt, we headed to the block of West Main between Browne and Division. They have bunches of special-occasion dresses–not vintage, but some things made to look vintage. Megan still didn’t score a dress but I got a great wool hat.

E–Nectar Tasting Room: Owner Josh was holding a couple of bottles for me (a Washington wine from a vintage that was about to sell out) so I swung by the corner of Main and Stevens to pick those up.

Because I was on the bike I could skip some of the one-way messing about by walking my bike for a block, although it wouldn’t have been more than another couple of blocks out of my way if I had ridden. Biking is often more directionally efficient than driving because of the flexibility to switch modes and become a pedestrian.

F–Neat Old Stuff: We came here specifically because of my SoDo bikespedition, without which I never would have found this place. We got to taste some amazing fudge owner CP shared with us, Betsy got a way-cool piece for a Halloween costume that I won’t describe because that would spoil the surprise, and Megan tried on more dresses. Still no luck, but this was one fun time.

I thought about making a couple more stops at Sun People Dry Goods and the Spokane Public Market because they were only a block away, but decided to head home to Sweet Hubs and cook something delicious for dinner.

Basically I spent time with friends, shopped, ate, and had fun: the definition of a successful bikespedition!

I’d also add that if I had done all this running around in a car, I know from experience that a day with eight stops in it would have felt more like a series of chores because of the constant parking/reparking. Because all I have to do is hitch to the nearest tall signpost, I’m inside and shopping in a flash.

Oh, in case you think I can’t count when you look at the titles of the bikespedition posts below, there’s a missing #3 that I need to write about. Betsy and I explored South Perry back in October and I keep meaning to write it up. One of these days! Meanwhile, you should just go there and check it out for yourself.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What is the biggest number of stops you’ve made in a single day running around on your bike?
January 13, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Way Is a Great Street–Hypothetically, That Is

On Pine Street looking south. You can tell these streets will get one more layer of asphalt--look at that sewage access plate sticking up.

The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Way–the name for the extension of Riverside Avenue east of Division–isn’t open yet. So of course no one has ridden a bike on it yet.

Hypothetically speaking, the light skiff of snow that fell in mid-December might have lured some wayward person on a bike to take a right off northbound Division onto the untouched snow. Said hypothetical cyclist might have gloried in the absolute freedom to ride anywhere in the street similar to Spokane Summer Parkways, unfettered by the need to look out for larger vehicles.

This hypothetical bike rider could head east to Sherman, where the new street curves northward to connect with Spokane Falls Boulevard near the WSU Spokane Student Bookstore. That’s currently a four-way stop–someday to have a traffic light, or so I hear. Drivers aren’t expecting any traffic out of a closed street, so obviously if someone were coming from that direction, it would behoove that person to exercise due diligence in navigating the intersection.

Should this same nonexistent person have wanted to try MLK Way the other direction, westbound, it would be wise to note that the street lacks its final lift of asphalt so the sewer access plate projects up a good three inches or more, making the usual right tire track position a bad choice. Of course, with a light skiff of snow this would be pretty obvious so no disaster need occur.

Looking west at the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Way (Riverside west of this point) and Division.

It would be tricky to come out of a closed street and re-enter regular traffic, of course. If this hypothetical rider headed west on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way needed to end up heading eastbound on Sprague two options exist.

The first is to walk the bike across Division as a pedestrian with the light, then get back in the lane, ride to Browne, turn left, go a block, and turn left on Sprague. (I hypothesize that one would want to do this as a pedestrian right now because one would otherwise be riding out of a closed street straight into traffic with drivers who think they have a free left turn and no oncoming traffic.)

If, however, this hypothetical rider wanted to take full advantage of the flexibility a bike allows, switching between vehicle and pedestrian modes, a great route might present itself that’s far easier than dealing with the one-way street issues and car commuter traffic.

This is the signage you'll see on the right (east) side of the street just after you come under the railroad tracks at Sprague heading northbound on Division. This will be a nice little public plaza when it's finished.

At the intersection of the new street and Division, where traffic barriers prevent cars from continuing east on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, someone on a bike could get off the bike and use the sidewalk as a pedestrian to walk a tiny half-block south. (The lack of the final layer of asphalt would mean a steep lip between the sidewalk and the street surface, so someone who can’t execute a bunny hop to jump the bike up onto the sidewalk really does need to walk as a pedestrian, which is safer on sidewalks anyway.)

