Why I’m Riding on Rainier Avenue, pt 1: the Boogeystreet

The Big, Bad Road

There is a street in Seattle, not a freeway or a highway or any place that cyclists are forbidden to ride by law, that nonetheless most cyclists advise one another to avoid at all costs. Traffic levels are so high and the average driver apparently so simultaneously clueless and hostile that even dedicated vehicular cyclists hesitate to take its lanes. Rainier Avenue is like the street Seattle bicyclists tell their kids about to scare them into behaving. It’s the Boogeystreet.

I’m gonna get pretty dramatic here. It’s not all so bad. Look at this lovely painted sign near the North end of Rainier!

What makes it worse is that Rainier Avenue is a very tempting route, especially on paper. It is the only direct connection between Central and South East Seattle (at least on a map). It is also the only flat route between these areas.

This one monster roadway and the stuff built up alongside it basically hog the entire floor of the Rainier Valley from Dearborn to Rainier Beach, where Rainier Ave heads for the lake and Renton Avenue takes over as Car Commuter Speedway #1. There is literally no alternative route within the valley, no wiggle along side streets that does not take the rider up and over several little ridges and humps as they cling to the side of the hills to the East and West of Rainier Ave.

The traffic is fast and multilaned and cyclists are not expected or seemingly welcomed to share the road. On top of all that, Rainier Avenue and most of the developments along it are ugly ugly ugly.

grrr, grrrr, grrrrrr!

Riders from other parts of the city often assume Rainier Ave is the only way to access SE Seattle and thus write off the South End as not for bikers. Sometimes it feels like the city gov’t has as well. That may be improving, but its hard to see how bicycle riders in the Rainier Valley can have the safe and comfortable a ride they deserve until something is done to slow Rainier Avenue down.

click here for pt2: on Avoidance