January 29, 2014

SRG's dedicated, low-carbon commuters are in our midst daily as harbingers of weather, traffic and shifts in urban living. Logging their performance across SRG's Portland and Seattle offices, they keep a rolling tally of the data. In the past year, this group (approximately 16% of the firm) has recorded more than 1,500 trips and nearly 15,000 miles. Wise from direct experience, two Seattle cyclists offer insights to help others increase efficiency, safety, and simply enjoy being out there.

How do you deal with the rain - visibility, getting through puddles, etc?

Gear. Good rain gear, shoes, lights and brakes are key. If you don't have good stuff, you have to get dressed in wet things, which kills the whole experience.

Do you prefer main roads with bike lanes or quieter back roads?

Bike lanes. More cars are around, but those that are seem to be aware that bikes are also around.

Seattle has recently painted new bike lanes onto major thoroughfares. Are they successful?

Painted lanes by themselves are mildly successful, but some of the more robust bike tracks are great. The new improvements to Dexter Avenue, for instance, are fantastic, but the new lanes on Stone Way and places like it really don't change much of anything. I'm concerned that the new Sharrows or cycle tracks, that put two-way bike traffic on one side of the street, will be a recipe for crashes. Pedestrians on Broadway Avenue simply might not look right before stepping into them.

What are your main concerns?

Public perception of bikes. It's just a mode of transportation, not a political statement. Drivers get unreasonably mad at all bikes because they have sometimes been inconvenienced by poor riders. The same invective when aimed at cars is called road rage. Somehow, it's considered socially acceptable to rant at and about bicyclists.

Safety in traffic. I've charted a route to work that I think is safe for about 80% of the trip, but the remaining 20% is very challenging. At this point, we have a few safe streets forming a patchwork at best. Seattle's Bicycle Master Plan ideally will help to make cars and bikes compatible, but will take time. Meanwhile, cyclists must follow the rules of the road, never run stop signs or red lights and remain vigilant.

What are your main pleasures?

The ride through Myrtle Edwards Park on a nice day is glorious. It's out of my way, but sometimes I go the extra mile (about three, actually) for the experience.

I like being outside in the fresh air and seeing incredible sights, such as the waterfront with large ships superimposed on the mountain ranges, and Seattle's skyline. Also, I like to witness the weather conditions changing from hot and sunny to ice cold and sunny, or having rain hit you sideways because the wind is blowing 25 mph. I guess it's the enjoyment of being outside, even for a small portion of the day, no matter what the conditions are.

I've noticed that cyclists eat hearty lunches. How do you get through the day?

I did some research on how many calories I burn. Here is my rough estimate: 17-miles round trip per day, averaging 16 miles per hour equals roughly 654 calories burned per day. Yes, there is certainly a workout benefit, plus in my case the bike ride including showering at the office and home takes about the same amount of time as using Seattle's public transportation.