When Sammamish resident Mark Griffin moved to Sammamish from the East coast years ago, he quickly found the hills and trails around the area were slightly more challenging than what he had encountered before. The realization led him to upgrade his wheels, which led to even more riding and eventually, commuting 15.5 miles one-way to work in downtown Bellevue up to three times per week.
Griffin was far from along on National Bike to Work Day on May 17, when he was one of several dozen riders who stopped by a refreshment and information station in Issaquah and had the chance to talk with the city’s department of sustainability about its expanding network of commuting alternatives.
“This is cool they can ask bikers who actually use the lanes and are out here what our feelings are,” he said. “I think that is the best way to feed information.”
Mary Joe de Beck, a senior program manager in the sustainability department, said the city has been working on a series of outreach projects and information gathering opportunities to feed suggestions for improvement, with Bike to Work Day bringing out some of those most heavily impacted.
The official count was 66 around 8:30 a.m., lower than last year’s total and certainly affected by the rainy morning. But de Beck and resource conservation coordinator Micah Bonkowski said the weather did little to impact the enthusiasm for those who did come by to chat about the future of alternate commuting options in Issaquah.
“I ride myself, so it is encouraging to see people out, especially on a day like this,” Bonkowski said. “I enjoy seeing the riders of all different levels – people who are just starting to ride their bike to work and those who ride every day, year-round.”
Griffin said he sometimes uses public transit for part of his return ride to Sammamish, and has been impressed with the city’s receptiveness to public suggestions and willingness to maintain accessible means of alternate transportation. The days he rides his bike, he added, have a decided advantage over the mornings he spends in rush-hour traffic.
“You get a little smog when you go past I-90,” he said. “All the traffic is stopped and you’re moving, that feels pretty good.”
De Beck said one of the common refrains of the morning dealt with the section of the Lake Sammamish trail that is is scheduled to reopen around June after a roughly year-long closure for paving and other improvements. While some are thrilled about the opening and the changes to the surface from gravel, others are hesitant to the shift and in favor of the speed-buffer the aggregate surface provided.
“A big message from all the excitement is one size doesn’t fit all,” she said, adding each section of trail has an interest based on the people who use it and whether one is out for a relaxing walk or high-impact exercise.
For Griffin, the city’s dedication to facilitating alternate commutes – which also includes working alongside ride-share programs – is a major bonus to living in the area. The outdoor exercise keeps him in shape and perhaps more importantly, out of a gym routine he found tiresome and unable to produce results.
“As you get older, biking isn’t as hard on the knees as running,” he said. “I like being outdoors and getting to see things around me instead of being at the gym, looking at the fat guy in the mirror.”