Category Archives: Urban

Taking a spin with Spin

After running a few errands on foot yesterday afternoon, I wandered my way through the neighborhood on my return trip home. I was making my way past a popular playground park when I spotted this:

Spin bike at park

This, my friends, is a Spin bike.

Spin is one of two private bike share companies (the other is LimeBike) that launched services in Seattle this month. They’re easy to identify: Spin bikes are bright orange and LimeBikes are bright green/yellow. Both bikes are equipped with front baskets, kickstands and locking devices.

You need a smart phone to download an app and a credit/debit card to use either bike share. The apps help you locate nearby bikes, unlock them and pay for your ride ($1 for thirty minutes). This screenshot shows the distribution of Spin bikes in West Seattle at this moment. As you can see, most of them are clustered along the waterfront.

Spin map

I had downloaded both apps earlier this week in anticipation of trying out these bikes, so I was ready to ride when I discovered the Spin bike at the park. I scanned the barcode to unlock the bike, paid for my ride and took off for a test ride. My ride lasted for about twenty minutes and here are my quick observations:

  • The bike is easy to use but the 3-speed gearing isn’t low enough for Seattle hills. Spin is aware of this and promises lower gears on its next round of bikes in the city.
  • I like the convenience of parking the bike almost anywhere at the end of my ride (public bike racks or on the sidewalk out of the way of pedestrian traffic).
  • With good citywide coverage, these bikes will make good options for spontaneous short trips.
  • Downside: Not everyone has smart phones or credit/debit cards in order to use the system.
  • Downside: Unless you travel with bike helmet in tow, you’ll probably violate our local helmet law when you ride of these bikes.

Will I take a spin with Spin again? You bet. I’m also looking forward to trying out a LimeBike soon.

spin bike 2

Bike up!

Fremont Bridge

In urban, traffic-gridlocked Seattle many folks (me included) often opt to move around the city by bike.

The Fremont Bridge, a drawbridge spanning the Lake Washington Ship Canal, is a bicycle thoroughfare. It links Fremont and other North Seattle neighborhoods to Queen Anne, South Lake Union and downtown. It connects the Burke-Gilman Trail, which parallels the waterway’s north shoreline, to the South Ship Canal and South Lake Union Trails on the other side.

Yesterday there were 4,525 bike trips across the Fremont Bridge. Yes, you read that number correctly. In 2016, people on bikes crossed this bridge 981,908 times. That’s nearly a million bike trips across this bridge!

Mother Nature forces us to take a break from work and politics

snow-day

Today Mother Nature gave us a snow day in Seattle. It was a much needed respite from the political havoc that has descended upon this nation since the transition to a Republican administration.

snowmanFor at least a few hours, many Seattleites opted to shun news, social media and work to play in the snow. Instead of turning on the morning news programs, we walked through neighborhoods blanketed with snow. We tuned out the tweets in favor of building snowmen. We took a day off work to sled with our kids.

For those who eschew winter, the snow day was a perfect time to ignore current events and cozy up to a fire. We used the down time to catch up on some reading or finish a knitting project. It was a chance to watch a movie that we added to our Netflix list months ago.

Thanks, Mother Nature. We really needed this break today. Tomorrow will be a new day.

snow-day-2

The Aimless Bike Ride

IMG_8989

We live in a society that values productivity and achieving goals.  Work hard, play hard. Worthy attainments, yes. But sometimes overrated in my opinion.

My idea of a full and productive life includes ample amounts of unplanned time. This free time allows me to be spontaneous in joining friends at the last minute for an activity, or it’s a time to chill, or it can be used to wander and wonder.

I frequently opt to wander and wonder. These aimless rambles are on foot or by bike, and are often in my neighborhood or an easy bus ride away. They typically involve exploring streets, paths and alleys in search of the interesting, unusual, odd or beautiful gem. And they always include a pause to take in my surroundings, reflect, and wonder.

I went on an aimless bike ride on Sunday, rolling down the hill to a waterfront park. To my surprise, it was low tide–reason enough to pause, sit, and take in the Puget Sound views. Continue reading

Pioneer Square Alley Exploration

Many folks retreat to the indoors when it is raining. I decided to embrace the wetness on this rainy day and head outside for some urban exploration. My destination: Pioneer Square.

This Tlingit totem pole stands in Pioneer Square.

Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, Pioneer Square is rich in history, culture and quirky haunts. A Tlingit totem pole, a waterfall and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park are an easy walk of each other. Art galleries and restaurants share the neighborhood with high tech start ups and homeless shelters.

I like Pioneer Square because of its people-friendly design and public spaces. Streets tend to be narrow so traffic moves slowly, making it perfect for pedestrians and bicyclists. Parks and public squares invite you to sit, linger, and engage with the neighborhood.

Nord-Alley-bikesSince it’s a drippy day, I don’t spend much time sitting. Instead I explore this oldest part of Seattle by wandering its streets and alleys. The Pioneer Square community believes alleys are more than a place to stash trash. They promote alleys as people space.

The Alley Network Project helped Pioneer Square citizens and businesses activate the alleys as people space. Boarded up doors and windows were opened up and used again. Plant baskets, artwork and lights were installed. Instead of dark, creepy passageways to be avoided, the alleys were inviting people to use them.

So I explored them. I walked through an alley delighted to see an open doorway, hanging plants, and bikes. More importantly, I wasn’t the only person using the alley. On this wet day, as I photographed the alley environment as it was reflected in a puddle, I captured this mystery woman in a beautiful red coat as she dashed by.

alley-red-reflection

What are the alleys in your community like? Are they active spaces that welcome people?

Space-Needle-Glasshouse

The Seattle Center is a community gathering place and the Space Needle, at 605 feet high, stands in the middle of it like a beacon guiding citizens and visitors alike to the center grounds. This unique public space, left over from the 1962 World’s Fair, is a mix of park land, community and commercial events, and experiential venues.

On this particular day, I was visiting the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition at the Seattle Center. I wandered into the Glasshouse and was captivated by the iconic Space Needle from this point of view.

Sharrow-Streetcar-Seattle

Are cyclist mishaps inevitable when streetcar tracks are present?

Clang! Clang! Clang!

I’m fortunate to live in a community that supports public transit. Thanks to biking, walking and transit, I don’t have to drive a car very often. And that’s a good thing since Seattle is plagued by traffic congestion. Continue reading