Michelle’s 2017 Errandonnee part 1

My errands, last week, in all their great detail.

Day 1, Monday 3/20: we walked to the hardware store, drug store, and grocery store

Day 3, Tuesday 3/21: 9 miles. I rode my bike to ride my horse (personal care), then at lunchtime rode down to City Hall for a Greenways meeting (work). City hall has been under renovation for the past year or so, and the bike rack at the main entrance has been unavailable. This day it was there, but unattached, so I went to the rack in the back of the building (which turned out to be closer to my meeting anyway), which is located in the small gap between roofs. My cargo bike is long enough that the back end stays dry.


note the wet spot around the bike

In the evening, I rode to the neighborhood pub to meet some friends for a birthday celebration (social call), where my bike attracted lots of interest, even without kids.

Day 3, Wednesday 3/22: 3 miles. We walked to the grocery store and to pick up our CSA box.


somebody only falls asleep if we’re out with the stroller in the late afternoon

In the evening I biked with my daughter to the church for our American Heritage Girls meeting (social call). It’s nice to be able to do that ride in the daylight now.

Day 4, Thursday 3/23: 15 miles. We rode to the church, where I teach a preschool catechism class on Thursday mornings (work), first stopping to drop off an empty CSA box and a bag of smoke detectors (you carried what?).

The older two stay in the nursery, and the younger two are in the class. In the afternoon I took my older two to their catechism class (work), then rode down to the library with the younger two (non-store errand).

On the way home we stopped at the hardware store for electric fencing supplies (you carried what?).

In the evening I had a meeting in downtown Kirkland (work) at 6:30pm, a nice heavy-traffic time of day. I rode with traffic straight down to the water, which I am getting more comfortable doing. Even the cars go slowly on downtown Kirkland streets because there’s so much traffic. The last intersection before the water I waited at the light behind a few cars, but when it turned green, both the left-turning cars and the right-turning car were blocked by people walking, so I scooted between them to go straight. It’s nice to have a small vehicle.


waited long enough at the light in question to take pictures of it


only bike parked at the rack

Day 6, Saturday 3/25: 5 miles. When we got to the afternoon everybody was out-of-sorts, so for a change of pace, I took the older two to ride my horse (wild card). We rode my not-so-favorite 60th St, and did not have any issues. I’ve been riding the electric cargo bike there more often, and I think people driving get less mad when the bike is going 19mph than when it’s going 10mph.

Then it was home just long enough to finish dinner and take it to some friends with a new baby (social call).

Day 7, Sunday 3/26: 3 miles. Was a trip to Mass with two boys (personal care). It was raining, and with all the rain we’ve gotten in the last few months, I discovered that my rain pants had failed. They worked with wool and fleece underneath, but that’s not what I was wearing on this day. Somehow it occurred to me that in previous winters I’d had a baby seat in front that kept rain off of my lap and knees, so I put the baby seat back up and managed to get to Mass dry enough. Win.

That’s the first week! More later.

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An outing on two bikes

Our older kids ride their own bikes in our neighborhood, but longer outings on their own bikes are usually saved for the weekend when there are two parents around. Our 8yo had an opportunity to ride her own bike for a recent outing.

First up: the swimming pool. 3.2 miles, 150 feet up, 250 feet down

One of the little boys had a makeup swimming lesson. I’ve always toted 8yo on my bike to the pool, because she usually needs to swim when she’s there. This time she was game to ride her own bike.

The route was mostly the Proposed Rose Hill greenway, which is quiet and pleasant. Then we climbed up to the 100th St bike/pedestrian/emergency vehicle bridge over I-405. The switchbacks to the bridge are difficult with a cargo bike or trailer (or both) but no problem for this girl on her little bike. She waited for me at the top, then chugged up the steep hill to the pool. So far so good.


switchback ramp is a real pain with a cargo bike

Next: downtown Kirkland. 1.9 miles, 320 ft down

First we had to get to the Cross Kirkland Corridor. There’s a super super steep downhill to meet the trail at 12th, or a less steep but busier downhill to meet the trail at 7th. I chose the less steep, because I don’t like riding down that steep hill. And we didn’t meet a single car, so it was definitely the right choice today. From the trail we had to get into Kirkland. Once we got to Kirkland Way, we rode side-by-side in the car lane because I don’t like the door zone bike lane. Then a short stretch of sidewalk to the bike shop where we dropped off the bikes and walked for the rest of our errands.

