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Pedaling the Emerald City

By Old Folks on Spokes on the West Coast

I’ve taken bike tours in a variety of cities, including New Orleans, Baltimore and Boston, but was somewhat intimidated by the terrain of the Emerald City, better known as Seattle, Washington.  Seattle is often referred to as a mini-version of San Francisco for good reason – the hills!  This wasn’t my first visit to Seattle; during that sojourn I walked a great deal of the city and was very familiar with the geography including a nice long climb up from Puget Sound on the west side of the city.  A bike excursion seemed like it would be quite the work out.

Enter stage left, Craig Scheak, owner of the Seattle Cycle Tours.  Craig’s been leading bike tours in Seattle since 2007.  In fact, Seattle Cycle Tours enthusiastically states “We ‘iron out the hills.’ So don’t worry.”  I thought – bring on the iron!

I am a huge advocate for seeing a city by bicycle.  You cover way more area in a shorter timeframe than walking.  With a knowledgeable guide, like Craig, you get to see and hear great stories along the way and you get a glimpse into what makes a city tick.  

All of the guides I have encountered have been incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and Craig is no exception.  Our tour took us through some of the most popular neighborhoods in the downtown core: Pioneer Square, The Metropolitan Tract, International/Chinatown, Waterfront, Seattle Center, and South Lake Union (Amazonia) Neighborhoods…all in one three hour ride around the city.  That is an exceptional amount of territory to cover, particularly knowing Seattle’s terrain.

Seattle is a bike friendly city.  Our tour was conducted almost entirely on bike lanes, some of which (2nd Avenue) are grade separated with bike-oriented signalization.  The city is contemplating converting more car lanes to dedicated bike lanes, a phenomenon that we are seeing in cities across the country – and in our own backyard in D.C. (see companion @livemore article on DC’s bike friendly award).

Craig’s knowledge of the city and its history are deep, but he is also very familiar with mobility issues as well, having worked as a consultant with King County Metro.  Starting a bike tour company was a life-long passion, so when transit consulting funding was on the wane in the mid-2000, he decided to start Seattle Cycle Tours.  Today Craig offers a wide variety of tours outside of the central city tour that my wife and I rode.  You can see Bainbridge Island (half day) or tour some of Seattle’s neighborhoods such as Ballard, Freemont, Georgetown and Duwamish.  

Obviously I am sold on the bike tour industry, and when you are riding you never know what you might come upon.  Craig mentioned that a couple weeks ago, while taking a bride-to-be and her six bridesmaids on a tour, they ran across Paul McCartney and his entourage in Pioneer Square.  That must have been a sight – Band on the Run, Bride on a Bike!  So get out of your car on your next visit to a city and take a bike tour and learn how to Live More and Commute Less!

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