Why I’m Riding on Rainier Avenue, pt 2: On Avoidance -updated!-

continued from yesterday, pt 1: the Boogeystreet

Avoidance Strategies

Since I usually value comfort and fun over time, (when I can afford the time) I usually take one of a few routes that eschew Rainier Ave.

If you don’t live in Seattle or don’t want to read about routes, you can always check in tomorrow, when I’ll be talking more about sexism and parenting and the privilege of choice in transportation.

A lot of cyclists ask me for routing help to Columbia City. I’m gonna take a sec and outline my common routes. Feel free and ask for specifics in the comments, masochists.

I don’t remember where I found this picture. it’s a nice bridge, right? I am usually climbing it slowly enough to really get a good look at the iron work.

In my daily commute I am usually riding to Columbia City via downtown, where Baby Oil goes to preschool. On those days, the only real Rainier Avenue avoidance route is to take King Street up from Pioneer Square to 12th Ave and cross the stunningly gorgeous Jose Rizal Bridge, then climb all the way up and over Beacon Hill along Beacon Ave and drop down into Columbia City on Columbian. There are a lot of bike riders along this route, (slight nod of the head to my commute friends!), and I like it just fine. We used to live on Beacon Hill so I’ve gotten used to this climb, but it is not an easy one on days when I’m feeling pooped and on the way home the slog up Columbian on a cargo bike is a little taxing.

On trips where I am coming from Capitol Hill, where we live, I have  few more options. I can, of course take the same route over Beacon Hill, but approach it via 12th Avenue from my part of town, (my most common route.)

I can ride up to the top of the hill and South through the Central District, and eventually East on Yesler Way to 31st, then cruise all the way down the hill through Mt Baker. It’s like downhill for a mile and quite pretty and you wind up just North of Columbia City.

lake washington blvd this morning. oh wait, I mean 1900, when it was a bicycle path!

Or else I can go even further to the East, riding to 20th and Jackson, (hey, it’s Moonlight Cafe!), riding through Judkins Park and following the trail past the dedicated bike polo courts, across 23rd and MLK and through the I-90 bike tunnel, down Coleman park switchbacks and all the way over Capitol Hill and down to Lake Washington Blvd and cruise South in style along one of Seattle’s oldest roads, built for riding on a boneshaker traveling at just my speed. Lake Wash Blvd offers stunning views and only occasionally do I encounter drivers who have a hard time sharing the road with grace.

One other possibility, really only a hair above Rainier in traffic and beauty, but with the added bonus of more climbing is to take the route described above but turn South at MLK and follow that all the way into Columbia City.

If you have followed me at all, you can see that all the alternative routes I’ve found to daring Rainier Avenue involve some not negligible climbing. They are also all quite pretty and worth adding to your quiver of routes, if you keep such a quiver. In which case you are a nerd. Which is cool.

wait! wake up!

That joke was worth reusing.

What was I saying? Oh yeah! Avoidance! That’s how I avoid Rainier. Thing is, with a road like Rainier Avenue, sometimes there’s just no avoiding it. It looms over my route choices like the mountain/volcano it is named for. Tomorrow I’ll finally tell you how I ride on Rainier and why. Thanks for reading, you are sweet.

click here for pt3: on Confrontation and the Privilege of Having a Choice


My friend Mark, maintainer of the truly excellent Cars Stink has made a great map of Seven Routes to Bike Works from Capitol Hill and has generously allowed me to use it here. Click to embiggen, as they say.