County offers healthy paths to get around on two wheels

If you happened to be in Arlington, Lake Stevens or Snohomish on Friday, you most likely ran into a bunch of bicyclists. In fact, a whole lot, as the annual Ride from Seattle to Vancouver was wending its way through Snohomish County.

I was one of those cyclists, and I want to thank the drivers of Snohomish County for putting up with not one, not 10, not 100, but more than 1,000 of us as we went up Broadway toward Snohomish, Highway 9 out of Arlington, and the Finn Settlement/Lake Cavanaugh Road further north.

The first day of this ride went from Seattle to Bellingham, more than 100 miles. We rode along the Centennial Trail for a while, had a well-stocked rest stop at Lake Stevens, and stopped again in Arlington. There we found an excellent floral and coffee shop, so while we warmed up with lattes, I could send off some flowers to a friend!

And from there through back roads to Mount Vernon, across the Skagit flats, and up Chuckanut Drive for some of the most beautiful views and strenuous hills of the trip. We were happy and tired pulling into Bellingham.

You don’t have to be in great shape to pull off something like this. You just need to work at it. On this ride were all sorts of people and bodies. And because bicyclists have this habit of wearing skin-tight lycra, you get a good sense of what everyone actually looks like. The next morning I shared a table at breakfast with a fellow trying to fix his odometer. He must have topped 300 pounds, but here he was, having ridden more than 100 miles the day before, outfitted in his lycra and ready for the next 85 miles to Vancouver.

Saturday we cycled up to Lynden, were welcomed through the official border crossing and began the last 60 miles headed for Vancouver. Riding through the lower mainland of British Columbia, you get the feeling of prosperity. Beautiful farms, new roads, new parks, new clustered developments. We cycled up a spiral ramp onto the new Golden Ears Bridge, a beautiful bridge that wasn’t even there two years ago. All along the way, we cycled along new construction. The provincial government is getting ready for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and at the same time creating a lasting legacy for the economic engine of British Columbia.

Vancouver itself was thriving, buzzing with energy. After finishing near Stanley Park, I took the Sky Train to the train station. The Sky Train is fast, convenient and unimpeded by cars, because it is up in the sky! We noticed that the third line, a direct connection from the Vancouver airport to downtown, was opening on Monday. The city is booming.

So the bike ride ended up being 188 miles, and a pleasant two days of seeing the countryside between Seattle and Vancouver, plus the camaraderie of friends participating together in this ride.

But the moral of this story is not that everyone should go out and train for a 200-mile bicycle ride. You don’t need to have an expensive bike, or the latest fancy odometer, or the gaudiest bicycle clothes. You just need to get out there and pedal a mile or two or 10.

Snohomish County is full of great paths that get you away from traffic, like the Interurban that goes right into Everett. You could poke along the Snohomish River Trail snuggled up to downtown Snohomish, and then go as far as you want along the 17-mile Centennial Trail, which runs from Snohomish to Arlington. You could check out the Smith Island Trail or the Lowell Riverfront Trail. Community Transit’s Web site includes all the bicycle trails in Snohomish County — visit www.commtrans.org/FAQs/BikeMaps.cfm.

Maybe you can’t easily get out to these trails. You do, however, have to go to the store, get to your job or get to school. Sometimes, leave your car in the garage, and take the bike. Try it once a week, and soon you will be appreciating the fresh air and exercise, away from the talk radio of our everyday commutes.

The blue sky of our summer creates a good incentive to get out and exercise. Take advantage of our weather now, before the gray and dark of winter begin to take hold.

John Burbank is executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (www.eoionline.org ). His e-mail address is john@eoionline.org.

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