Organizers of the Seattle area’s Bike to Work Day festivities, going on under dry and cloudy skies, think they could beat the 2012 record of 16,000 morning cyclists.
Crowds of riders seem large, and reports are now coming in from volunteers with hand-held clickers at the checkpoints, said Anne-Marije Rook, communications director at the Cascade Bicycle Club. On average, participation has grown 10 percent a year, she said.
“It’s great to see what our city could be, if we invest in bike infrastructure,” she said.
During a rally at KEXP radio, along the Dexter Avenue North bike route, City Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Tom Rasmussen called for Seattle to spend $20 million a year on bike facilities, according to Rook. The master plan includes greenways on side streets, trail extensions, bike-activated traffic signals, and bridges. By comparison, the city’s overall transportation budget is projected to be near $389 million this year, and voters next year will likely be asked to increase their Bridging the Gap property taxes.
The national event comes three days after the city’s Fremont Bridge bicycle counter recorded 6,088 one-way trips, a record volume. The counter on the West Seattle low bridge tallied a record of 1,847 trips on Wednesday. Seattle now has nine bike counters, two of which provide real-time public displays.
Scores of stops were set up around Puget Sound to provide coffee, snacks, lights, leaflets or other bike swag. This afternoon, a party is scheduled from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Velo Bike Shop, on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Blanchard Street in downtown Seattle.
In Issaquah, volunteer Kent Peterson reported 125 cyclists stopped by a station near south Lake Sammamish. He said the majority of those were headed east from Bellevue or Redmond to work at Costco, or uphill to the new Swedish Medical Center campus at Issaquah Highlands. The westbound cyclists, about 200 on a good day, tend to take Newport Way instead, said Peterson, lead mechanic at Bicycle Center of Issaquah.
A South Everett stop, at the junction of Beverly Park and Commando roads, attracted 50 riders, but many more rolled past while rushing to work at Boeing or other destinations, said Clarence Elstad, a volunteer from the BIKES Club of Snohomish County.
A new twist has been that non-cycling companies — even a funeral home and optician — have sponsored rest stations this year, said Rook. “They’re marketing to the people who ride by their businesses,” she said.
Over the years, surveys have found that around 4 percent of Seattle residents commute by bike to work or campus. A recent census report showed Seattle at 3.4 percent as of 2012, tied for fifth place with San Francisco among U.S. cities. But Seattle, lacking safe downtown routes, has been passed in the last few years by Minneapolis and Boise, Idaho. Mayor Ed Murray has pledged to make interim changes to the notorious Second Avenue bike lane in the fall, at about the same time that Pronto Cycle Share launches.