Bicycling to beat this week’s I-90 closure kerfuffle; my wife takes the bike challenge

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My wife usually takes the bus to work in the South Lake Union neighborhood in Seattle, and whenever there’s the chance of a huge traffic gridlock, I usually joke, “Why don’t you bike to work?”

I used to think it was funny, but now it’s just a tired, stupid comment. She finished her last metric century about 25 years ago — that’s about the same time as our first child — and she hasn’t ridden since.

After I offered the same tired joke as a suggestion to beat the predicted 10-mile traffic jams into Seattle this week, she came home with a replacement for her 30-year-old bike helmet. Holy crap! She took my suggestion!

Now, we’re figuring out a way to make sure this works.

The route

First we had to dope out the shortest possible route; then find a bike.

We live in Bellevue near the I-90/405 interchange. I figure the best, and probably only, way is to use the Mountains to Sound Corridor/I-90 Trail.  It’s a backbone corridor that has trail and bike route connections all along I-90. In the map above, I show it’s route starting in Factoria and across the bridge to the Mercer Island Park & Ride.

The state warns that not only I-90, but I-405 and surface streets in the interchange area will be gridlocked as work crews shut down westbound I-90 to one lane all week in order to replace expansion joints on the East Connector Bridge.

A cyclist on Mercer Slough causeway in the winter

A cyclist on Mercer Slough causeway in the winter

So it didn’t make any sense to use the park & ride lots then take a bus, which would be caught in traffic as well. Our plan is to ride directly from home, connect to the Mountains to Sound Trail causeway across the Mercer Slough, and then take the bike lane over the East Connector Bridge, which will be open to bike traffic. Once on Mercer Island and past the construction, she’ll make her way to the park & ride that is right on the trail, lock up the bike there, and take the bus into Seattle.

Coming home, she’ll pick up the bike at Mercer Island, and either ride it home or throw it on the bike rack in front of the bus to get it home.

I warned her there are a couple of hills, but she told me that she’s game.

The bike

Her announcement sent me rummaging through the garage for a good ride. I discounted her 30-year-old Peugeot, because she never liked the shifting.

My son’s Gary Fisher Wahoo, which he grew out of 8 or so years ago, seemed the perfect choice. Mountain bike bars, soft saddle, front shocks for potholes, aluminum frame, and the right size. I replaced a frayed cable and switched out the mountain bike tires for the 1-1/4 inch commuter tires.

Suddenly we had a very capable self-propelled urban/suburban assault vehicle. I even enjoyed test riding it. Probably a little too much.

Bike to work

There have been a lot of not very good suggestions on how to avoid the anticipated traffic jam. Work from home. Leave early in the morning (5ish), take other routes around the lake.

The best one I’ve heard is to bike to work. Tom Fucoloro mentioned it as his blog (Best way around July I-90 work, bike – of course), and Velo Bus Driver and Bellevue Transpo are among those who tweeted it.

Now I have a very personal stake in making this thing work.

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