If you’ve never participated in Cascade Bicycle Club’s Emerald Bike Ride, I highly recommend doing it at least once. It’s a once a year opportunity to ride on the I-5 express lane, SR 520, and I-90 bridges in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington–exclusively with other cyclists. The full route is about 25 miles long and does a complete loop back to downtown Seattle. This year, it was a beautiful sunny day and a perfect setting to host thousands of riders of all ages and riding abilities. You can see the complete route here:
The ride begins at Safeco Field and routes through downtown to the I-5 express lane on ramp. Initially, the express lanes are in the center of the standard I-5 lanes, so you have rushing freeway traffic on either side of you. Once you reach the Ship Canal Bridge, you are underneath the standard lanes which is a bit more peaceful. At the midpoint of the bridge, you have a great view of Lake Union and the University of Washington.
Crossing the bridge, the route leads you down the first exit and loops over to Pacific St. NE. This takes you through the University District down to Montlake Blvd. and then on to the 520 bridge eastbound. It’s an amazing feeling to ride in completely open lanes with only fellow cyclists on this highly transited bridge. The views of Lake Washington and Mt. Rainier were stunning throughout the crossing.
The first exit at the end of the bridge takes you south through Medina, following the water, most of the way. This is a beautiful area that would be enjoyable to ride through any time of the year. We end up on Bellevue Way SE, which takes us directly to the I-90 westbound back towards Seattle.
On the I-90, we use the express lanes, so we were in the center of freeway traffic again, which is an interesting sensation. It makes you reflect on the speed of vehicle traffic and sheer energy that goes into point-A-to-point-B travel on a daily basis. However, there were stretches in which we were actually moving faster than the vehicle traffic! I-90 has several tunnels, and once you enter each one, the noise decibel level relative to being next to the freeway traffic goes to practically zero, another very fascinating sensory effect.
At the end of the I-90, you are rewarded with one of a kind views of downtown Seattle, most notably the skyscrapers, port, and stadiums. For the home stretch, you wind back down onto 4th Ave. S. and work your way back to the Safeco Field starting point.
The Cascade Bicycle Club Emerald Ride is held every year in May, so definitely put it on your calendar for next year. You can see complete details on the Emerald Ride here.