finally tried bikeshare, WA edition

If you recall, I used Hubway, the bikesharing system in Boston, with great glee and trepidation with Ellen when visiting this summer — it was useful, the drivers of Camberville were very forgiving, and I did not become the first bikeshare casualty who would forever live (die) in ignominy.

So I tried it today in Seattle. For background, I have WAY too many ways to get to work, from Bellevue and Olive to Bellevue-the-city:

1a. go downhill, take 550 (seattle -> bellevue direct, goes through tunnel, which is odious in the summer because there is no sun, the air is bad, there is no internet in the tunnel; the lake it crosses has less pretty views. It’s less odious in the winter because there’s no sun anyway and fog looks the same from any bridge. It’s still odious in the winter because I have to go down hill and then down stairs for it.)

1b. take one of the four buses that go downhill, take 550. Still have to go down stairs.

2. cross the street, take the 545, get off at Montlake, and furiously check on phone to see which stop — upstairs (271) or downstairs (555) is better. “Better” is not straightforward because downstairs is faster.

I think I’ve discovered a way to hedge: walk upstairs, gaze eastward; if the 555 is coming, carefully scramble down. This will work only on days with good visibility and when I can be bothered.

This is by far the preferred method, and I think it has made me allergic to longer bus rides where I don’t get a break / lake every 15 minutes.

3. take a connector (lumpy, slow, have to reserve a seat, too early in the morning, still manages to be late and there’s no real time notification, feel like a target, drops me off at same place as (1), which is farther than (2)) The connector wasn’t intended to stop on my block; it’s supposed to hit right in the middle of Broadway, to save those people a walk downhill, but got moved to my block because of construction.

4. Vanpool. Our driver had a back injury a while ago, though, and while I hope he’s back in commission, I haven’t checked.

I now also have a bikeshare pen across the street.

I was wearing spandex anyway and woke up late. I didn’t want to risk a bridge closure (/opening, for boats), so I decided to do option 1 but go downhill on a bike.

Getting the bike was pretty easy — I enjoyed the experience of receiving the laffy taffy-like keyfob; kudos to the designers. I mostly figured out how to use the bike (all except shifting — I was going downhill on the lowest gear; woe betide). Didn’t die or drop my bag (tantamount to death); caught my bus. This was like, 10:30; I would still be unsure how to go down Pine safely and without annoying the real cyclists [TM] during rush hour.

On the way home, I emerged from the tunnel and got a bike; I was headed to meet up with friend Andrey at Genki Sushi on lower Broadway.

This was the most woeful use of the bike today: I didn’t figure out how to gear until I was already at Pine and Bellevue, at which point the hill increases so that lowest gear is appropriate. There was no awful clanging sound when I changed gears! My old bike always had that problem.

At Broadway, I realized that I hadn’t decided on a dock when I began the trip, so was confusedly batting at my phone-browser-map on the sidewalk. Someone might have yelled at me at this point, or maybe it was at a car.

The map showed that there was a nearer one at SCCC, but once resolving that I had no chance of finding the SCCC dock in the dark, I decided I would be better off going to the one on the other side of Cal Anderson. This was when I learned that people parallel parking occupy the same part of the lane as you. Docked the bike, ran off to sushi.

It’s ok. The error is entirely between the saddle and the handlebars, and for a second use (uphill, in the rain), perfectly acceptable.

I walked Andrey home and hopped on another bike. This was mostly cruising down Olive. Is it ok to do that? I know I caught a light really well so that I had the road to myself for much of it, but I know it to be a pretty busy street. I took it because it’s shorter (diagonals!) and with fewer intersections — if I’d gone down Broadway, I’d also have to figure out how to get into the bikeway.

I’m not so sure about biking as a mode. Uphill biking takes a long time! I can’t read when doing it, or do anything except pay attention. My usual approach to endurance activities is to go slowly, muse happily to myself, and look at pretty things that pass by.

There’s also some guilt — I mean, day pass + fob = many people’s weekly food budget, on a whim? I needed another way to get places I could already get to? It’s another green-colored thing that yuppies ride?

[god on Thursday I had to get to LQA at 6 so I took the connector to its Belltown terminus; we blocked the bike lane crossing 4th? ave on Stewart and there was so_much_hate. Then we illegally used the bus lane and I continued to feel bad, even though there was an amusing giant backpack in the jansport shop window. Clearly I had left enough buffer in my schedule that day or I’d been cheering that we’d used the bus lane.]

That (aside) aside, I think it’ll show its worth for when it’s: 4:30 am Sunday morning and inexplicably I have to get from Belltown to Capitol Hill, any weekends when there are no buses downhill and I don’t want to walk, evenings when I want something from Trader Joes and a workout.

I’m not sure if it will help the U-District seem less far away, since the ride back is no picnic, and if it’s going to take half an hour, I would rather be twaddling at the phone or eavesdropping on strangers rather than continuing my quest to not be bikeshare’s first casualty.

bonus: Microsoft Commute has also changed its stance from “No we have no plans to subsidize such a silly thing that could be part of your commute but never your primary mode” to “Oh, right, we’re subsidizing car2go which is exceedingly similar to bikeshare, so, uh, we’re looking into it.”

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