I Quit Bike-Commuting

In fact, I’ve quit riding pretty much anywhere with the exception of our church and family outings. There are a variety of reasons, but I’ll be blunt with the main one. Bike infrastructure on the east side is terrible, and I don’t want to deal with it anymore at commute times. WSDOT, Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue are all part of this. WSDOT and Redmond make my commute miserable, which would be a common ride. Kirkland is puttering along with their Transportation Master Plan which says that biking is important unless it involves doing anything involving traffic (but maybe, just maybe, I’m hearing baby steps – the 100th Ave project is a big test). And Bellevue is Bellevue (though surprisingly there is some hope that Bellevue doesn’t want to be Bellevue anymore).

On the bright side, I’m running to most places that I need to be. Pedestrian infrastructure, while not very good, isn’t as bad as bicycle infrastructure. Plus, of course, running is my hobby. So I can understand why almost all east side bicyclists are hobbyists, which is an almost insignificant group as far as trip mode share is concerned. I can also take Metro 245 to a number of places, but that’s about it for reasonable transit.

The Route Itself

Anyways, let’s go back to the bike commute. It’s a bit under 4 miles in each direction: Old Redmond Rd to 152nd Ave to the 520 trail. There’s about 150 feet of climbing to work and 300 feet to get back home. I’m not going to discuss other deterrents in this post, but relevant to the infrastructure complaint is that there would be less climbing if the best route topographically didn’t consist of arterials with no bike infrastructure. 148th Ave is more direct and much flatter than 152nd/520 trail, but it’s a five lane 40 mph arterial. Here’s the route:

There are 3 major intersections going down Old Redmond Road (132nd, 140th, 148th). They provide three different examples of unprotected intersections, none of which work. 132nd maintains paint-only bike lanes through the intersection; here you can get right-hooked (just came across this today).

140th ends the bike lane before the intersection; here you get to play with cars.

148th has a slip lane (a.k.a. freeway onramp); here you get run over by moving in a blind spot (but at least the main intersection doesn’t have any right turns).

Outside of the intersections, Old Redmond Road is still fairly stressful. I think I would probably be ok riding by myself (but definitely not with the kids) if it actually had 5 foot painted bike lanes. However, it doesn’t. At best it reaches 5 feet counting the gutter, and in a lot of places it is narrower. There is also a manhole cover gauntlet. The car lane is better, but there are strategically placed covers to get you there too. Switching back and forth between the bike lane and the car lane would be best but only if you get the right breaks in traffic. Or you can ride the brakes and hope you don’t wipe out on them.

This is just between 132nd and 140th:







and coming back up the hill isn’t a whole lot better. The second one is particularly problematic because the road dips steeply from the white line to the cover.


Of course it continues after 140th (the third has been improved but not moved):


After 148th, the lane is so narrow that the bike stencil doesn’t fit!



The neighborhood streets between Old Redmond Road and the 520 trail work well. They are fairly quiet, and Redmond recently painted sharrows. This is a case where sharrows “work” because they provide a reminder on a street that already works. While the streets are too wide, as pretty much all of our residential streets are, the stop sign and turn seem to be enough to keep car traffic over on 154th (which sadly is a classic “residential arterial”).



The 520 trail is nice, though on the narrow side when the racers are blasting down the hill (the direction of these pictures is the reverse of how I’ve been describing the route):



However, it is also plagued by terrible intersections at 51st and 40th. These are the scariest part of the commute and why I can’t take WSDOT or Redmond seriously when they talk about bicycling. These are easily the biggest reasons why I avoid bike-commuting.

51st:

40th:

I counted 11 near misses in 2 hours when I did the pedestrian/bicycle count last year. I wrote a lot about the details of 40th back here (note that 51st is a copy of the geometry of 40th though not as busy). There have been minor changes since then. The order of the signal phases at 40th was changed with a positive effect. The right turn pocket to the 520 on-ramp is now cleared right before the trail signal. Previously the trail signal would provide the first “opening” for right-turns-on-red. Also, at some expense, the curbs on the corners for the trail were slightly adjusted to improve angles. This has had fairly little effect as far as I can tell.

There are some obvious real improvements that could be made here. A real curb bulb on the on-ramp (since the on-ramp is two lanes wide, maybe the opening could be reduced to two lanes wide too) is what the previous curb adjustment should have been. There is no reasonable excuse for allowing either right-turn-on-red across the trail. Allowing right-turn-on-green across a trail green is equally inexcusable. But time and time again, we are told that car traffic is more important. How many people avoid biking because of these decisions?

The magic solution for 40th is a state-funded tunnel (and a separately funded bridge across 520).  These will be huge improvements, but there are three problems. (1) There are no plans for improving safety before the tunnel project is finished. We know how to make improvements today. (2) There are no plans for improving 51st. I can’t get to the tunnel at 40th if I can’t get past 51st. (3) The funding story for ped/bike improvements is so broken that a tunnel is a huge amount of money to spend.  We know how to fix this intersection and every other, and it would take very little money to do so. Paint, planters, and posts, and a willingness to slow down the cars would significantly improve safety at a price of some car throughput. How many intersections could we fix for the cost of this tunnel?