Using the WALK signal to navigate as a southbound pedestrian through the dark and narrow intersection of Sprague and Division, with the light enabling the one-way northbound traffic on Division, the hypothetical cyclist could easily turn the bike onto Sprague, get back on, and pedal eastward, knowing that no traffic would be coming from behind until after the light changed so the rider would have a couple of blocks’ head start and could choose whether to stay on Sprague or drop one block south to use First, with its lower volume of traffic. (Traffic on Division that wants to head east on Sprague has its own lane for their right turn so they shouldn’t interfere with this little maneuver in the lane, which is not something I’d recommend at most regular four-way intersections.)

The bike advantage: Instead of having to loop around the one-way streets, just take to the sidewalk (the University District signage above is to the left of this photo), then get back into the street to head eastbound on Sprague. Drivers can't change modes the way we can.

Thus Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, with its complete streets design of sidewalks, planting strips, and lanes where bike lanes will be striped when the street is finished in spring 2012 might represent some stellar virgin riding along the south edge of the Riverpoint Campus with no cars to contend with. So pleasant, in fact, that this little experiment could have been repeated multiple times in both directions long after that tiny bit of snow melted.

Hypothetically, that is.

January 12, 2012

What I Saw Taking the Road Less Traveled (by Me, That Is)

I made variety one of my watchwords for my 2012 biking, along with consistency and mindfulness. On my Wednesday ride I put all three to work, and thought I’d share a little ride report to show them in action.

Consistency: I went home from work Tuesday with a migraine (luckily pretty rare for me now—once much more common) and was still under the weather Wednesday. I swear migraines give me a hangover! It’s a sick headache feeling at the back of the skull, plus the headache kept trying to creep back.

Luckily I had almost no meetings Wednesday (also pretty rare) except for one at the end of the day. To stay consistent, and because I know cold fresh air does wonders for me, I rode from home to the meeting in downtown.

Variety: I varied my route both directions. Going downtown I took Rockwood Boulevard to Washington (woot for the rapid downhill!).

When I take that route to downtown usually I’d use Riverside to get to Post, my destination street. Instead I took Second Avenue. This was around 4 p.m. and, per my usual experience on Second, with its three wide-open westbound lanes, stoplights, and typical traffic load I had absolutely no problem keeping up with the flow of traffic—a point I make because of repeated assertions that Second wouldn’t work as a bike route.

Instead of turning north on Howard, with its bike lane, I went to Post. This did a couple of things: It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to take Sweet Hubs the carnivore out to dinner at Churchill’s Steakhouse (where I, the vegetarian, will eat a baked potato or their Cougar Gold mac ‘n cheese).

It also gave me a longer perspective on River Park Square, reminding me of what it felt like around 13 or so years ago to go to the grand opening and see that big glass façade at the end of Post. Usually I’m much closer to it, for example riding to or past it on Main, so this isn’t a view I see unless I look up or look from a different angle, which brings me to….

Mindfulness: I was right—I’m in a rut! I had to think about choosing a different route that would let me check out different traffic interactions and intersections and let me see with new eyes.

I remember years ago when I moved back to Spokane from Coeur d’Alene and was able to give up my long drive to/from work. One of the first days after moving I started to get on the freeway headed east toward Coeur d’Alene without even realizing it—just automatically got in that lane for that on-ramp instead of this direction for this destination. It happens on the bike too!

On the way home Wednesday night I (ahem) passed on the “opportunity” to change my usual route by climbing either Bernard or Cowley (heart attack hills, both of ’em).

Variety meant turning south one block before the intersection of Fifth and Sherman, a four-way stop on my usual route home.

Instead I climbed a block on Grant to Hartson, then took it to Sherman. The advantage of this route is that if the traffic backs up at the four-way stop I can skip all that and get straight into the bike lane that starts just south of that intersection.

I do like gaming the system at the stop, though—seeing if I can s-l-o-w-l-y keep pedaling up the hill as cars take their turns and never actually stop and put a foot to the ground before it’s my turn to take the right turn up the hill.

At any rate, I’m glad I consciously adopted some goals for my riding, both in terms of days/miles and in terms of how I approach my riding. I’ve never done this before—it will be interesting to see how it goes over the course of the year.

