Despite our proximity to Bellevue, we spend very little time there. There just aren’t that many places one can reasonably reach. There are a few useful spots, but mainly it is too car-centric to be usable.
I pass through the north part (NE 24th St and north, eastside of 405, and the 520 trail) for some running loops and routes to work. One exception to the car-centric nature is the crossing from Microsoft campus to NE 30th St., shown here:
This opens up to a few decent routes – Idylwood Park and a back way to Crossroads Mall. And going by bike is the best way to park at both! Idylwood is actually in Redmond, but Bellevue roads make the trip possible.
The key to this is the intersection design at Bel-Red Road. It does not allow Microsoft traffic to go straight across, which allows 30th and nearby streets to stay quiet.
[As of 12/27/2014, the Google imagery was out of date. There are now crosswalks across Bel-Red on both sides. It is a bit difficult to navigate the sidewalks to get to them on a cargo bike.]
Otherwise, the Northup and Bel-Red corridors are multi-lane disasters that poison everything around them. We’re waiting on this area. There is a supposedly funded project to add bike lanes to Northup. It remains to be seen how approachable this will be; it’s unfortunate that a new project would be an unprotected bike lane and little-to-no traffic calming. There is a short-term proposal to add bike lanes to 116th Ave., which will help (though again, no protection). There are longer-term plans to continue the Cross Kirkland Corridor through the rail corridor, plus of course the light rail plans and the so-called Spring District. We can hope.
I find downtown Bellevue to be a fairly miserable place to go. I wouldn’t even attempt it on a bike. However, I’ve had two errands there in the last few weeks, and I decided to run one way for each of them. Here’s part of one of the trips:
I used 116th to enter from the north. One problem here is the obliviousness of drivers in the driveways. This will be a challenge for the proposed bike lanes (and of course for the current riders and pedestrians). Then I went across the bridge at 12th. This works on foot but is pretty much impossible to use on a bike. In general, road/sidewalk transitions are difficult and dangerous. Going inbound, one could make an awkward maneuver onto the sidewalk and then would need to merge into traffic at the end of the bridge. Going outbound, I don’t even know what to do. Most riders appear to just use the road, which lacks even a basic bike lane. The alternative would be to somehow ride to the northeast corner of 12th and 112th, ride across the bridge, and then need to go from the northwest corner of 12th and 116th to the east side of the intersection (especially bad if going further east on 12th, which would mean a need to diagonal crossing to the eastbound traffic lane).
The bridge connects to the edge of downtown. Since most traffic is on 12th or south of it, the north-side crosswalks are a bit quieter than anything coming up. This makes it a good place to stay until turning south for a destination. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have needed to stop much at all if I had been aggressive enough with the crossings. However, the intersections are still big enough that I didn’t feel like I could manage them very well. In fact, managing the turning car traffic even when using pedestrian green signals is already enough.
From here it’s city travel with frequent intersections that are pretty annoying on a run (or any other mode of travel). It’s probably not so bad walking a block or two, but trying to cross town it’s just long stop after long stop. This is partly the price of density, but it’s more the attempt at car density rather than people density. The light cycles are long (favoring vehicle Level of Service over anything else, I imagine). The intersections are huge and uncomfortable. While the protected left turns add some safety (no clashes with pedestrian signals), they add to the length of the cycles. Presumably the lanes are huge because that’s how Bellevue does things, and that adds to the intersection sizes. The even sadder thing is that all of this design for cars doesn’t exactly make it a pleasant place to drive. We’d pretty much stopped going to Bellevue Square even before we cut back on car usage. And all of this assumes that your crosswalk exists, which is unlikely:
One bright point is that drivers seem to be aware of pedestrians at intersections, at least during the right-turn-on-green and pedestrian-green signal conflicts that I encountered. But all and all I would take a trip to Redmond or even Kirkland or online over this.