These intersections are unsafe because of cars, not people biking and walking. The funding for making the intersection safer should not come out of ped/bike funding, it should come out of general transportation funding. If we really cannot impact car throughput for safety, then the tunnel is a car throughput project, not a safety project. A tunnel isn’t the only way to improve this intersection, but it is the one that doesn’t impact car throughput.

I don’t believe that WSDOT and Redmond are serious about road safety at all.  The evidence at places like 51st simply doesn’t allow it. Instead the tunnel was a single project aimed at shutting up the safety advocates – or just another piece of pork – so that a massive roads package could be passed.

How to walk for your groceries with kids

Shopping, unencumbered by children, for one or two people is no problem. You may have done it yourself in college (I did). You can take a backpack and carry a few grocery bags and it works without too much extra planning. If you also need to take a child or two or four with you, grocery shopping gets more complicated. I’ve shopped with most combinations of small children, and can tell you how to do it.

If you have one baby.

Grocery shopping with one baby is easy now, but in the early days it certainly was not. With one baby everything is new and everything takes adjustment. But you can do it! I have always worn the baby, as worn babies are generally happy. At first I wore my daughter on my front and a backpack on my back, but as she got bigger that needed to change. One day I realized that I just didn’t have it in me to carry her and a gallon of milk. So I bought a wire grocery cart at the hardware store across the street, and then realized that I couldn’t carry her, the unassembled grocery cart AND the groceries all at once. The groceries waited until the next day.

Let me tell you, that grocery cart was life-changing. I’d always walked to the store, but now I could see how I’d feed my family as it grew. Going to the store is not (usually) a chore, it’s an outing, a little exercise, and a change of scenery on cranky days. It’s something I don’t have to save for when there’s somebody else to watch the kids. I can get the grocery shopping done with them. On good days I teach them how I choose things in preparation for them doing the shopping themselves. On busy days we just get our things and go.

We have no pictures from those early pre-smartphone days when we didn’t obsessively document the minutiae of everyday life. Here’s a more recent one.

We’ve lined our shopping cart with a piece of foam camping sleeping pad – it’s waterproof and dries quickly. We have a couple of bags that fit nicely side-by-side in the space. They are very worn, but I haven’t found anything else that fits so nicely! We bag heavy things in the lower bags and pile lighter things on top. Sometimes it takes a little rearranging after the bagger loads the bags.

One baby and one toddler.

After the birth of our second child, our oldest was two-and-a-half when Mark went back to work and I had to do the shopping by myself with both of them. She walked to the store and I wore the baby, holding her by one hand and the grocery cart in the other. At the store I put her in the seat of the store cart and left mine stashed out of the way near the checkout area. If your toddler doesn’t walk or can’t be trusted, see “two non-walking children,” below.

Toddlers and up of whatever number.

Once the kids are able to walk with you and behave in the store, it really doesn’t matter how many you have. A wire grocery cart is still essential, and they might pull it for you (at least when it’s empty). They also might fight over who gets to pull it. I’m really looking forward to sending my kids to the store when we are out of yogurt, and it doesn’t have to wait until they are 16 and can drive!

Two newborns.

This is the trickiest situation I’ve had to handle, but it can be done. I wore one and used a stroller for the other. The best situation would be a city stroller with an enormous storage basket, but I didn’t have one, I just had a stroller that took the infant carseat. I put as much as I could in the small storage basket and tied a couple of bags to the handle. We shopped often because it was something to do.

We were quite a sight in those days. I frequently wore one, held one in one arm, and pushed the empty stroller around the store with the other hand. My big kids (aged three and five at the time) pulled our groceries as we shopped with small shopping baskets on wheels.

Two non-walking (either by your choice or their ability) children.


Bonus: nap-fighting toddler sleeps while you get your work done!

I learned this tip from a friend who oldest two are close in age, and we’ve used it extensively with twins. I wear one baby and push a double stroller with the other baby in one seat. After shopping, we fill the other seat of the stroller with groceries. I frequently stash the stroller out of the way in the front of the store and use a shopping cart with the second baby in the seat while we are in the store.


also works for paint


and pumpkins

Our twins are now toddlers, and they love to walk to the store. I only walk with one at a time because I can’t hold both and the shopping cart all at once. The other still rides on my back. We use the “one baby and one toddler” method as described above, and the big kids can be trusted (with reminders) to stay nearby while we walk across the street and across the parking lot.

“I want to walk on the lellow!” (curb in the parking lot on the way to the store)

Why we ride

Recently I was asked why I do this. Why I bike with my kids. I didn’t answer the question very well, so I’m going to try again.