She also tried out this sweet little Giant city bike. She hasn’t completely outgrown her current bike, but she’s getting there, and this was a nice fit. I’m not sure I want to jump on it yet – she’s just gotten to where she can ride all of our hills, and this bike is heavier because it’s bigger. We’ll see.

Finally: home. 3.1 miles, 450 feet up, 50 feet down

The ride home is a serious climb. Part of it is known as the Kirkland Kicker on Strava. She did the climb from the CKC to home a few weeks ago, but this was the first time she rode the whole way from downtown Kirkland. The climb is mostly straight up Kirkland Ave, and at the end of that there’s a corkscrew ramp to climb to the 80th St bike/pedestrian bridge. After crossing I-405, most of the climbing is done, which is good because she was D-O-N-E.

8.2 miles. 600 feet up and down. I’m excited that she’s able to ride more and more on her own.

Halloween in our neighborhood

Halloween has come and gone, and I took my two big kids out around the neighborhood in search of candy and community. We walked the length of our street and visited every house, but rather than go down to the next street and do the same, as we did last year, we went back home and picked up the bike so that we could go a little farther.

 
All-black costumes

Over the last few weeks, as we’ve biked around the neighborhood, the kids had noticed some houses where the residents obviously get really into Halloween. Not unsurprisingly, they were interested in visiting those houses on Halloween night. They were too far for us to go to every house along the way, so we decided to take the bike, and visit a few spots in our neighborhood.

I was a little sad, picking and choosing to go only to the houses with the great Halloween decorations. What I love about Halloween is the community, the way every kid in the neighborhood is out and about, and most of the parents as well. It’s an excuse to knock on every door and exchange a few pleasantries. You don’t even need a costume or a pumpkin to participate – just a bowl of candy and a welcoming porch light. Perhaps those undecorated houses are the most important to visit. That might be the lonely person who would love to admire children in costume.

We get some trick-or-treaters at our house, but not many. We live at the end of the block, and around the corner is a slightly busier street that has very few street-facing houses. Perhaps the door density on our corner isn’t high enough to attract kids for efficient candy gathering. The street we went to visit, only a few blocks away, has a consistent, continuous density of doors, and there were lots of groups of kids out and about.

This street has no sidewalks, but the street is narrow, and mostly quiet, so we are comfortable walking and biking on in the street every day, not just Halloween. We saw only a couple of cars while we were out tonight.

The bike was a good solution to the problem of wanting to go a little farther and a little faster than we would walking. It would have been easier if we didn’t need to wear helmets: each stop meant gloves off, helmet off, hat on, so we ended up walking more. The bike itself didn’t interfere with the magic of the night the way a car would. We could still greet our neighbors and slip in and out of driveways as needed.

Then we rode back on the arterial because we needed to get back for dinner, and we saw lots of cars and no people. Not surprising; that street is toxic every day of the year.

Don’t widen 124th Ave: my remarks to Kirkland City Council

I spoke to the Kirkland City Council as part of the budget hearing tonight. Here are my remarks:

Good evening council, Mayor, staff. My name is Michelle Plesko. I’m here tonight to ask you for something a little bit unusual. I’m asking you to take something out of the budget. I live in Kirkland. We are a single-car family with four kids. To get around we mostly bike, walk, or take the bus. My priorities in the budget are safe, convenient, comfortable streets for people walking and biking, and efficient transit. I thank you for all of the bike and pedestrian safety projects that are in the budget. I would like other families to be able to live like we do, for all of its many benefits to the individual, family, and community. I would also like to ease the burden on those who cannot or do not drive.

In particular, I am concerned about the plan to widen 124th Ave from 3 lanes to 5, and the intersections in the area that are planned to be expanded. I would like to see these projects removed from the budget. This is not an effective use of money. Even if it were free, it would make the city worse.

When the city embarked on the Kirkland 2035 process, you got feedback that people wanted to city to be “green,” “sustainable,” and “walkable.” The Transportation Master Plan has a hierarchy of transportation modes: first people walking, then biking, then transit, freight, and last of all cars. It also embraces Vision Zero: a goal of zero deaths or serious injuries due to transportation in Kirkland. Widening 124th Ave is contrary to ALL of these goals. It will not make Totem Lake walkable. It will not make it safer, and by encouraging more car traffic and discouraging other modes, it will make Kirkland less green and sustainable. This neighborhood is right next to the CKC (Cross Kirkland Corridor). It has potential! This could be a very walk- and bike-friendly destination. Widening the street will ruin that.

