Biking in the age of coronavirus has become slightly less stressful, but the percentage of idiot motorists hasnt diminished.
Biking in the age of coronavirus has become slightly less stressful, but the percentage of idiot motorists hasn't diminished. GETTY IMAGES

Commuting by bicycle in Seattle traditionally has been challenging. The plentiful hills, frequent rain, a dearth of dedicated bike lanes, and dangerously incompetent motorists all conspire to make traveling on two wheels hazardous in the 206. Read Lester Black's 2018 Slog post for further illumination about this subject.

However, as anyone who's biked around town since the coronavirus outbreak exploded will have noticed, it's become easier to get from point A to point B (and sometimes even to point C) on your green machine. My three-mile trip from Beacon Hill to The Stranger's Capitol Hill office (and vice versa) has been much less stressful this month due to diminished vehicular traffic. The most oppressive stretch of that commute—on 12th Avenue, where I was doored near Seattle University two years ago—has become a relative breeze. Whereas before pedaling down much of that street meant dozens of vehicles zipping by your left elbow within 12-24 inches, now that number seems to be 20 percent fewer.

My colleague Mike Nipper, who cycles to headquarters from Frelard, noted that he's experienced "Less traffic, but somehow the idiot percentage hasn't diminished. Also, less traffic means going higher speeds for those lead-footed yobs dragging up 10th Avenue."

Everett-based James Grindle, who's been covering great distances on bike for over a decade in the area, observed, "Everything has become faster, safer, and easier. No bikes competing for racks on busses and trains. Fewer cars everywhere, yet I had a pedestrian walk right in front of an inexperienced non-native cyclist this week and almost forced her to the pavement. Even with fewer humans, the percentage of A-holes who refuse to follow any traffic rules in Puget Sound region is noticeably higher than almost every other city I’ve walked, cycled, driven, or used transit."

As if to prove Grindle's point, on my bike ride home yesterday, I was cut off by two different motorists within 30 seconds. As ever, bicyclists need to remain extra-vigilant on the road and, for fuck's sake, wear a helmet. Do you know how hard it is to clean brain matter off the pavement?