First things first. Biking four little kids (including twins) looks absolutely totally crazy. It is absolutely totally crazy. Taking four little kids (including twins) in a car is just as chaotic, I’m just different and more visible because I’m on a bike. Taking one or two kids on an electric cargo bike is a piece of cake. Seriously, it’s super easy, once you have a routine. Note also that you need a routine to drive, you just already have it.

Next. Every mode of transport has its hassles. On a bus you are limited to the routes and schedules of the bus. If you walk, you are limited by distance, unless you run, in which case you are limited by fitness and the availability of a shower. If you drive you are limited by traffic and parking and actually, you know, owning and maintaining a large expensive inefficient vehicle. The hassles of biking are mostly in hills, weather, and the danger from cars.

We have a decent network of on-street bike lanes, quiet neighborhood streets, and a few trails, so we can mostly avoid the danger from cars. We also avoid going out of our neighborhood when traffic is heaviest. For the hills we have electric assist, and we have rain gear for the weather that just isn’t that bad most of the time.

I prefer the hassles of biking over the hassles of driving. I don’t like sitting in traffic, I don’t like circling the lot looking for a spot, and I find it all very stressful. Because I choose the hassles of biking over the hassles of driving, we don’t contribute to pollution, we don’t contribute to congestion, and we don’t take up a parking space. We also don’t contribute to the demand for a car-centric society.

Demand for parking spreads destinations apart, lengthening commutes, eating up open space, and making the walk harder. Demand for congestion-free travel makes intersections bigger, crossings longer, and puts people in danger. Requiring a car to travel puts a great hardship on those who cannot drive due to age (either too old or too young), physical ability (permanent or temporary (also)), or finances. When we drive we are isolated in metal boxes and the people around us cease to be people but become others: the jerk who cut me off or took my parking spot, the biker in the way, the pedestrian I had to stop for. We are isolated from our communities, traveling through places rather than to places. Demand for driving kills more than 30,000 people per year in the United States alone.

Cars give the illusion of freedom, but it’s all a big lie. We are “stuck in traffic.” We are shackled to the school run because cars make it not safe for kids to walk or bike on their own. We struggle to afford the car that’s necessary to get around – maybe we even need a second job to afford it. The fights over parking are so desperate because we can’t even get out of our cars unless we have a place to put them. Cars make us fat, grumpy, and lonely. This isn’t freedom.

This isn’t meant as a judgement on you, dear reader. Most likely you live where you truly don’t have any other options, because that’s what we’ve built in the last half-century or so because that’s what our government policies encourage. For our family, we live where we live because we really really really wanted to be able to walk to the grocery store. (Also we wanted Mark to have a short commute.) We drove everywhere else in those days. It turns out that this is one of the most bikable locations in the region. But there are only a few dozen houses in our neighborhood for which the store is easily walkable. To do this right, our house would not be a house, but an apartment building. More than one family could live on this lot, and then more families would be able to walk. We live in a house because that’s what’s available across the street from the store.

This may be one of the most bikable areas in the region, but it still requires skill and bravery to bike here, especially if you need to travel when traffic is heavy. Paint-only bike lanes on busy streets are not comfortable for most people, so most people don’t bike. Intersections are particularly exposed: bike lanes disappear, cars turn in front of bikes, people driving don’t yield as required, people are distracted. I don’t blame you if you don’t bike.

Even if you can’t bike, there are things you can do. Advocate for safe infrastructure for walking and biking. Advocate for density in the areas that are walkable and bikeable. Don’t fight against apartment buildings. Don’t ask for more parking, especially free parking. If there’s anywhere you can walk or bike, do it. Be creative. Understand the costs of parking. Understand the costs of road building. Understand induced demand. Hold the line on no new roads. Understand that if your neighborhood doesn’t build more housing, people will drive through it from farther away. Understand the power you wield when driving a car, and take commensurate care.

Most of all, I do what I do in the hopes that others will do it too. I want to live in a place that’s not ruined by cars, so I bike.

Bikes for kids who go places

A long time ago, I wrote about the search for our then-6yo’s next bike. Now that she’s had it for a year, and her brother has also gotten a new bike (ahem, six months ago), I should finish the story.

Our now-7yo rides a 20″ Specialized Hot Rock Street. That’s the version with no suspension, which means you probably need to special order it. We really wanted our daughter to have gears available to expand her range beyond the top of our hill, and this was the best option we could find at a bike shop. We considered the single-speed 20″ Cleary, but we’re really glad we went with the gears. She really doesn’t need all six, though, two or three would be enough. She uses the lowest gear when climbing (and has even done the climb all the way from Redmond! 450 feet in 3 miles) and usually 2 for riding on the flat. If we are in a hurry, I can sometimes convince her to use 3. The days she insists on staying in 1 are really, really slow.

