Bicycling in Tacoma

Tacoma is a gorgeous city to explore by bicycle. Better infrastructure would make it all the better.

I love to ride my bicycle. Driving my feet down on the pedals and feeling the crank turn as the drive-chain pushes me forward is invigorating. And it holds true whether I’m struggling up the mountain that is 15th Street when leaving campus or flying across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. 

Tacoma is a joy to explore by pedal. One can go from eating bánh mì in the Lincoln District to riding across and up to Point Defiance for bird watching, and then down to Chambers Bay to see the kites flying, all the while using predominantly bike lanes or residential streets. 

While getting up to Point Defiance for eagle watching or sunset viewing is always a treat, I think there is something all the more rewarding when doing it by bicycle.

Not only does it make such trips feel like adventures but it feels good to get exercise while breathing fresh air.

Of course, biking is not for everyone. Not only does physical ability limit the sport’s accessibility but bicycles are both expensive upfront and to maintain. Mitigating the cost prohibition is Tacoma’s Second Cycle Community Bike Shop, aka, Second Cycle.

Second Cycle, located on Martin Luther King Jr Way between 13th Street and Earnest S. Brazill Street, envisions “a world where the joy of bike riding is accessible to everybody,” per their website. 

They do this by getting bicycles out to people for free or at a reasonable cost, supporting community education about bicycles and their maintenance, and providing some services for free and others at a reduced cost for those needing such support.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite services, where they work with you hands-on to address  maintenance issues, has been on hold during the pandemic. Of course, I appreciate them prioritizing safety, but I look forward to being able to learn about my bike from these professionals when it is safe to do so.

In addition to cost and ability, a lack of bicycle infrastructure limits bicycle accessibility. While Pierce County does put out a useful map highlighting bike lanes, bike-friendly roads, bike paths and roads to avoid, the city is clearly lacking in infrastructure. 

Bike paths in Tacoma lack the regular maintenance needed to keep them clean which helps to avoid flat tires. Major commuter roads, like Union Avenue south of 6th Avenue, lack bicycle lanes and cars can be aggressive towards bicyclists in such busy spaces. 

The bike paths we do have are not supported by bike-friendly streets leading to them. For instance, the Scott Pierson Trail runs along State Route 16 and crosses Union Avenue over by Target. How convenient, right?

Except, Union Avenue is miserable to ride on, and drivers entering and exiting the highway do not know that they are crossing a bike path or to be on the lookout for bicyclists.

More bicycle infrastructure, along with more thoughtful infrastructure and more regular maintenance of it, would make bicycling in Tacoma all the more fun, accessible and safe. Public funding for people to own and maintain bicycles would also mean more people could enjoy the adventure that is getting around by bike.

With the weather getting nicer, it’s prime time to get out there. So if you like to bike, grab your helmet and I’ll see you around!