(EDITOR’S NOTE: We mentioned earlier that we had assigned a reporter to ride along on Councilmember Tom Rasmussen‘s open-invite bike commute today. Here’s his story, with photos along the way)
Story and photos by Johnathon Fitzpatrick
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Seattle Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, an eight-year West Seattleite, has invited the public to bike-commute in with him all week as part of Mayor McGinn‘s Walk-Bike-Ride initiative. He has been writing online about his experiences; this morning at 7 am, he stood at Weather Watch Park with his Univega (rain bike) waiting for traveling companions.
A low fog clung to the shoreline across the sound as a ferry horn bellowed and seagulls picked their way across the early-morning low tide along Beach Drive. A group of four cyclists rode along with Rasmussen in the slightly chilly morning he considered to be more like October weather. “I sure hope summer’s not done,” he muses.
There’s a brief moment of awkwardness as the group navigates around a trash truck and yet another as a cyclist shouts “on your left! ON YOUR LEFT… (Expletive)!” Yet these are minor annoyances as Rasmussen plays tour guide and discusses transportation issues.
(The story continues, with more photos too)
He pointed out the Alki Statue of Liberty Plaza time-capsule, wondering how long it will last, then to the remnants of an old pier where he says a pool used to be. He listens to opinions on the Admiral Way (downhill) bike lane, and calls the poorly-designed West Marginal Way intersection a “logistical nightmare” after nine bikes queue up waiting for two crosswalk signals to change.
Just before this, Rasmussen describes his encounter on Monday with a sprinkler sneak attack. As the group cruises along a shrubbery-lined path, automated sprinklers water plants, pavement and people equally. “There I am minding my own business,” he says, “when suddenly they start popping up.” After the group navigates the water gauntlet, he states matter-of-factly “… and now I have wet ankles.”
The primary route for cyclists commuting to downtown is the “low bridge” (Spokane Street Swing Bridge). The northern end of the bridge leaves many cyclists confused as to where to go. A round-about trail winds around under the bridge to meet up with the main path on the other side, yet many cyclists, including Rasmussen, cross through heavy industrial traffic and cracks in the road to save time. “Trucks have gotten better at the cross-over,” he says.
Today he leads the group under the bridge instead, explaining that he is not as experienced as other cycling councilmembers Sally Clark and Mike O’Brien. His ‘cross-over’ route preference aside, Rasmussen says he is more of a safe cyclist. He prefers to not ride at night for fear of potholes, and switches between downtown streets and sidewalks to avoid traffic. He asks about putting bikes on bus racks, something he has never done. He worries his bike would fly off, yet his fellow commuters assure him otherwise.
Rasmussen is chair of the council’s Transportation Committee. His primary focus recently has been on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Central Waterfront replacement project. Shouting over the steady hum of vehicles on Alaskan Way, he says “I’ve spent endless amounts of time keeping that project moving. We’re making good progress,” He says, citing an article in the Seattle Times today on contract language and the intent of the state legislature.
Regarding Mayor McGinn’s most recent statement yesterday on the city’s liability for project cost overruns, Rasmussen says, “The mayor keeps on using this as a reason to keep us from starting, but that’s just a red-herring. He doesn’t want the tunnel, period.”
Returning to cycling issues, Rasmussen addresses the budget shortfalls facing Seattle’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plans. He says the council is considering reinstating a commercial parking tax as well as creating a $20 vehicle license fee.
Results from the master plan are already apparent as the once patchy and harrowing stretch of road bordering the crane-speckled Port now gives way to a freshly-paved bike lane easily 15-20 feet wide.
Councilmember Rasmussen will complete his week of bike commuting to City Hall on Friday (an A.M. meeting tomorrow means no Thursday ride). You are invited to join him departing from Weather Watch Park (4035 Beach Drive SW) at 7 am Friday. He says on Monday nobody showed. On Tuesday he convinced a friend to ride in. But today he had four traveling companions, who said a WSB post inspired them to come out. The ride is flat and pleasant, lasting a leisurely 50-60 minutes.