The brakes and twist shift are easy enough for her to use. We did have to take the bike back in to the shop after a few weeks to adjust the shifter so she could get it back into 1 on her own. She is much faster on this bike than her old bike. Even riding in her low gears, the bigger wheels and longer cranks make a difference. Our 15 minute ride to church has been cut in half. She has far more confidence controlling her speed while riding down hills than she did with the coaster brakes on her old bike.

The shop fit recumbent fenders and mud flaps to her bike. It’s really slick. We added a basket to the front, and a bell, and the bike itself comes with a kickstand.

We thought about cutting down the handlebars to make them narrower, but decided to see how she did with them first, and she’s been fine. Her positioning on this bike is much farther forward compared to the upright position on her last bike, and that took some getting used to for her.

Cleary for the 5-year-old

Our now-5yo had been riding on two wheels since shortly after he turned 4. We planned to keep him in the driveway until he figured out how to use the (coaster) brakes on his bike. After nearly a year he still wasn’t braking well, so we decided this was ridiculous and we needed a different solution. He would slam on the brakes until he was halfway stopped and then put his feet down. That won’t work on any sort of hill! Coaster brakes aren’t really a long-term skill anyway, and he’d grown since we’d last put him on the 16″ Cleary, so we went back to the shop to see if he fit.

And he did! We did need to have the seat post cut down so it could be lowered all the way. He figured out the hand brakes almost instantly so we are now out of the driveway and on the roads. He is thrilled to be able to ride his own bike to church, and pretty easily keeps up with his older sister on her bigger bike. We haven’t taken him beyond the top of the hill yet, so we don’t know how well he climbs on it.

Mark made fenders for the bike from coroplast (campaign signs) and duct tape. They were tricky to fit under the rim brakes. We had a kickstand cut down and installed, and we recently got him a basket and a bell.

And now a note about colors.

When we test rode the Hot Rock, they only had the model with the suspension in stock. She rode a nice purple and white bike that I thought would be perfect because her next younger brother’s favorite color is purple. But when we went back to order it we found out that the Street version only comes in green and dark pink. I vetoed the pink because she has three younger brothers, and she was fine with this. She may have picked the green on her own anyway. Six months later we went to buy a bike for the purple-loving 5yo. His color options were cream, pale blue, pale green, and dark pink. He insisted on the pink, absolutely insisted. It’s a very similar pink to the one I’d vetoed six months earlier, and now I’m feeling a little guilty about that decision. At any rate, I am glad that neither of these bikes suffers from the overly-gendered decorations of many kids bikes.

I am pleased with our bike choices, and thrilled with how well our big kids are doing on their bikes.

More Transportation Logistics from 520 Go Long / Grand Opening

Beyond the bridge itself, the 520 grand opening events led to a number of transportation choices, some of which worked better than others.  Michelle already discussed getting herself and the kids to the family event and the trip back home.  I had to pick up a race packet and go to the early morning race, and the day gave me some more thoughts on buses that I wanted to write about.  The first section is just about an eastside bus trip.  The second is about the trip into Seattle.  The final is about buses in general.

My race report is available here.

Race Packet Pickup

I generally like to pick up my race packet before race morning in order to simplify race day plans.  As you’ll see in the next section, this was especially true for this one.  There was an eastside packet pickup at the unfortunately located Road Runner Sports.  It’s on Northup Way in Bellevue, a running store about 3 miles from our house that I’ve never been to for exactly that reason.  It’s completely inaccessible by bike.  Running there would normally be the obvious choice for me, but ironically my race preparation already had given me a hard run that morning and I wasn’t looking to double.  I don’t feel particularly bad about not having the chance to run down Northup’s sidewalks (where they exist anyway).  I decided to look into the buses.  Generally I only ride the 245 and the B because they give me one seat rides to/from home or work, so this would be some new routes for me.

Here’s the route that I ended up using:

520-pickup-map

marked up route image from Metro’s system map

I started in the SE corner with a half mile walk to the 249.  The 249 runs every half hour, which is terrible and must be timed well.  As is often the case, One Bus Away had no information about the bus.  I managed to arrive 5 minutes early, and it was only 1 minute late.  The drop-off was only one driveway away from the running store, and the person driving a car out of that driveway even stopped!  So far so good.

As I was walking up to the store, I got an email that packet pickup has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.  I later heard a rumor that it was due to some “Bellevue traffic thing”.  I don’t know if that was accurate, but with hundreds (at least?) of people picking up packets, it’s obvious that a parking lot would never work and the line would spill out on Northup.  So it’s plausible that this was deemed unacceptable because of commuters.  Cars.  Anyways, the pickup was still going on, and I was successful.

At this point, I could have ridden the 249 back to my usual 245 to home, but the half hour schedule made this unattractive.  If I were more savvy I would have decided on-the-fly and possibly fit in some browsing to make this work.  Instead I did a bit of browsing and headed over to the 234/5, either of which would work and run every half hour, where of course I barely missed one after jogging the half mile or so.  This left a scheduled 10 minute wait, which became about 15 minutes with very little warning from OBA (stuck in traffic just nearby or bad OBA data, who knows…).  This took me to Houghton, where I had another half mile jog to catch a 245 (or have another 15 minute wait).

