Gorgeous backdrops, bike-friendly paths, and tons of biking clubs and resources make Seattle an outstanding place for bicycling. Whether for commute, recreation, exercise, or sport, Seattle is accommodating to cyclists and always trying to improve. Biking in Seattle is also one of the safest places for the activity, ranking second in nation for bicycle safety, according to an Alliance Benchmark Report.
The reason that Seattle is such a great hub for bicyclists is because the city has poured tons of resources and time into what it calls its “Bicycle Master Plan.” The plan includes numerous bike projects, safety initiatives, and the creation of an extensive network of bicycle paths. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has actually invested over $36 million on the plan, and it’s proving to be very successful.
So read on. This guide will help you find trails and paths in the city, explains some of the city’s unique bicycling initiatives, and can help you connect with the local bicycling community.
Learn the Rules of the Road
Before you hit the road, it’s imperative to know the bicycle laws in Washington State and Seattle and adhere to the rules of the road. Remember – as a bicyclist, you are a vehicle and have the rights and responsibilities that come with it.
- You must yield to pedestrians.
- You must use your voice or a bell before passing.
- You must always ride with – not against – traffic.
- You must wear a helmet at all times while riding.
- You cannot ride more than two abreast.
- You must have reflectors and lights at night on your bike.
To learn more about bicycle laws in Seattle, you can take a bicycle safety course or a riding class offered through a private organization. You can also read over the SDOT’s detailed listing of important bicycle codes.
Finding Bicycle Routes in Your Area
Seattle has over 129 miles of bike lanes and “sharrows” (lanes shared between motorists and cyclists), 98 miles of signed routes, and 2,230 bike parking spaces.
In the following sections, we’ll point you in the right direction for finding local trails and safe biking paths. You can also check out these online resources where you can find safe and convenient routes for biking in your area.
- Seattle Neighborhood Greenways – This is a grassroots initiative geared towards improving roadway safety for pedestrians and cyclists. You can search the site for your neighborhood and see a list of greenway groups in your area, as well as a map of safe routes and greenway community events.
- Ride the City – Ride the City is an online interactive map for cyclists. You enter your starting and ending points on the map, and the program will provide you with either the safest or the most direct path to your destination, depending on your preference. Additionally, it will provide you with the distance and estimated travel time for the trip. Ride the City is also available in the AppStore and at Google Play.
- Bike Maps – The SDOT has a detailed, comprehensive Seattle Bike Map that identifies multi-use trails, sidewalks, greenways, protected bike lanes, sharrows, and regular bike lanes. The map, free of charge, is available as a download or you can request a print copy. You can also use the city’s online, interactive bike map, which has three different focus maps, each tailored to a distinct type of cyclist: frequent, average, and occasional. The SDOT also features a list of additional bike maps you may want to use around Seattle and nearby counties.
Seattle Multi-Use Trails
Multi-use trails are two-way, off street pathways for bicycles and pedestrians. The trails connect neighborhoods to business districts and serve as a safe place for commuting and recreation. Most of the trails are in parks, alongside rivers, near beaches, and in greenbelts where there are few conflicts with motorized vehicles.
There are currently five multi-use trail systems in Seattle: Alki, Burke-Gilman, Chief Sealth, Interurban, and Ship Canal. The city plans to add more trails and to upgrade existing trails soon. You can visit the SDOT site to access a map of and learn more about each trail.
Protected Bike Lanes
Seattle is part of the Green Lane Project, an intensive program to build extensive and safe bike lanes across the U.S. The goal is to build a network of bike paths that puts all Seattle residents within a quarter mile of a bike facility. The bike lanes “help eliminate perceived risk and fear of collisions; reduce the risk of dooring crashes; and add a level of predictability making streets safer for everyone,” explains the SDOT.
You’ll need to become familiar with all the markings on the bike lanes. For example, double arrows mean the path is a sharrow, and green boxes with white bicycle symbols designate areas that bikes and bicycles might cross. There are currently ten protected bike lane networks, which you can learn more about on the SDOT’s Protected Bike Lane directory.
- Center City Bike Network
- Ravenna Protected Bike Lane
- Roosevelt Way NE Protected Bike Lane
- Second Avenue Protected Bike Lane Demonstration Project
- Linden Protected Bike Lane
- Cherry St Protected Bike Lane
- Broadway Protected Bike Lane
- Alki Protected Bike Lane
- NE 65th St Protected Bike Lane
- Westlake Ave N Protected Bike Lane
Need a bike? Try Pronto Bike Share
Pronto Cycle Share, a local non-profit, manages Seattle’s new bike sharing system. There are 50 stations and 500 bikes available throughout Seattle Pronto system. They are nice cruiser bikes, perfect for recreation, family outings, or commute. The bikes feature the following.
- Seven speeds
- Comfortable seating
- A chain guard
- A basket
- Built-in lights
You can purchase a one-day, three-day, or yearly membership to check bikes out. To find out where the Pronto rental stations are located or learn more about membership prices, you can visit the Pronto site.
And you needn’t worry about where to park your bike when you commute in the city. The SDOT has installed bicycle racks in various neighborhood business districts to encourage bicycling for short trips and errands. There are actually 34 on-street bike parking locations throughout Seattle. You can see a complete, up-to-date list of parking stations on the SDOT site.
Notable Resources for Bicyclists of All Levels
To help you get plugged into the Seattle bicycle community and to ensure you’re knowledgeable enough and geared up to hit the trails, you may want to take advantage of the following resources.
- Bicycle clubs – Given the popularity of cycling in Seattle, there are several area clubs and organizations you may want to check out; just Google them. Here are a few to get you started: Seattle Bicycle Club, Cyclists of Greater Seattle, Bicycling Meetups in Seattle, and Seattle Bicycle Touring Club.
- Cascade Bicycle Club – This club serves bike riders of all ages and abilities throughout the Puget Sound region. It offers group rides, a newsletter, events, classes, camps, forums, and activism opportunities.
- Bicycle Sundays – Seattle Parks & Recreation and Cascade Bicycle Club sponsors a bi-monthly Sunday group bicycle ride. They close Lake Washington Boulevard to motorized traffic from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. so you can bicycle along Lake Washington Boulevard south of Mount Baker Beach to the Seward Parks entrance. You can call (206) 684-4075 for more info.
- Safe Routes to School – To encourage bicycling and walking as a means to get to school, Seattle takes part in the national Safe Routes to School (SRTS) initiative. You can visit the SRTS directory, and look for safe routes to school in your neighborhood.
- Seattle by Bike – The SDOT offers a free, downloadable eBook that all riders in the area should check out: Seattle by Bike: Your Easy-Start Guide to Bicycling around Seattle. It covers some of the points already discussed in this guide, and a few others.
- Bicycle accident book – Hopefully, you and your family never experience a serious bicycle accident. If you have or if you know of someone who was recently hurt in a wreck, you can download a free copy of Bicycle Accident Secrets Unlocked from Max Meyers Law.