The Weirdly Awesome Under-Interstate Bike Park

Welcome. Hello. Have a seat.

under-highway couch

I cannot overstate how badly I wanted this couch to be made of stone.

This is what greeted us when we crossed Lakeview to arrive at the I-5 Colonnade Mountain Bike Park. It pained me – I have a long-held ambition to have an outdoor couch of my own – but I’ve heard far too many bedbug stories on NPR lately to sit on furniture of unknown pedigree. Sad.

2So this is here. Did you know this was here? My only impression of this park was from driving by – vague ideas of a cleared-out space, mysteriously surrounding a weird palm tree with a purple light shining on it. Turns out it’s a deeply bitchin’ mountain bike park. Like such a good bike park that I’m not sure how it’s allowed to be a city project. This is some serious labor-of-love shit, courtesy of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, which funded, designed, and built this.

5The incredibly charmingly laid out Tqalu Trail, a place for ambitious beginners.


Complete with pro tips on how to capture the spirits of different animals to make yourself a better, agile, less-likely-to-be-dashed-to-death-against-a-column sort of mountain cyclist.

There was a beaver; there was not a honey badger. Spirit animals for this pursuit were from the Pacific Northwest only.


Paths and paths, all winding through the stout cement columns supporting the roaring interstate overhead. Very few cyclists that day, though – a bummer for photography, a boon for us not colliding with a surprised person on a bike.

Good day, sir! I said good day.

The dream of the 1890s.

7Not pictured, nor found: the liberated last four toes.

9From there, we walked down Eastlake to the Amazon-funded Lake Union Park, which is all burbling fountains, food trucks, charming orange chairs, and an abundance of wooden boats. I discovered this park existed a couple of months ago, when I ambled through it when traveling between happy hour at McCormick & Schmick’s (highly respectable, that happy hour) and the #74 bus stop. Can you tell I don’t work at Amazon? Because I was taken completely by surprise by this place. This is what happens when you travel the same well-worn routes all the time: you miss out on super-cute parks full of fountains that are built for the sole purpose of making you want to run through them, squealing.

10Could we BE anymore charming?

11I am ok with this being painted in such a way on the side of a box; I would be less ok if it were written on the side of a white cargo van, idling somewhere residential.

This part of the walk was the middle part of the Tour de Stairs, a surprise sojourn when we reached the bottom of Stairs the First and went, “…wait, there’s THAT.” It’s a surprisingly easy walk, if you’re not averse to stairs – it’ll take you the better part of three hours, especially if you really loiter. Or, um, stop for an americano and a pain au chocolat at a coffee shop.

I get this feeling sometimes that Seattle’s not as walkable as our walk scores like to boast, partially because of the sharp changes in elevation and partially because of the gaps that can open up like yawns between neighborhoods.* Other cities have neighborhoods that are cheek to cheek; here, we have these… ellipsis areas.

Wandering Paris made me rethink this. Now, of course, Paris is old-old-delightfully-old, and its design and execution had an architect and a thesis. Seattle is, especially now, at the whims of people clutching large amounts of money, shouting that their will be done. Even so, I’m drawn to the in-between spaces right now. The places I’ve bussed past for so long, dismissing them as buffer between the place I am and the place I want to be.

It’s time to look into those liminal spaces.