In the end, I had about a half hour trip to get there and 45-50 minutes to then get home, and it would have been longer if I hadn’t been willing or able to jog.  This is pretty bad as these trips just weren’t that far.  It’s a somewhat difficult trip because Bridle Trails State Park leaves a void in the transit map.  In retrospect, driving early in the afternoon would have been a better trip, but that would have meant driving to work too.  It’s easy to see how people end up driving everywhere.

Getting to the Race

This was tricky.  The scheduled race time was 7:30am, which meant that I wanted to be there around 6:30.  The 520 bridge, not so coincidentally, was closed.  Drive there?  A maps estimate said 37 minutes, so I’d have to leave at around 5:50.  However, how many of the 13,000 participants would be driving?  While I would probably arrive earlier than most and be ok, this didn’t seem very reliable, so 5:30?  It annoys me to drive in order to run anyway, so next up was the bus.  The first 255 on Saturdays leaves downtown Kirkland at 5:46.  However, if I left a bike there then I wouldn’t have a good way to get back to it later because I was planning on using a 520 shuttle with the family.  That meant the South Kirkland P&R, or 3.5 miles of biking+locking to catch it at 5:54.  This could have worked, conservatively leaving the house at 5:30.  However, the family was going to the Houghton P&R, and I wasn’t so excited about biking back up the hill at the end of the day.  The best solution however, was to not need to deal with a bike at all.  By also leaving around 5:30, I could simply jog the 1.5 miles to the closest stop (Houghton), and at the end of the day the Houghton P&R is within a mile of our house (and mostly on top of the hill).

The bus was a tight schedule.  It would have been easy with the normal 520 routing to the Montlake freeway station, but instead it had I-90 routing to the transit tunnel.  The schedule said 6:16, but it would clearly be late, and then Link only runs every 12 minutes.  On the bright side, Link wouldn’t get stuck in any traffic, so at least the arrival would be reliable.  Of course, the 255 schedule seems to rely on low ridership, so it was about 10 minutes late before heading to I-90.  After that, the ride and connection to Link were smooth, and I probably arrived around 6:40.  I then lucked out when they started 5 minutes late as I was just able to finish warming up in time.

Buses

Given my difficulties in the above two trips and then the fiasco getting people off of the 520 bridge at the end of the day, it would be natural to complain about buses.  Then, by extension, light rail would probably be the solution.  However, I don’t think that’s the case.

Instead, I think the lesson is that this was simply a result of buses done poorly.  My first trip was mainly a victim of infrequent buses.  It’s easy to see why people focus on one-seat rides and talk about a “transfer penalty”.  When you can control when you start your trip, you can (partially) deal with an infrequent schedule.  With a transfer you generally can’t, and the same held for when I finished my errand.  This pretty much rules out such trips unless one has no alternatives.  That’s why I was jogging to the stops.

ST2/3 don’t really offer anything for this trip.  This is mainly because the trip is too local and not really relevant to Sound Transit.  With East Link I’d have reliable service from my office and a >1 mile walk to this store.  It would be similar with a bus connection to return home.  The proposed ST3 line to nowhere is irrelevant.  Bus frequency would have helped a lot, and if frequency made some connections work to shorten the walks then it would be even better.

The morning trip to the race offers a similar story – not about frequency but about how we handle our bus routes.  Certainly Link was the best part of the trip, but getting from downtown to the U District wasn’t the problem I even wanted to solve.  The 255 route does exactly what I wanted.  Why were we rerouting buses the entire weekend?  Yes, there were windows in the weekend where the running and biking events used the entire west approach, but that’s no excuse to ruin the transit system for the weekend.

Lastly, the bus shuttle system failed badly to get everyone off of the bridge at the end of the day.  There were some early signs with the wait to get onto the bridge for the party, especially near the South Kirkland P&R as the buses were stuck in traffic from people driving to that P&R.  Right there we saw the failure of park and rides to scale and also the inevitable reliability issues from putting buses in general traffic.  Things got worse later as the wait to Seattle ended up being over an hour.  The real capacity issue seemed to be loading, where only a small number of buses would be simultaneously loaded via a small makeshift bridge from the new bridge to the old one.  The number of buses and the long turnaround required might have been issues, but any improvements to them wouldn’t have mattered much with the limitations of the makeshift station.

In the end, I think I better understand why popular opinion is fairly negative about buses.  It’s not a matter of trying to “sell” buses better but rather a need to make them more reliable and convenient, things that we know how to do.