Let’s think about characteristics of walkable neighborhoods. The streets are narrow. The crossings are short. Motor vehicles move slowly and carefully, and there aren’t too many of them. A five-lane street is the antithesis of this. When there are five lanes for cars, people get the message that “this street is for cars” and they don’t go there in any other mode. Worse, people driving get this message, and expect to have the highest priority on the street. Then they neglect to look for and yield to other users.

Five lane streets in cities mean that the transportation system has failed, and it’s time to find more efficient ways of moving people. Just look at Bellevue. A congested street needs improvements to walking, biking and transit, not more space for cars. The phenomenon of induced demand means that any extra car space will fill up, and then we’ll have a street that is not only congested, but also bigger, more dangerous, and less pleasant for everybody. When you design a street for cars, it fails for all users. When you design it for people, it works for all users. This is the paradox that needs to inform our budgeting.

On a five lane-street, it doesn’t matter how nice the sidewalks are, or even if the bike lanes are protected. The intersections are wide, and people walking and biking are exposed at intersections. Wider streets are more dangerous for all users. Side-impact crashes double when you go from one approaching lane to two.

Doing nothing to 124th Ave would be an improvement over the current plan. If you’d like to do something, start with a statement of the real problem: how do we move this number of people through this area in the most efficient way? By starting with a plan to widen the street, you are imposing a design that won’t solve any of the problems you are trying to solve, and is working contrary to the goals of the city and the community.

Here is the question: when you adopted Vision Zero, did you mean it? When you adopted the Transportation Master Plan with its hierarchy of modes, were you serious? If you widen these roads and intersections, it will be clear that this was all about a veneer of green.

Tales from 60th

I try to focus on the good things that happen when we are out on foot and bike, because I want to remember the joy in our lifestyle. I don’t want to be an angry cyclist. But there’s this one street that I ride regularly that is just soul-sucking. There’s no bike lane, but it’s busy enough that people driving get angry at me for riding in the road.

Most of the summer it wasn’t so bad to ride, but this week I got honked at again. I kept riding, because there was nothing else I could do – the street has no shoulder, no bike lane, no parking lane, no sidewalk, just a narrow gravel path on the opposite side from where I was riding. Then after the traffic going the other way (a whole three cars) had cleared, the driver passed, mostly safely, if maybe with some excessive acceleration.

This was less than a quarter mile. I delayed her (making assumptions here because white Lexus SUV) maybe 20 seconds.

Obviously this person was in a hurry. I can just imagine the conversation when she got to her destination. “I’m sorry I’m late. There was this CYCLIST in front of me!”

 

Mark’s 2016 Errundonnee #1 – Running with a chair?!?

After my inaugural Errundonnee last year and the realization that I could do more by running that I originally thought, I’ve further embraced transportation running and sought out new, err, opportunities.  It has fit in quite well with training because, outside of a few key workouts per week, there’s a lot of benefit to simply putting in the miles.  Another thing that I’ve learned in the last year is that a second run in a day can be less stressful than the same mileage crammed into one run.  So all of a sudden the oft-dreaded two-a-day became the opportunistic double commute (with possible stops, of course).  I’ve double-commuted a bit in the past, but I’ve tried to do more of it recently.

A year has rolled around, and this year’s rules unsurprisingly still have the ever-fun “You carried WHAT on your bike (or back)?!” category/control.  I’ve been thinking about this one and looking forward to it.  After my initial Errundonnee, I’ve felt a little pressure to, no, wait, that might disqualify me via rule 12.  I’ve felt encouraged (yes, that’s it!) to come up with something good for this year.

Enter the failing upholstery on our gliding chair.

I might have sat on this one for a bit waiting for this day.  I’d say no pun intended, but I’m already talking about running errands here so no one will believe me anyway.

