Riding around Lake Sammamish is one of the few relatively flat rides on the Eastside. It’s a route that you only have to do once to recognize the preferred direction. As a matter of fact, if you look at the Bellevue Bike Map, it’s pretty obvious that you want to do this loop counter clockwise. As pertains to West Lake Sammamish Parkway a caption on the map states, “Use west-side shoulder of parkway for southbound travel only.”
East Lake Sammamish has an eight-foot shoulder on both the north and southbound sides of the road. West Lake Sammamish is a narrow two-lane road with a rough concrete surface. A combination of overhanging trees and a curvy road don’t offer great sightlines for cars to pass cyclists. There is a nice eight-foot shoulder on the west (southbound) side, and absolutely no shoulder on the eastbound side for almost the whole length of the road. The westbound-side shoulder is wide enough that northbound walkers and cyclists occasionally use it. I’ve never ridden north on West Lake Sammamish. Why would I want to subject myself to that?
As I headed north on East Lake Sammamish; I noticed a racing club headed south in a single-file line. They looked to be out for a social ride, as their pace was pretty low. A little while later as I was rolling south on West Lake Sammamish, much to my surprise I spotted a mini peloton—with follow cars!—headed towards me. It was the same group from East Lake Sammamish, and it was hard to miss them, as there were seven cars stacked up behind the 12 cyclists riding single file.
As they were directly opposite me, I heard someone say, “Car back,” and I have no idea as to why this person said this at that moment. I should have shouted to them, “Actually, there are seven cars back. Do the polite thing and pull over and let them by.”
Traffic was light this morning on both East and West Lake Sammamish, so you wouldn’t think there would be a problem with a group riding without a shoulder; there should be places to pass even on West Lake Sammamish. However, it’s not easy getting around 12 cyclists, and it only takes one tentative driver who refuses to pass and therefore stays behind the group of riders. This of course means that other cars will stack up behind the first car in line.
These 12 riders from a local racing club had every legal right to be out moseying along on West Lake Sammamish. But a legal right doesn’t make it right, and one has to wonder what the following drivers were thinking of cyclists in general at that moment.
There is the right thing to do, and then there is the smart thing to do, and that would be to never ride in a group (or single for that matter) in the northbound direction on West Lake Sammamish. I imagine that there were several riders in that group of twelve who were as uncomfortable with the situation as I was. Of course, there likely were other riders who were perfectly content, and perhaps clueless as to what was going on.
I could give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that maybe not one of those riders had ever ridden around Lake Sammamish and no one had ever looked at the area cycling map. Actually, that is almost impossible to believe, as clubs tend to do the same routes over and over…and over again.
“Group think” is often at play when cyclists ride together, and it only takes one bonehead to taint the whole group, even if everyone else is in the know. I imagine someone took the initiative and started riding clockwise. Why couldn’t one person have spoken up at the start of the ride and said, “Hey everybody, the ride will be a lot more pleasant if we do it counter-clockwise because of road and traffic conditions.”
How hard would that have been? Too hard, I guess.