I knew I had made a mistake when I stepped out of my friend’s apartment and saw that it had started to rain. I had just gotten a new e-bike and had been riding it everywhere, but I was still reluctant to test my biking prowess in a rainstorm. I hesitated for a moment under the apartment alcove, said a few curse words, and then hopped on my bike and into the storm.
My Eastlake e-bike adventure started this past November. I had been utilizing the Lime e-bikes a little too frequently around town, and once I found out that my work lets its employees lease e-bikes, I knew I wanted to try it out. The bike store owners mentioned that November is not the best month to start biking in Seattle, but I was already too excited to let their advice deter me.
Something I immediately noticed was that e-bikes and Eastlake are complementary. Eastlake has many restaurants and small shops that make it fairly easy to get what you need by walking around the neighborhood. There are a few essentials it lacks however, like a pharmacy, a library, a hardware store, and other shops I need to visit regularly. This limitation disappears on my e-bike. I can get to most of our surrounding neighborhoods in around 10-20 minutes with minimal exertion on my part. On a bike there’s no waiting around for the 70 bus to take me to where I need to go. Additionally there’s no stress to find parking for a bicycle, and no traffic to negotiate if you’re riding at rush hour. This bike makes Seattle just a little bit smaller, and it’s enough to make living in Eastlake easier.
There have been some downsides though. Surprisingly, weather is not the most difficult thing to navigate when riding a bicycle in Seattle (I survived my rainy ride home because I had remembered to pack a hat and coat). Eastlake Ave is not a safe bike street. Cars seem to speed through our neighborhood and somehow bikers are expected to share the road with cars that dwarf us in size. I’m not comfortable riding on this street although I see many commuters that bike on Eastlake Ave every day.
As for me, I take the back-alleys and side-streets until I get out of our neighborhood and onto a protected bike path. There’s often broken glass in these back-alleys, and fixing a popped tire on an e-bike is painful. The RapidRide J Line project will finally provide Eastlake bikers with a safe place to bike, but I was dismayed to learn that it will be years until this project completes. (Editor’s note: RapidRide J construction starts 2024 with completion in 2027.) Bikers in Eastlake need a safe route to travel through and no one should be threatened with serious injury just trying to get in and out of our neighborhood.
In the meantime, I’ll keep whizzing around the backstreets of Eastlake. Feel free to say hello if you see a person on a little red e-bike. I’ll give you a wave and maybe a “ding!” of my bike bell as I ride by.
For those of you wondering, Madeleine’s bike is a Ride1UP. A version of this article first appeared in the Eastlake News Summer 2023 hard copy edition.