I love living in Seattle but I despise driving in traffic. And Seattle has traffic. Lots of traffic.
Luckily, I seldom join the ranks of daily commuters who drive to work. My current work arrangement brings me into an office two or three days each week. I drive to one site but it’s a reverse commute against the main flow of traffic. The other work site I report to weekly sends me into downtown Seattle, then north. I use transit for this trip.
I enjoy using transit. Instead of stressing out in traffic, I can read a book, catch up on emails, people watch or engage in small talk with other commuters. I’ve had some interesting conversations with other bus riders over the years. Conversations have ranged from sharing local knowledge with visitors and swapping injury stories with another rider using crutches to learning about the craft of wood carving from a Native American.
Sadly, those kinds of conversations happen less frequently. Today, most transit riders prefer to interact with their personal devices rather than with other passengers. I snapped this candid shot of a fellow passenger on a bus commute. She was absorbed by whatever was on her screen.
As I looked around, I observed that nearly everyone else was doing the same thing. With a wistful sigh, I turned on my phone and scrolled through my social media accounts.
The seasons collided today in Seattle. Fall met winter on this blustery, in-between day as autumn leaves got pelted by snow and rain. The unsettled weather made for a great urban walkabout and I captured a snippet of it in this Instagram video.
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:
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.
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.
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!
Riding a bike can be meditative. The rhythmic revolution of each pedal stroke and steady breathing can help clear your mind and put you in the present.
It feels natural then to make a short pilgrimage to the bicycle prayer wheel in Nord Alley. The wheel is mounted outside Back Alley Bike Repair and is available 24/7 for spinning prayers and good thoughts.
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.
For 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.