Our fantastic day on the new 520 bridge

Our new floating bridge had a grand opening party a few weekends ago, with a run, a bike ride, and a family event. I like these sorts of civic events, so we made plans to do something. Mark would obviously do the run: a 10k made for a nice run across the bridge and back. We first thought about doing the bike ride, as they were also opening the I-5 express lanes, and that sounded really fun too. But I wasn’t up for riding 20 miles towing kids unassisted, and the logistics for getting our big bike to the start were too complicated. And once they announced engineering activities for kids at the family event I was sold.


Checking out the construction equipment

They planned to shuttle people to the bridge from off-site parking areas, but there was an opportunity to walk on to the bridge from the East side. We could get there reasonably enough with neighborhood streets, the Cross Kirkland Corridor, the new 520 trail, and a bit of sidewalk. I was interested in checking out the new 520 trail by using it to actually get somewhere. Getting back would be trickier with the hill. There was also a shuttle from our neighborhood, and given the ease of that, we decided that would be the plan.

This still wasn’t a perfect solution: there was a short stretch of arterial to ride to get to the park & ride, and there was a question as to how much bike parking was available. Also I was going to have to get the kids there myself because Mark was doing the race. The shuttles weren’t going to start running until 10, so at least it was a reasonable time of day.

We arrived at the Houghton park & ride at about 10:30 by bike. There was a long line to get on the bus and a long queue of empty buses. The parking lot was mostly full and there were no other bikes. In the time I spent unloading kids and locking the bikes, three buses loaded and left, and then there was no line. We walked straight on to a bus. It filled to about 1/3 full in a few minutes, and then we left.

We rode down to the South Kirkland Park & Ride where we got caught in a nasty traffic jam of cars trying to get into the mostly full lot. The line to get on the bus wrapped around the parking lot. We filled our bus and left for the bridge.

There was plenty of space to get off the bus and onto the bridge on the east side where we met Mark and a friend coming from the west side. Most people on our bus (and theirs) rode to the west side. The ribbon cutting was taking place there, but I didn’t care about the ribbon cutting.


Eastside shuttle stop

First we walked past the food trucks, but it was only 11am and the kids and I weren’t hungry yet. Mark and Paul who had run the race earlier that morning got sandwiches. After walking down the bridge I realized that we wouldn’t get another opportunity for food until we walked all the way across. Good thing I’d brought some snacks.

The engineering activities, especially the ones towards the east side (where we started) were fantastic. Our kids built an arch bridge out of soft blocks. They built lego cars to place on the lego model of the bridge. They played with toy fish in model culverts. They explored the different kinds of anchors in the different kinds of soil at the bottom of the lake. They marveled at the size of the cables holding the bridge in place. (so did I, all of that. I am, after all, an engineer by training, and I still find all of this really fun.) There were also booths by the event sponsors, and all of those were lame. (I am still grateful for the sponsorship!)

After the lego booth we passed out some snacks to the kids and kept walking. Eventually we found the west side food truck pod and the lines looked to be at least an hour long. Some of the trucks had stopped serving. We figured we could get to Capitol Hill in that amount of time, so we passed out the rest of the food that I’d brought along (not much) and continued walking… not very far until we found a line. A line that turned out to be the line for the Seattle-bound bus. I left the rest of the group in the line and walked to the front to scout, and found no line at all for East-bound buses. The Seattle line was the better part of a mile long (I heard later that people waited up to 90 minutes!), so at that point we figured we’d just go home.

We brought our friend from Capitol Hill with us, promising that we’d get him home. We walked straight to the front of the Kirkland line, but it turned out we’d just missed a bus. The line quickly filled in behind us. I think we waited about 20 minutes, and were the first ones on our bus. The bus was mostly full when we left, and we filled up the rest of the way on the east side. Our bus drove straight to our parking lot where we found the surrounding neighborhoods full of cars. I’m so glad I didn’t need to hunt for parking.

Our kids were real troopers. We ordered a pizza that was ready by the time we got home and ate lunch at 3:45.

In hindsight, we really lucked into our fantastic day. We planned to go early, so we actually made it onto the bridge. We caught our bus at the beginning of the line where there was plenty of space. We took bikes to get there instead of the car and found plenty of parking. We went from west to east, so we got the good exhibits early, and fewer crowds. We brought our own food and water, though we didn’t actually have enough of either.

It was so, so fun to enjoy, and see so many other people enjoying, our new bridge! This is a place where people won’t get to go in typical use. We got to see the surface up close and feel the texture of the paint for the lines. We also got to see just how big it is and how inefficient it is that we depend on cars for transportation. This new bridge has two general purpose lanes and one HOV lane. That’s four people across, plus tens of feet between them for the car and the safe following distance, and these people will most likely be grumpy, because they are in cars.


As designed, this space fits four people across, plus their cars.

 


There were more people on the bridge than there ever will be again.

