Late Night Bike + Bus Adventures

Contributing Author:  Kathy Dunn

On April 17th, a hot tip told me the Tokyo String Quartet was performing at UW Meany Hall that night…it would be their last performance in Seattle since they are on their final tour.  Transportation plan: take my bike and Metro to Ballard, then bike the final four miles along the Burke-Gilman Trail to the 7:30 pm performance.

I had an hour and a half to get from Alki to the UW.  They don’t let you into the concert if you arrive late.  I could probably have biked the whole way but I wanted to arrive dressed up a bit and not too sweaty.  I loaded my bike first on Metro Route 50 and then on the  Rapid Ride C Line.

I was traveling comfortably on “Rapid” Ride toward my stop at 15th and Leary Way in Ballard when I realized in my hurry to catch the bus I had changed to a fancier bag and left my bike lights at home.  How was I to get home in the dark?   I have a bright red flasher on my helmet so I was OK from the rear but what about the front white light?  I don’t keep one on my bike since they are pricey and easily stolen.

At 7 pm I left Ballard on my bike while I still had daylight and made it to Meany Hall in time.  After a brilliant concert with an exquisitely performed Ravel Quartet in F (Second Movement)  I had to decide:  find a bus to downtown and transfer to the Rapid Ride C on 3rd Avenue, or hazard four miles of the B-G trail in the dark without a front light.  The weather was mild so I decided to cautiously bike the trail to the Rapid Ride D which would take me from Ballard to the Alaska Junction.

There is a detour on the B-G trail to the street for several blocks near the University Bridge.  The UW is constructing a test section of their upgrade to the trail.  Returning from the concert, I stayed on the sidewalk through the detour route and never had to bike on the street.  Yeay (!) for Seattle letting cyclists use the sidewalks as long as we are courteous and give right of way to pedestrians.  The sidewalks have pretty good lighting.  Not so much on the multi-use Burke-Gilman Trail.  It is extremely dark in many places.  It could really use some low level lighting shining on the path.  I think UW plans to install some of this in their upgrade.  I used my bell a lot when approaching other bikes to let them know I was there. As overcrowded and dangerous as the B-G Trail can be on Sunday afternoons, on a Wednesday night at 10 pm you pretty much have the trail to yourself. I resisted the temptation to stop at  Brouwers Cafe or  Hales Brewery; I didn’t want an  “RUI” accident while traveling without  a front light.  At the edge of Fremont, I gave the “Missing Link” a pass and stuck instead to the south sidewalk of Leary Way.  This is a much safer route between Ballard and the “U” in my opinion.  A big plus is that the sidewalk is fairly well lighted and has nice wide curb ramps at every intersection.  The sidewalks could have been wider but that is true just about everywhere in Seattle.  Timing was great at the RR stop on the north end of the Ballard Bridge, one minute after I arrived at the stop I was riding it home to West Seatte.  At the Alaska Junction I just missed the 50 bus to Alki and it only runs hourly late at night.  So to kill an hour I had an overdue dinner and that long awaited brew at the Matador where I watched the 14th inning of Mariners v. Detroit.

I could have carefully biked on the sidewalks from the Alaska Junction to Alki, but then I wouldn’t have had that nice dinner and beer.  I could have driven my car to UW and parked in their garage for $10 along with several hundred other concertgoers (there was quite a traffic jam coming out of that garage).  But I only had to spend $4.75 for bus fare.  And I had a little more adventure on my trip.

When the Link is extended to UW in 2016, It will definitely be faster getting from West Seattle to Meany Hall by public transportation.  I might just get season tickets to some of the fantastic Meany Hall Performing Arts Center events.

The last 50 bus of the day that leaves Alaska Junction at 11:48 pm was nearly full.  It’s a shorter bus now, but still, I was impressed with the ridership at that late hour, and most riders rode all the way to Alki.  Alki lost its late trip from downtown (until 1 pm) when the 56 stopped running off peak in the September service change.

This is why I like to park my bike in the Junction when taking RR to events downtown or at Seattle Center.  You never know if you’re going to be home in time for that last trip.

Thanks Kathy for the great story!  This is a great example of how anyone can get around Seattle by combining a bike with bus rides.

Metro and Sound Transit have great info for people wanting to use transit with their bikes:

And if anyone wants to practice loading their bikes onto a bus rack, Alki Bike & Board in the Admiral District has a rack that they put out on the sidewalk every day…free to try out!