By John Liu
Northwest Asian Weekly
On April 2, the longest floating bridge in the world opened up to the public for the first time. This would be the SR 520 Bridge.
The public had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk on the bridge, undisturbed by vehicle traffic. A walkway on the north side of the bridge would be completed in three weeks, allowing people on the bridge from the Eastside.
However, pedestrians and bikers will not be able to head into Seattle until 2017.
My original plan was to get on the 520 bridge in time for the grand opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. I quickly realized that was not going to happen when I saw the long line that snaked all the way to Stevens Way from the shuttle bus station. There were about 200 people. Surprisingly, the line moved quickly and I got on a shuttle bus in 20 minutes.
I ended up missing the opening ceremony as I predicted. During the grand opening celebration, there were exhibits explaining how the bridge was built, food trucks, and lots of opportunities to take pictures.
Getting back was a nightmare, as I heard the shuttle bus lines were over a mile long. Luckily, my friends found a great solution. On the east end of the bridge, there were very few people heading back to the west end and vice versa.
It took us about 20 minutes to get back to the University of Washington. Afterwards, we joked that if you were waiting for a shuttle bus on the east end, it would be faster if you took the bus to the west end, got off, and waited in line for the bus to take you all the way to Bellevue.
At around 2:30 p.m., the event could no longer handle the crowd. Food trucks were the only source of food on the bridge, and they were closing up because they had sold all of their food. Those waiting in line were turned away and upset. At the same time, the 520 Bridge had reached capacity and in-bound buses had stopped. Once again, those waiting in line were turned away.
My friends and I eventually settled on eating at a restaurant on University Way. I walked over eight miles on the bridge alone and realized how lucky I was to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without waiting hours in line.
520 bike ride
After that crazy experience, I did not know what to expect the following day, as 7,000 people participated in the 20-mile Emerald City Bike Ride. My plan was to use the light rail. I had read that each light rail car could hold up to two bikes. Each light rail train was supposed to hold only four bikes. If the train’s bike capacity was full, the rules stated that you needed to wait for the next train. The train was packed with over 10 bikes, but surprisingly, there was enough room for all of us. There were not many Sunday commuters at 6:40 a.m. who were not headed to the bike ride.
The bike ride started, and we quickly hit a bottleneck. The Montlake Bridge was still open for traffic on the northbound lane, which meant we were all crammed into a 5-foot wide road. Bikers quickly joked this should be called the Emerald City Bike Walk. The pace was around 5 mph until the end of the 520 Bridge. Many people stopped here to take photos.
The 520 westbound ride was much smoother as the lane was wider, making it easier to pass slower riders. Biking on the I-5 express lanes was an amazing experience, and I started thinking of creative ways to take pictures. I took pictures of the freeway and speed limit signs. Most bikers, consisting of families, had finished their eight miles, so there were fewer bikers on this 3.7-mile stretch. You literally could take a picture without any bikers around.
At around 14 miles, the Hing Hay Park served as the first rest stop. I had never seen so many bikers there before. I met a lot of the local International District community members from the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority and International District Emergency Center. They did a great job making sure everyone got snacks and water. Even the line to the porta-potties was organized.
The bike ride continued on Lake Washington Boulevard all the way to Husky Stadium. Although there were a few anticipated hiccups, I found the bike ride to be a very enjoyable experience.
Thanks to the Cascade Bicycle Club, International District community members, and other volunteers who coordinated the Emerald City Bike Ride.
John Liu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.