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Originally published May 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 15, 2008 at 9:39 AM

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How to share the road: A guide for cyclists, drivers

Jo Repanich set out on an urban odyssey, guarded by her helmet and the pothole-fighting springs of her bicycle seat. Her mission: Ride from...

Seattle Times transportation reporter

PEDAL POWER TIPS

pedal power

Help for your bike commute

Bike maps: A master list of Washington state bicycle maps, including links to maps of Seattle, King County, Snohomish County and Redmond: wsdot.wa.gov/Bike/Maps.htm

Commute help: Bicycle Alliance of Washington offers to find an experienced "Bike Buddy" to accompany new commuters to work: bicyclealliance.org

More commute help: Cascade Bicycle Club's Education Foundation offers classes and tips on commuting at cbcef.org/commute.html

Bike safely: Read the bicycle commute guide on the state Department of Transportation's Web site at wsdot.wa.gov/bike/Commuting.htm

Bike laws: Find a summary of state bike laws at wsdot.wa.gov/Bike/Laws.htm

How not to get hit by cars: An Austin, Texas, cyclist suggests ways to avoid getting hit while riding on the road: bicyclesafe.com

What the future holds: Seattle's Bicycle Master Plan: seattle.gov/transportation/bikemaster.htm

Bike to Work Day events

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE are expected to try cycling to work Friday in the Seattle area.

Maps, snacks, coffee and water bottles will be handed out at 33 stops in King County, seven in Snohomish County and two in Kitsap County. Locations are listed at the Cascade Bicycle Club (www.cascade.org) and Community Transit Web sites (www.commtrans.org).

Group rides: Snohomish County cyclists can gather with community and business leaders at 7:30 a.m. at the county administration building in Everett, the Alderwood REI store or the Marysville Library.

Seattle rally: 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. outside City Hall. Coffee, music and speeches.

Jo Repanich set out on an urban odyssey, guarded by her helmet and the pothole-fighting springs of her bicycle seat.

Her mission: Ride from downtown to her apartment near Lincoln Park in West Seattle, taking the easiest route possible.

"To me, it's not so important how fast you get there, but the sort of environment you're in," she said.

Repanich is among 8,500 people in Washington state who have pledged to try bike commuting in May, which is National Bike to Work Month. Friday is Bike to Work Day, and locally, 20,000 people are expected to ride.

In Seattle, which sees itself as an ecological leader, an estimated 4,000 to 8,000 people already ride to work every day, depending on the weather. Mayor Greg Nickels has launched a 10-year plan to triple bicycle use by adding trails, signals, signs and 143 miles of bike lanes.

But the velotopian dream will only come true if the ride is fun for newbies, including Repanich.

Nervous about riding near cars, she searched online maps and scouted the eight-mile route in her van. She took a bike-safety class.

"Seattle is an old city that was built with narrow streets, so it's a challenge to find room," Repanich said. "Many of the streets are not set up for bikes. They're not particularly well-maintained."

Across the region, many off-street routes are under way or just completed — a bike lane on the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge; the East Lake Sammamish Trail from Redmond to Issaquah; new Seattle trail segments along Beacon Hill and Shilshole Bay; and the Interurban Trail from South Everett through Shoreline.

Employers are pushing pedals, to improve worker health, reduce parking-lot costs and meet trip-reduction quotas.

Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, where Repanich is an administrative assistant, gives its workers $50 a month for commuting by bike. Children's bought a fleet of black loaner bikes and soon will give a bike to employees who ride to work at least two days a week. F5 Networks, a computer-network provider, supplies towels, bike jerseys and lockers, plus a $300 monthly stipend to employees who bike, walk, car-pool or use transit.

Companies also see bikes as a vehicle for good publicity — Starbucks, Group Health and Vulcan, among others, have put their names on local bike-month events.

Repanich, 44, occasionally rides for recreation, but wanted to get in better shape. She also expects bicycling to be more pleasant, and give her more control over her schedule, than taking the bus.

"When you're on a bike, you run your own commute," she said. "I love the idea of not waiting for a bus. And it's not crowded."

On her first trip last week, she rode away from her Olive Way office tower, only to become lost at a three-way intersection nearby. She took brief refuge on the sidewalk.

She wound up on Lenora Street and, keeping to the right, teetered between one row of buses stopped along the curb, and another row in the middle lane, waiting at a red light. A bus at the curb began to move, a foot from her right ear.

"I did not realize those buses weren't parked," she said. "That was scary."

On Sixth Avenue, she used the bike lane — and raved about the view of the Space Needle. Then came a calm, tree-lined downhill stretch on Wall Street to reach the waterfront. Alaskan Way perplexed her, because there's no shoulder to ride on, yet she was afraid to "take the lane" by moving out several feet, as many veteran cyclists suggest.

Eventually, she'll ride the whole way on the main bike route, along a bumpy Sodo street dominated by trucks, followed by a trail to the low-rise West Seattle Bridge, then a climb on busy uphill streets.

But until she feels stronger, she'll stop to take the Elliott Bay Water Taxi.

After reaching land in West Seattle, she cruised on the trail around Alki Beach, under a blue sky. "You can't beat this!" she said.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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