Recently I took a ride from Columbia City to Factoria, in South Bellevue. I headed out there to plan routes for a bike class that Morgan and I were to teach later in the week. (The class went great!) The ride across across Mercer Island on the I-90/ Mountains to Sound Trail was beautiful as always. This was the first time that Autumn really hit me this year. What a beautiful world.
And that spot on the edge of the Mercer Slough right there is the end of the pretty part. Trust me. If you you are riding for fun and looking for a pretty ride, you might wanna turn back here. Unless you are really in it for the long haul and are pushing on to Issaquah. Which is totally worth doing! Issaquah is fantastically pretty!
But Factoria is not very pretty and it is not a part of the world that is planned at a human level.
So much of the East Side is like that. A beautiful landscape with a kinda nightmare built environment dropped on top. This kind of sprawl and mall development reminds me of the parts of Long Island where I grew up. Not too easy a place to bike in. A dense web of high volume, high speed multi-lane roads and sudden, steep climbs make route finding in Factoria challenging.
But luckily, there are dozens of bike lanes and paths!
Apparently, none of those paths are longer than 100 yards. This Two Way Bike Path (sidewalk) ended after five minutes and I was directed into a gutter lane.
Then that bike lane ended and I was sent up to the sidewalk again, to squeeze past bus shelters and fire hydrants. This is all in the immediate vicinity of a large high school and the undisputed primary local destination, the ginormous Factoria Mall. Also, Morgan says that there is a great pet store nearby, with cool reptiles. I guess nobody wanted to walk or ride to school, the mall or the reptile emporium?
Turning back to Seattle I had a four foot wide lane to use on the right edge of a crazy busy road. I had this totally insufficient road space to myself for another five whole minutes before the lane ended suddenly. All five minutes sucked. There was nothing differentiating this bike lane from a regular shoulder. All the other road users knew this, too and they treated me like I was in the wrong place. They were right. I should have been either taking a lane or riding carefully on the sidewalks. At this point I was only using this ridiculous infrastructure so I could tell you about it later.
In the mile and a half ride to and from the site of our class I encountered a half dozen signs with messages like "Trail Ends." With confusing and piecemeal infrastructural concessions like these, it is hard to for me to believe that the City of Bellevue is as interested in providing safe routes for cyclists as it is in limiting its own exposure to liability.
Jump up on the sidewalk and hit this pedestrian crossing sign! Five (5!) minute wait for the signal to change.
Whatever you say. I'm over it.
Making a safe and welcoming environment for bikers and peds is not only up to municipal Departments of Transportation. One should be able to expect a little courtesy from fellow road users as well. I stood with my bike at this crosswalk, practically begging right turning drivers to make a space for me to cross for over five minutes before getting off my bike and walking around to the check the front of this sign. Then I stood there and pointed at the sign with a scolding frown on for another two minutes before an elderly couple took pity and let me cross.
This sign is the best punchline I could hope for. A sign pointing out another sign that offers a five point plan for crossing the street in the least intrusive ways possible.
Sometimes, bicycle infrastructure really does exist only to get us out of the way.