Mapping the way through Issaquah’s bike trails

Mapping out bicycle and pedestrian trails in and around Issaquah has been a labor of love for resident Karen Behm.

By Megan Managan

For The Reporter

Mapping out bicycle and pedestrian trails in and around Issaquah has been a labor of love for resident Karen Behm.

Along with the local organization Getting Around Issaquah Together (GAIT) Behm created the first Bicycle Issaquah map, highlighting local trails, connections and the different types of trails used throughout the city.

As an avid biker it was always something she wanted to do and late last winter she started the project, which concluded with the map’s first printing in July.

“It paints the picture and shows where the weaknesses are,” Behm said. Behm painstakingly traveled every trail that is listed on the map, either on foot or via her bike.

“It was a lot harder than you would think,” she said, as many of the trails were disjointed and hard to figure out. “I just dove into it and hit the point of no return and just had to finish it.”

The map features all of the city of Issaquah, as well as a little sliver of Bellevue, the Highlands and a piece of unincorporated King County.

Behm, along with Jeff Youngstrom, the founder of GAIT, and several others in the community, have long been active in discussions about transportation and getting people to see beyond just the use of cars. Behm said over the years she feels like organizations, especially the city of Issaquah, have become more aware.

“I think they are more aware of the holistic approach, instead of saying more cars, more cars, more cars, they are aware there are other ways. But there is a long way to go,” Behm said.

One surprising thing Behm discovered during her travels along the trails is a few had simply disappeared, like the Laughing Jacob trail.

Behm found a trail, which wasn’t an official King County trail in Sammamish, but that was probably created by a developer, had become overgrown to the point where bikes have trouble getting through.

“It was about eight feet of paved trail, but now its down to about one foot, overgrown with root breaks. It’s actually dangerous for bikes,” she said.

Behm said in general trails around and in the Highlands were a challenge to map because old trails are being removed as construction takes place, but at the same time new ones are going in.

Overall, Behm said, the trails in the area are great, but many need maintenance to be kept up to standards that make them useful for cyclists.

“Trails get lumped into the recreation category so there’s not as much maintenance as there is with roads,” she said. One such example is the Issaquah-Preston Trail, Behm said. The trail connects Issaquah to Preston following along the northern side of Interstate 90.

Once cyclists reach High Point Way, approximately half way to Preston, there is a nice road for riding, Behm said, but before that point the trail is gravel. Behm said if King County would pave the rest of the trail it would really open up the connection between the two and more people would use it.

The map includes bus stops and spot elevations, as well as phone numbers for Metro and the local bus route numbers for bikers when they are out on the road. There are also various rides listed on the back of the map, along with rules of the road to remember.

While Behm volunteered her time for the project, the printing and other costs were paid for with local tourism tax dollars, which must be used locally to promote tourism. Behm said the map is featured at all of the local hotels so visitors know where safe and public places to walk are in the area.

“It’s definitely a huge asset for someone who wants to go walking while visiting,” Behm said. Of the 2,000 first printed Behm said about half are already gone. She’s planning on doing a second printing, probably sometime next year, which will update the map and fix a few glitches she discovered after going through the process the first time.

The Bicycle Issaquah map is available for free at the Visitor’s Center, the Issaquah branch of the library, local motels, Bicycle Center on Front Street North and VeloceVelo on Front Street South.