The first lesson was kind of an obvious one except that it’s not the sort of thing anyone would ever think about.  Upholstery shops, being light industrial, don’t tend to be in walkable (or runnable) locations.  I’m going to do this with a stroller, so I won’t exactly be nimble.  A trip to Redmond would be ok; I could use a few neighborhood streets, get past a rough stretch, and then have the 520 Trail, Sammamish River Trail, and Redmond Connector at my disposal.  Alas, my first target turned out to “only” do woodwork.  (Hmm… the possibilities…)  Then I found three in Bellevue in the Northup/Bel-Red area.  They wouldn’t work because, well, Bellevue.  (See here or here though much is afoot (sorry!) so maybe someday.)  Then I found addresses for three more in Redmond, but none existed.  Finally, I found one:

all-city

The Cross Kirkland Corridor’s main problem is that, being an old rail line, it avoids most places (like downtown Kirkland), which turns out to be perfect for this kind of destination.  I can get to the CKC via neighborhood streets and a ped/bike bridge over I-405.  So now to figure out how to actually bring the chair.  It turns out that it fit really well in both the single and double Bob strollers.  The double seemed more stable, so I went with that:WP_20160304_15_20_13_Pro.jpg

Of course it was raining, so it also needed a cover:

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The obvious question in all of this is why I would even do this.  And I could blah blah like running more than biking blah blah don’t know how I’d attach it to any of our bikes blah blah could drive blah blah Errandonnee, but really here’s the answer.  Who’s having the most fun here?

WP_20160304_15_42_14_ProWP_20160304_15_47_39_Pro

The run itself turned out to be surprisingly easy.  I bungeed it to the stroller, but it settled into the seats so nicely that even that might not have been needed.  The weight balance was really good; it took very little pressure to lift the front wheel for turning (the front wheel on jogging strollers generally locks straight forward for stability).  In fact, it was easier than pushing the twins around both because of that and because it weighed less than them.  The weight might have tipped backwards on an uphill, a problem we’ve cleverly solved by living on the top of a hill.

Four miles later, I was there (the chair is already inside).  The return trip was lighter.

WP_20160304_16_11_23_Pro

Possible categories: You carried WHAT, non-store errand (pretty clearly going to be the former)

Side note: The category is officially “You carried WHAT on your bike (or back)?!”, which I’m going to claim is an oversight of the tools available to transportation runners 🙂

Miles: 8

Connecting the Eastside Rail Corridor part 4: Totem Lake

Today I am back to the series on Connecting the Eastside Rail Corridor by discussing the connection to Totem Lake.

Totem Lake is an area of Kirkland that will soon be redeveloped with a new mall and eventually housing. The park will be rebuilt to feature the lake itself. The city of Kirkland is counting on a revitalized Totem Lake to boost tax receipts and the area features prominently in upcoming potential transit plans. Just to the north of the mall site is Evergreen Hospital and many other medical offices.

totemlake (2)

One of the trail’s (blue line) great selling points is supposedly the great connection to Totem Lake, but it doesn’t really serve it any better than it does downtown Kirkland or Houghton. It’s 1/3 mile of arterial unpleasantness (red line) to the nearest corner of the current mall. You need to cross both 124th St and 124th Ave. The only place to do so is at their intersection which is huge and has terrible pedestrian level-of-service and typical narrow sidewalks.

Note the trail coming in from the right in this picture. You’d turn on the sidewalk to cross at the next light.

And here is the intersection in question

Then you ride on 124th Ave/Totem Lake Blvd. I rode that once and it was one of my most terrifying family biking moments (though I got a “you go girl! You got this!” from an angel driving a car).

Note the trail continuing to the right. You don’t continue on the trail here to get to Totem Lake, but stay on the street (sidewalk).

Totem Lake Blvd remains a five-lane road with no bike infrastructure as far as you need it. Here’s the mall site, ahead to the right. This intersection of Totem Lake Blvd, the on- and off-ramps to I-405, and 120th Ave NE will also need some work to be comfortable on a bike.

Kirkland has plans for a lovely sweeping pedestrian/bike overpass to a rebuilt Totem Lake Park, and a connection to the mall from there (pink line). In addition, the vision for Totem Lake Blvd includes separated bike lanes (“one way or two way cycle track buffered from vehicular traffic with a combination of vegetation and structured barrier” from the Master Plan). This should solve the problem, but the bridge adds another hill, and doesn’t make the trail any closer to the mall. I think an underpass would be a better choice here as it would involve less climbing, but it would not provide the iconic bridge the city seems to want. Plus, there is no funding, so who knows when it will ever be built? In the meantime, we are stuck with that red line. If the city is serious about bike access to the new Totem Lake, they need to fix the intersections and Totem Lake Blvd and not wait for the bridge and the park.

The most direct connection to Totem Lake from the south/west would be along the I-405 offramp (yellow line). Is there space in the right of way? I don’t know, and that’s not an easy area to scout, but there is a grade-separated crossing of 124th St.

Next: Bellevue

Previously: Houghton