As for the transportation fiasco, there were inefficiencies in the loading, and it’s obvious that the shuttle plan didn’t scale well enough for the numbers of people that came. I’m glad so many people got to experience the car-free bridge. Thousands more would have but were turned away. Having the option to walk onto the bridge from the west side would have been a big help. I hope we are able to do it again.

Mark’s 2016 Errundonnee Wrap-up

One of the great things about the Errandonnee is that it can be whatever you want it to be.  As Michelle writes, it can be a celebration of a way of life – a time to think (and maybe write) about everything that goes into a 12 day stretch.  For me it’s been a prod to try a bit more.  Or maybe a lot more.  Before last year’s event, I’d occasionally take a book or two to the library, but during it I tried bring home a stack of 17 books.  I don’t really recommend that load, but since then I’ve done around 5 books many times.  I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I changed from avoiding/fearing cargo to it just being a part of the trip.  This year I think my discovery is the use of a stroller as a cargo carrier.  The chair just went so smoothly!  We’re still not sure how we would have attached it to a bike (and maybe in terms of discovering the stroller this was just a stroke of luck since the stroller and chair just fit together so well and other things won’t), and we didn’t really want to deal with moving the car seats around (and actually, you know, driving).  I don’t anticipate a lot of stroller errands, but now it’s in the toolbox.  Carrying the bikes was amusing.  It was a little eye-opening to realize I could just put one (partly) in the backpack.  I’ll have to work harder at attaching things to the outside of it, but maybe there’s something there too.  We’ll see.

Another difference for me was that this year simply involved more running.  Last year was more “we need to do an errand; can I run it?” and this year was “where am I going today?”  I’m also at a point where I’m doing the double commute a fair bit.  The Errandonnee, probably not coincidentally, was part of a two week stretch of more miles than I’ve ever done.  Combining the miles with a pair of workouts each week was pretty demanding, and I did a bit less in the following week.  The volume of miles around town do seem to be having a pretty good effect on me as a runner.

The categories are quite flexible.  Michelle and I have fun (though maybe she eventually tires of) debating what goes into which category.  Personal care vs personal business and both of them vs store and non-store errands?  There’s no right answer here.  Just don’t do the same thing 12 times.  Think about trying something new; maybe you’ll discover something.

I did less (or at least less frequent) writing this year.  After the chair, everything else was stuffed into this post, including trip mileage.  So all that leaves is the equipment and a control card.

Shoes

(Shoes marked with (*) were in last year’s post as well.)

Top row, from left:

  • (*) Mizuno Wave EVO Levitas – I really like running in these shoes.  I’m hitting the end of my first pair, which I’ve held back for only workouts and racing for a long time.  This shoe is now somewhat hard to find.  This pair came from ebay, and I also found a pair a half size larger on an online discount website (not pictured here).
  • Vivobarefoot Evo Pure (black, hard to see) – There are extremely minimal and only come out for short runs.  I didn’t use them during the Errandonnee.
  • (*) New Balance MR1 Minimus Hi-Rez – I like the design on these running-wise, but when I finally started to try to use them, the bottom started tearing in multiple places.  This is probably why this shoe disappeared from the market.  Oh well.  I occasionally glob some Shoe Goo on them and run in them and tear them somewhere else.
  • (*) Saucony Hattori – Nothing new since last year.  I like these for speed days, and they did make an appearance this year because of that.
  • (*) New Balance Minimus Zero V2 – These are an enigma to me.  These seem to be a trigger for pain in the top of my right foot (soft tissue, not a stress fracture, at least the first time around), though I’m also capable of finding that pain with too much training.  Right now they are shelved and didn’t see the Errandonnee.

Bottom row, from left:

  • Zoot Ultra Kiawe 2.0 – This is my first shoe back outside of what I would consider minimalist, though many shoes have more cushion or drop than them (stack height of 17mm rear and 11mm front and thus a drop of 6mm).  They are visibly bigger than my other shoes.  I bought them partly because it’s becoming a pain to find minimal but not barefoot-style shoes.  I’m also trying to add a bit of variety to the footwear since my right foot seems to be my weak point when I push the mileage.  So far I like them, but it’s easy to get lazy in them.
  • (*) Mizuno Wave EVO Levitas – This is my first pair of these.  I probably should have retired them by now, and last week’s big tear will hasten that.  I’ve been holding on to them until I’m reading to move workouts over to the new pair.
  • (*) Merrell Road Glove – These are the original Road Glove.  I like them more and more as time goes on.  They were falling apart last year.  I think I can get them to 2000 miles.  Merrell, if you have size 11s in a warehouse somewhere, please send them to me🙂
  • (*) Inov-8 Trailroc 235 – I pulled out the trail shoes for the stroller/chair run on the Cross Kirkland Corridor, where they were completely overkill.

