I just got back from a four hour bicycle ride around Lake Washington. I started from home in Kirkland and went up 108th crossing 85th to then work my way to Market Street. I got a little lost in the residential streets because I ended on Central Way and that is not a pleasant street to be on given the mad drivers on it. Market Street was up, up, up and at least it had clearly marked bike lanes. Yes, they were clearly marked until the roadwork barrels that squeeze all traffic into two lanes, bicyclists included. After that horrid experience I turned off onto Jaunita drive which is an unbelievably long ride to 522 (top of the lake) full of crazy ups and downs, perfect for an excellent cardio workout. At last I made it to the official bicycle highway system and had a pleasant ride going down the Burke Gilman trail. This paved bike and hike trail is wonderful with its blackberry bushes which provide sustenance for travellers, high tree canopies, splendid lake views, and no cars.
I departed the trail at the Huskies stadium switching over to Montlake and then staying on the sidewalks to keep from being flattened by the heavy traffic. Crossing the canal bridge was stupendous, great views of the highlife boats, but traffic got much worse there so I had to stay on the urban sidewalks which to my dismay were in major disrepair. It was just a little south of that bridge where a particularly nasty chunk of sidewalk knocked me off my bike, literally. There was a major pavement heave running nearly parallel to my direction of travel that I did not see. The front tire was kicked hard to one side as I crossed it, throwing me off; I landed hard on my butt and scraped a major chunk of skin off my forearm.
I was stunned from the fall, finding I couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds. I carefully probed my body and found nothing broken; thankfully I had a mini first aid kit to clean up and sterilize the wounds. I sat there for ten minutes just to get past the shock, but with the wounds dressed and some water and a bit of food I recovered.
Anyway I continue down Montlake and missed the turnoff to Martin Luther way so I ended up on 24th. Now that was also unpleasant but I caught up with two other cyclists which made us all much more visible to the traffic.
I turned left on one of the major roads, found Martin Luther then cruised on south toward I-90. Now during this entire trip I carried a so-called detailed bicycling map. The problem with these maps is they were most likely made by non-cyclists, so when the map indicates a road with a bicycle lane, it could mean almost anything. In seattle, a bicycle lane means pavement marked with little bicycling icons that are then used by everyone as a place to park there cars. So, that bicycling lane is no lane at all. Worse, all those giant SUVs festoon the lane with their equally giant mirrors earely awaiting to snap an unwary rider's right shoulder right off their body. Ah well, at that ppoint I decided to just ride in traffic and cars be damned. This was, after all, a 25 MPH road and if some driver wanted to do 50, this was the day he'd have to choose another road.
It was the most eerie experience trying to find I-90. I could hear freeway traffic but couldn’t see any of it. Something told me to stop because it felt like I had passed it. How can one miss a freeway? As I pondered this, two seemingly blind women were walking along the way I came, their canes ticking along the sidewalk. They were the only ones there, and though I couldn’t imagine getting a useful answer from them, I asked them for help.
“I think I’ve passed I-90. Would you know whether it is ahead?”
“Oh no, you crossed over it. That park [points cane behind her] sits atop the tunnels.”
She then looks towards me I the way blind folks do, not exactly at me, but sort of near me as if reading my aura. “The bike trail is up there.”
Now maybe she was mostly blind and could see a little, but her eyes had that wandering quality that usually indicates no-input. Nonetheless she figured out I was a bicyclist and gave darn spot-on advice. Thanking her profusely, being led by the blind seemed appropriate, and so I back tracked 1/8 of a mile and found the most interesting park ever. There on the bike and pedestrian crossroads were urban art installations, each trail way marked by a talisman: “Journey of ascent”, “The crooked way”, “The portal to forever”, etc.
I took the “path of descent” and found myself traveling along a long lighted tunnel that goes underneath I-5 running parallel to the I-90 tunnels. The trail climbed steeply and I found myself on top of the world at the top spire of the west ramparts of the I-90 Bridge. There I took in a splendid view of the lake, Seattle, Bellevue, Mercer Island, and the thin ribbons of concrete descending, cars zooming along the aptly named path of descent.
The bicycle path is an amazing thing. It is barely six feet wide with a concrete safety barrier that any modest size car or truck could breech. To the left is an open railing with thin vertical steel rods spaced about a foot apart, and open water below. Going at maximum speed I couldn’t help but let out a long scream of jubilation watching traffic whooshing towards me with clear views of the approaching lake below. It’s a long crossing, about 8 miles, so I had a good 30 minutes of lake time.
The final leg of the journey was quite nice for a while. The south side of Bellevue is almost rural; many well maintained older homes that were once vacations homes sit astride low traffic streets beneath a canopy of mature trees. Eventually and with much reluctance I had to get on Bellevue Way, which is one of the north/south arterials, riding on the sidewalk because the traffic was moving at 55+ MPH on a 30 MPH road. This was another one of those "bicycle lanes" marked by some deranged civil servant. The trip through downtown was wholly uninteresting though I was tempted to stop at the Starbucks at the mall. As I was fifteen minutes from home and rather bloodied, I decided to ride onward and spare myself a bunch of awkward stares.
It took 4 hours to ride the top half of the lake or about 44 miles; pretty good. I’m tired (in the good sense of that feeling), and I have to dress these wounds.
Skin scrapes always look much worse than the actual damage. All those tiny blood vessels pour out a lot of blood. After cleaning up I was left with a foot long series of road rash not that much different than a mean cat scratch. Antibiotics and a dressing for several days will help the healing process.
I belive that you were on part of the Burke Gilman trail. My understanding is that it goes from Mt Baker clear to Bellevue. I dont know how extensive the bike trail on it is, but I do know the foot trails there go through some really cool areas as far as being able to see wildlife and what not goes.
The Burke Gilman trail, which indeed I rode, goes from Bothell west across the top of the lake then down into Seattle through UW then west towards Fremont (see http://www.metrokc.gov/parks/trails/trails/burke.htm). At its eastern terminus the trail, now called the Sammamish river trail continues south to Marymoor park. I have ridden from Marymoor to Fremont and back; that's a 50 mile ride and I am quite happy to find excellent restaurants and pubs along the way.
And yes, the trail is lovely.
From Marymoor one can get onto the 520 bike trail passing by Microsoft then ending in Kirkland. I take that trail every day from home in Kirkland to the office and back, a 10 mile round trip. I can't find any north/south protected bike trails from Kirkland through Bellevue to I-90. Almost all of the protected bike trails were created by the rails to trails conversion efforts. The rail line from Kirkland south and north is active both for freight as well as the dinner train so I doubt if it will get dismantled any time soon.