NE 8th Street is pretty frightful place to ride, with the worst part being the I-405 overpass which I generally call a “wrongful death lawsuit waiting to happen”. Fortunately for the inevitable victims, Overlake Hospital is right next door. But once you get to the other side of the freeway there are fragments of bike lane! One helpfully appears on the westbound side at 120th Ave, right as you begin scaling a steep hill. But once you get to the top, around 123rd, the bike lane gradually loses about 1 foot of its width, which means you’re just a hair’s breadth away from the Mercedes SUVs piloted (to use the term very loosely) by the gesticulating, bluetooth enabled maniacs.
Something tells me that with my bike buckets and produce box (see photo), I’m wider than that lane. Retreat to the sidewalk!
Our oh so brief sojourn down 106th Ave comes to an abrupt end at 4th Street. Of course it isn’t enough to simply bring the bike lane to an end, but to re-assert the God-given supremacy of the automobile. Rather than just paint the line straight to the crosswalk, they swerve the line over, squeezing cyclists and making it rather hard to continue up 106th Ave. The implication is that you should instead, turn right… though watch out for the Hummer taking advantage of those extra couple of inches to accommodate their bulk as they proceed around the corner.
As we labor up the hill on 106th Ave NE, towards 4th street we are presented with this odd situation: for no readily apparent reason, the bike lane briefly shrinks to about 1 foot wide, and then back again. I suddenly remember yoga class. Inhale! Hold! Exhale!
We continue south on 106th Ave NE towards Main Street, and here we are greeted an opportunity to do a magic trick! Make a bicyclist disappear, which is the apparent intent of this bike lane as in gradually narrows into nothingness.
It is too bad the bike shop moved from the storefront on the right, as they were conveniently located to commence repairs on bikes whose riders did not succeed in the vanishing trick, and instead ended up in the lane with the drivers, who, around here, don’t tend to notice cyclists until they bounce off their windshield.
More so than the rest of Bellevue, downtown has almost no bike facilities. However, on 106th Avenue between 4th and 2nd something resembling a bike lane can be found! Something unique in downtown. But, like so many of the other bike lanes I’ve been talking about, I think this one was another “accidental” bike lane: there was extra space on the pavement so they painted lines which resemble bike lanes and lull us into a false sense of security, for we shall soon be disappointed.
In this case, what starts as a nice bike lane slowly loses about 1 foot of it’s width, with the narrowest being right where a tree encroaches onto the street. The tree has been pruned in an odd structure, which ensures that car drivers will pass unmolested, but cyclists will need to duck at the moment traffic is forced closest.
While riding down 114th Ave NE, near SE 2nd St, I spotted this amusing juxtaposition. Just in case you can’t tell from my terrible photography, there is a sign helpfully indicating that the bike route for the Lake Washington Loop is straight ahead. But from this angle, directly ahead of that sign is a “dead end” sign. Maybe this is a different definition of “loop” than I am accustomed to.
But the bike route actually does go down that road, which is only a dead end for cars, a short bike path connects the end of that street with 112th Ave right before the nightmare of 8th Street (more on that later).
However, in a city that considered bicycles real vehicles, there would be a sign below “dead end” which said “except bicycles.”
Here we are at 118th Ave SE, approaching SE 8th Street. The “motorcycles” warning sign wasn’t there last time I rode through here, otherwise you could more easily see the irony here. The small sign is a route marker for the Lake Washington Loop bike route, which helpfully indicates that the route is straight ahead. Of course the temporary warning sign is not just blocking the bike lane, but also obscuring the fact that it narrows down to nothing. Nothing says “bike route” like vanishing bike lanes.
116th Ave NE is Bellevue’s “auto row”, and, ironically, has a nice wide bike lane along the uphill side of an otherwise rather busy four-lane street (though it only extends about 6 blocks). But then it is abruptly tapered down to nothing just before the intersection with the unbelievably hostile 8th Street (more on that in future posts). The red and grey sign on the right is for the local Hummer dealership whose driveway is right where the bike lane ends. So this is obvious attempt to make me turn right and trade in my bike for an SUV so that I will fit in more amongst the botox and silicone laden, cell-phone wielding, trophy wives in their Lexus SUVs who menace the streets of Bellevue.
If you look at the Bellevue bike map, you’ll see 118th Ave marked as a bike route (the map does not distinguish bike lanes from bike routes as it would show how few of the former exist). After leaving downtown 118th Ave does have a couple miles of bike lanes. But at the intersection with SE 8th Street bicyclists are apparently expected to jump over the curb extensions on both sides of this intersection. So, mountain bikers will get a bit of jumping practice, but those of us on road bikes or recumbents are left in a position where we will undoubtedly have to stop and wait for traffic to clear, and, if the light is still green, proceed. A harsh reminder to bicyclists of their second-class status in the eyes of car drivers and road designers.