Packs

Surprisingly, I don’t have a true running pack.  When I started carrying cargo, I tried the various packs that we already had, and I use two of them now.  There aren’t a lot of places that carry running packs.  I recently ordered a bunch of racing-style packs in the hope of shedding some weight, but I didn’t really like any of them.  If I have time I’ll post some partial reviews.  (I couldn’t use them if I wanted to return them.)  The only place (without escaping my run- or bike-shed and there’s something backwards about driving somewhere for running gear) with any is REI, and I only realized that recently.  If I had to purchase a pack now, I’m fairly certain it would be a Osprey Stratos or a Gregory Zulu (recently redesigned I believe).  I don’t think they are much lighter (if at all) than my pack, though they are a bit nicer.  In particular, they both have a suspension to keep some air flow on the back while still holding the bag fairly snug to the body.  They also have various doodads.  I do really want a hip pocket for stashing my phone (camera).

This is my main pack, an old Lowe Alpine Walkabout 35:

The first thing is fit.  I have an above-average torso length (6′ tall with probably more of it in the torso than average), so I tend to have trouble with one-size-fits-all packs.  They don’t reach both my waist and shoulders, so they end up pulling the bottom of the pack up.  I don’t have that problem with this pack.  I don’t remember if it’s just a long pack or if it came in sizes.  Next is having enough of a waist strap to hold the weight comfortably.  In lightweight, minimal-cargo packs (not much more than hydration packs), they can get away with most of the weight on the shoulders and minimal or no waist strap.  I put most of the weight on my waist and use the shoulder straps to keep it in place.  Also important are the two straps that tighten along the length of the bag.  They pull in the bag and cargo and keep it all from bouncing around.  Other designs can do this (e.g., cinching around the side more).  I find that I need to position the bag and then tighten these (a fair bit but not as much as possible).  Otherwise they will contort the pack into a curve.  All of the buckles and things are large enough to be fairly easy to use.  Race packs sacrifice this for weight.  The main compartment is big enough for various bags of stuff (clothes, shoes – it is important that they can fit horizontally or they will take up the entire bag, food), and the opening is big enough to actually get stuff in there. If the contents are heavy, then it is possible to overload this pack for running. It has a few areas beyond the main compartment – some vertical ones for long things, phone, ID/credit card, etc, and a stretchy net pocket for last-minute stuff (or often an orange).  Lastly, it has a rain cover and a separate pocket for that.  I don’t use it a lot; it isn’t necessary unless the run is long or the rain is hard.  But if it wasn’t always there, I’d never have it for the few times that I need it.

My other pack is possibly more surprising.  It’s just a waist-pack:

It’s obviously a Mountainsmith. I don’t know which one it is or if any current ones are better (or worse) for running. It’s only a bit lighter than the backpack, but it feels like a lot less since it’s not on my shoulders. It has a huge waist-strap, which goes a long way. It has four straps that cinch the load. It does ok even if I fill it somewhat full. I can toss my phone in one of the water bottle holders and access it fairly easily.

I also have a running belt for when I only want to carry a phone, cards, and keys, and don’t want to put them in my pockets.

And I’ve been known to just carry something in a hand.

Stroller

For larger loads, wheels come in handy (similar to switching from a backpack to anything else on a bike). I didn’t push any kids around during the Errandonnee, which of course is their intended purpose. You can race with them too.  For the Errandonnee, I used a double Bob Revolution.  I think it might be the SE, but they didn’t have so many models when we bought our single and we bought the double used.  They are hit-or-miss with cargo.  They don’t have a lot of contained cargo capacity; the basket that is underneath the seats has limited clearance.  In turns out it was perfect for our particular chair.

Clothes

The only things about carrying cargo that influences any of my clothing are pockets. On shorts, I have found front pockets to work way better than back pockets for anything more than a gel (which, in fairness, is what they seem to be designed for). Unless I’m running a workout (or doing strides or drills that aren’t part of transportation running), I can get away with even a smartphone in a front pocket and my ID/bus pass/etc in the other. I tried a cycling shirt with a rear pocket and couldn’t put anything in it. Both kinds of rear pockets bounced around like crazy.

Control Card

By official rules, each category is only counted twice.  I did my 7+ categories and 12+ appropriately counted errands, but this includes them all.

Personal care: #4 (donut – yum), #6 (to workout – pretty trail), #12 (to track – tired), #23 (to workout)

Personal business: #5 (drop-off/pickup – hills), #11 (pickup – pole in sidewalk)

You carried WHAT?!?: #1 (chair – chair!), #19 (bikes – improve attachment next time)

Arts and entertainment: #3 (art tour – it’s all around!), #20 (Strava art – hard work!)

Non-store: #2 (library – in hand ok), #21 (ATM – has money!)

Social call: none

Work: #7, #8, #9, #13, #14, #17, #22, #24 (commutes – important, bag contents, crossings

Store: #10 (chair round 2 – uphill not so bad), #16 (Trader Joe’s – cargo experiment)

Wild card: #15 (failed trip – fully read email next time)

23 errands, 12 categories, 84.5 transportation miles (108.5 total)