Ride Report

  • Days ridden in 2012 (as of Wednesday, Jan. 11): 9 of 11 days (goal is 250 days)
  • Miles: 57.17 miles. My goal is 1,200, which is only 100 miles a month. It already feels as if I set the target a bit low, but that’s okay–management of expectations, right?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What routes and turns do you find yourself making without thinking about it? (just like a driver)
December 20, 2011

We Get to Complete our Streets!

Kudos to the Spokane City Council for the 5-2* vote last night to enact the Complete Streets ordinance. A round of applause and a bouquet of locally grown flowers for Kitty Klitzke of Futurewise, who rallied the troops, circulated the petitions, and kept reminding us when to write, sign petitions, and go testify. More flowers for everyone involved in the Safe and Complete Streets Education Coalition that worked to educate the citizens on why complete streets are the streets we need for everyone. And eternal gratitude to Councilman Jon Snyder, who led the effort that resulted in last night’s ordinance.

I had the honor of testifying at the Council meeting along with around 40 others who showed up in support.** I’ll share (an approximate version of) my remarks here to capture my little contribution to a piece of Spokane history.

I’m a resident of the City of Spokane. I drive. I walk. I ride the bus. I buy goods that are shipped here by rail, air, and truck. And I ride a bike.

I want to tell a story of my own transformation. In 2001, I moved back to Spokane and bought a house on a bus line, which was a deliberate choice.

In 2005, I bought another house. This one was on a bus line and within biking distance of my workplace.

What happened in between was that in 2003 the City of Spokane put a bike lane in front of my house and I started riding to work. Visible bike infrastructure is an important signal, particularly to women, that biking is safe and it is possible.

I only rode once in a while to begin with. And now, when 2011 wraps up, I will have driven my car alone to work a grand total of 16 days the entire year. Every other day of the year I biked or rode the bus.

Home-buying decisions like these are why in 2008, the National Association of Realtors revised their policy statement on transportation to say that transportation planning should include all modes.

And in 2009, CEOs for Cities released a report showing that homes with a higher Walk Score are worth more.

By adopting a Complete Streets policy you can simultaneously increase the value of the single largest asset I will ever own and yield more government revenue in tough times.

That’s the real estate rationale for Complete Streets. It also contributes to workforce mobility and safety, with safer interactions for all users, not just those of us on bikes or on foot.

Richard Florida, who is famous for his studies of the Creative Class, analyzed cities with higher rates of bike commuting and compared them to cities with lower rates. The cities with higher rates of bike commuting were more affluent, better educated, had more knowledge-economy jobs, were fitter, and were happier.

When you add this infrastructure you tell people it’s possible to choose a different way of getting around. Even if they only ride their bikes to a coffee shop on Saturday with a friend, that means less wear and tear on the streets. I’m pretty sure I pay for a lot more street value than I actually use.

Let me close with another story, this one about my dad. Someone testified earlier about not being able to bike or walk because his knees were too bad so he doesn’t think Complete Streets are for him.

When my dad was 92 we finally got the car keys away from him. I can tell you that he should have lost them at around 87. But without his car he had no vision of any other way to get around. The only form of transportation he could imagine was the single-occupancy vehicle, so when that was gone he lost his independence.

I hope that when I’m old and I shouldn’t be driving that I will be able to retain my independence much longer because I know how to ride transit, and I hope you have made bus stops more accessible by completing sidewalks and providing curb cuts.

Complete Streets don’t force anyone to change their mode of transportation who doesn’t want. But they invite us to consider different ways of getting around through design. Complete Streets are a good policy choice for all of us.

* Voting yes: Steve Corker, Richard Rush, Joe Shogan, Jon Snyder, Amber Waldref. Voting no: Bob Apple, Nancy McLaughlin

** Totally extraneous winter biking style note: I wore a knee-length wool skirt, boots, SmartWool tights and extra pair of thick wool socks, blazer, merino turtleneck, and ThermaSilk base layer under that. I got a compliment on the outfit and, “Are you riding home in that?!” per usual. I rode home from the meeting in 25-degree weather with a ski jacket, lobster-claw gloves, scarf, and face mask. By the time I got home (around 3 miles uphill) I was so warm I couldn’t stand it. Still riding!

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • A “complete street” is one that accommodates the various modes safely and provides for their needs. This doesn’t mean a bike lane on every street–individual design accommodations vary. Do you get to ride on any complete streets on your way to work?
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