Years ago a friend of mine taught me about wormholes: those semi-secret byways that locals know that cut miles out of a route or let you skip traffic lights or pesky left turns on busy streets.
Seems to me a wormhole for cyclists does all those things, keeps you out of the heaviest traffic (I’m experienced at riding in traffic but you never get to relax and we all know some streets are more hostile than others), and also does what it can to make climbs easier, which is no small feat in a city with Spokane’s topography.
A while back I needed to climb from downtown to a location around 9th and Cedar, then head east across the hill from there. This route serves as a good example of different ways of thinking about how to get from Point A to Point B to expand on the thoughts in There and Back Again, Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2, and More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3.
I used to live on Cedar, so I know that coming from downtown if you can take that steep climb up old brick pavers on Jefferson from a dead stop at 4th Ave. under the freeway, turn right/west and climb another block, then turn left at Adams and climb a bit more, you’re on the shallowest hill climb on that end of the South Hill and it gets easier. (The bike lane up Maple to Cedar would be okay if I were coming from the west, although it’s not in great shape, the overall climb is steeper, and the traffic is a lot heavier.)
On Adams you’re still climbing, mind you, but you don’t have to look at a vertical hill right in front of your face the way you would on Lincoln, say, or Bernard if you were farther east—those streets that make a heart monitor shoot off the charts (or a cyclist get off the bike and walk up the sidewalk, pushing the bike. No false pride for me!).
Choosing your hill—that’s cycling in Spokane.
Going east from 9th and Cedar the first time, though, I rode like a driver. I went uphill to 14th, which is a minor arterial and thus carries the through traffic for which side streets have to stop, and headed east. After hitting the light at Lincoln, I got to do another one of those steep climbs from a dead stop to continue east on 14th to Grand, where I turned south up the hill by Manito Park.
I climbed some more up Grand to 18th, then cut east. This put me cheek by jowl with a pretty steady flow of traffic (some of it speeding) on Grand. It wasn’t particularly pleasant and those steep climbs meant hard work. If you look at the map, though, you see a nice set of straight lines–very driver-like in that it ignores topography and traffic.
The second time, I rode like a cyclist. I remembered that Adams is—wait for it—the shallowest hill climb on that end of the South Hill. So I used that knowledge.
I rode up Adams to 18th, then headed east. While it climbed pretty steadily the whole way, it was gentle and the streets were quiet. You have to make a jig-jog at Lincoln south half a block to continue east around the edge of Cannon Hill Park. Then you can cut through Manito Park and admire the duck pond and the brilliance of the Olmsted Brothers, who designed Spokane’s park system and the boulevards around them.
If I were in a car, I couldn’t use 18th all the way—I’d have to turn left at the park to 17th and then double back—but on a bike I had the advantage and the prettier route. I’m aware that uncontrolled intersections add a variable I wouldn’t have on those main through streets with the stop signs and I stayed alert but it was still a lot more enjoyable. Incidentally, something pretty close to this is the route Google Maps shows if you choose the Bicycling option. (Strangely, though, they send pedestrians over to Monroe and route them along the busiest streets.)
Another great thing about Spokane’s topography awaited me at the corner of 18th and Upper Terrace. From there to get to my destination I had two choices: left and downhill to Rockwood, and then a climb back up, or right and downhill to Rockwood and downhill to my destination. (These are choices I’m intimately familiar with, as Rockwood Bakery is on 18th just east of Grand and I take these routes regularly….) How cool is it that I had two very different options for the same destination with two different levels of effort so I could choose based on my energy level?
Think like a cyclist when you ride your bike, not like a driver, and you’ll find that choosing good routes becomes second nature.
Got any wormholes to share?
Posts in our 30 Days of Biking Blogging Inspiration & How-to Series for Sept. 2011 30 Days of Biking
- 30 Days of Bike Commuting: You Can Do It!
- Why We Ride/Resolve to Ride–A Blogspedition
- Preparing to Commute by Bike: Get the Worry out of the Way
- Buying a Bike for Commuting: Some Questions and a Blogspedition
- How to Bike Commute: Getting the Gear Together
- Bike Commuting 101: Carrying Stuff
- On a Roll with Wilma Flanagan
- 30 Days of Biking: Week One Report
- Ride with your Community: SpokeFest Rocks!
- There and Back Again: How to Pick your Bike Commute Route
- Intro to Bike Commuting: Route Selection Part 2
- More Bike Commuting Route Selection Tips: Part 3
- Thinking Like a Driver vs. Thinking Like a Bicyclist
- Biking as Downtime and other Musings on Overproductivity
- 30 Days of Biking: Week Two Report
- On a Roll with Katherine Widing
- I Shouldn’t Assume
- Falling Down on Your Bike. It Happens. To Grown-Ups.
- Pretty Handy, Gloves. The Blogspedition Assumes You’ll Get ‘Em.
- What to Wear for Your Bike Commute? Clothes.
- How to Get a Dropped Bike Chain Back On, Grease-Free
- 30 Days of Biking: Week Three!
- It’s All in the Attitude
- Things I Now Do on My Bike Without Having to Think About It
- Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Risk and Trust
- More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Friendliness and Openness
- Even More Mental Essentials for Bike Commuting: Tolerance, Humor, and Persistence
- Bicycling Rites of Passage, Spokane Style
- Dear Reader, I Chicked Him
- 30 Days of Biking: Final Report!
- Do you think like a driver when you ride a bike, or do you find you think differently about route selection?
- How about your behavior toward others on the road–has bike commuting changed that?