Bicycle Saturdays and Sundays offer a smooth ride

This summer, don’t miss Bicycle Saturdays and Sundays just off Mercer Island in Seattle, a time when Lake Washington Boulevard is car-free between Mt. Baker Beach and Seward Park. On June 14 and 29, July 12 and 20, Aug. 9 and 17, and Sept. 13 and 21 (the two May dates have already passed), between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., grab your bicycle and head over to the Group Health Cooperative and Cascade Bicycle Club-sponsored ride.

“It’s busy even when it’s a cloudy day,” says Cheryl Bissett, Cascade Bicycle Club volunteer, of the twice-a-month rides.

Busy, yes, but with the four-mile stretch along Lake Washington transformed into a huge waterfront park, it doesn’t feel crowded. Families with kids and infants, teens, couples, seniors — anyone with a bicycle and the hankering to ride — all turn out for the 10-mile (including the 2.4-mile Seward Park loop) round-trip route. The ambling, tree-lined Lake Washington Boulevard provides cyclists with an easy, level pedal, and plenty of room to maneuver.

Rollerbladers, joggers and walkers also get in on the act, as do local neighbors. At the Bicycle Sunday on May 18, the McBurney family’s yard featured a custom-made slip-and-slide, a refreshing way to shake off the heat of the day, for 25 cents a slip. Minding the makeshift lemonade stand, Matthew McBurney gestured toward his wares: “We call it the Psycho Shack, for its insanely low prices.”

At the entrance to Seward Park, from 1 to 4 p.m., look for the Helmet Fit table provided by the Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation. For the bargain price of $10, all visitors have the opportunity to purchase a bike helmet (while supplies last on any given day). Volunteers are available to help custom fit any helmet to your head, whether or not it’s one you’ve purchased from them. The table is helpfully stocked with free literature on bicycle safety and repair, as well as maps of regional bike trails.

From Mercer Island, the best access to Bicycle Saturdays and Sundays is from Mount Baker Beach (see box). On a sunny day, don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen. The route has plenty of shade, but you will still catch a fair dose of rays. Bicycling non-stop, the loop only takes 45 minutes, but plan for more time. Inevitably, you will want to pause along the way, whether to ogle the yachts in Andrews Bay, toss a Frisbee on a lawn at the shore or enjoy a refreshing snack in the shade.

If you’re up for a more rigorous (and hilly) workout, try accessing the event by bicycle from Mercer Island. (This approach is not recommended for the casual cyclist, or for families with young children.) Take the I-90 bridge bike trail that connects west from the Park on the Lid), and before you enter the Mt. Baker bike tunnel, hop off your bike to climb the steep set of stairs leading under the bridge. (There’s a runner on the side, so you won’t have to carry your bike down the steps.) The Bicycle Saturdays and Sundays event picks up less than a quarter mile south of the bridge deck.

Claire Gebben is a freelance writer who lives on Mercer Island.

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