There should be plenty of traffic Friday around the Seattle area, but a lot of it will be on two wheels as thousands of commuters take part in the annual Bike to Work Day.
Thanks in part to the summer-like weather, organizers expect upwards of 20,000 riders to leave their cars at home and take to the streets. The previous record was 16,000 riders set two years ago, according to Anne-Marije Rook, Communications Manager with the Cascade Bicycle Club.
“Bike to Work Day shows what the region could look like if we continue encouraging and investing in bicycling as transportation,” she says.
The Seattle Department of Transportation monitors the number of people riding bikes at key points around the city. A record 6,088 people crossed the Fremont Bridge on bikes Tuesday, while SDOT reports Spokane Street had its highest day with 1,847 riders.
While Seattle ranks in the top four among the 50 biggest U.S. cities for bike commuting, it still accounts for only 3.4 percent of people, according to the U.S. Census bureau.
But Rook says the city’s efforts to improve bicycle infrastructure with dedicated lanes and other amenities will make commuting by bike more appealing and feasible. And she says with significant cuts to Metro Transit looming, now is the perfect time to give it a try.
“It’s the healthiest, most fun and economical way to get around town,” she says. “You don’t need fancy gear and a carbon fiber bike, just be comfortable and get out there.”
But for many, bike commuting is simply not an option. A new survey by MyNorthwest.com finds 57 percent of respondents don’t ride to work because it’s too far from home. Thirty-seven percent say they’re worried about the potential danger.
It seems like Bike To Work Day alone would be a recipe for injury as inexperienced riders take to the road. But Rook says it’s actually far safer than any other day, because so many other riders are out on city streets. A spokesperson for Harborview Medical Center says they have not experienced any increase in bicycle-related injuries on previous Bike to Work Days.