August 20

It's all uphill to here – a Maple Leaf bike story



A cyclist churns up the hill on Fifth Avenue Northeast.

Here’s a different kind of bike story – not cars vs. bicycles, just bike vs. hill.

Amid all the furor over bikes on Northeast 125th Street, just north of us, was this, from a Seattle Times story:

Critics say the road (125th) is too congested — it’s a key route from Interstate 5 to Lake City Way — and the hill, with an 8.5 percent grade, is too steep for bicyclists.

“Nobody rides up that hill on a bicycle,” said resident Mauri Stach, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 44 years.

So we wondered, what with Maple Leaf boasting the third-highest hill in town, just what the grade might be between Green Lake and Maple Leaf?

Many of the local commute cyclists (who DON’T ride on Roosevelt Way Northeast) take Fifth Avenue Northeast up from the lake.

How steep is Fifth? The answer, from Brian Dougherty at the Seattle Department of Transportation, is a whopping 11 percent grade, at its steepest section.

Take that, Pinehurst!

(Wondering about Roosevelt? Dougherty says at its steepest, between Northeast 77 and Northeast 78th Streets, the grade is 5.8 percent.)

About the author 

Sara W

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  1. On your gradient for Roosevelt, did you look at the sections between 97th and 107th? Or just what a cyclist encounters leaving Greenlake area?

    And it’s easy for critics to make a blanket statement about whether a hill to is too steep for cyclists–they obviously hasn’t met many of the more serious cyclists in town. It may be too steep for many, but never for all. And they are already against sharing the road with cyclists, so consider their motivation for comments–just because they don’t want to ride their bike on the hill, doesn’t give them the right to try to prevent others from doing so.

    (Personally, I like taking 117th from LCW to 15th as I can break up the steepest grades on a couple side streets with minimal traffic).

  2. I ride 5th almost every day, as I work on Westlake, and like to cut down via Greenlake. It is a good leg strengthening climb.

    Most nice afternoons I see one or two other cyclists making the climb at the same time I do. I really appreciate the bike lane for the climb, but I wish it didn’t disappear once you get to 85th St (I believe).

  3. Sorry for the grammatical errors…multi-tasking.
    Anyway, the last sentence should read: “Do we seriously need to find reasons TO make alternative forms of transport more difficult?”

  4. I truly don’t understand the point of all of this. First, simply because the reporter from the Times highlighted “critics” point of views – including one person chose to highlight who believes no cyclists use a particular road – is a joke. I know “advocates” were included, but give me a break. Anyone, I mean, anyone who drives around the city ought to – quite regularly – see cyclist of all sorts (commuters, fitness-types, kids and families…and hipsters) riding up the steepest of climbs. If you or I live on a hill and ride, we ride up and down that hill. And comments about being concerned about the safety of cyclist having “ride alongside traffic” is laughable. It is what cyclist do and it is our right. The fact that many, many cyclists use the routes being discussed means it is either the straightest line home or it is an alternative to a more dangerous route. I think the primary issue at hand is one of residents being upset (justifiably or not…I don’t know the full history of this project) about how the city has either included or excluded them from the process. Do we seriously need to find reasons not to make alternative forms of transport more difficult?

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