Open streets, a.k.a. ciclovias, are events that temporarily close streets to vehicle traffic so people can use them for biking, walking, playing and socializing. These events are gaining traction nationally and, in Washington, the cities of Seattle and Spokane organize open streets events in the summer.
Last Sunday, Steve and I participated in a ciclovia of sorts. We biked the scenic North Cascades Highway, which is currently closed to vehicle traffic until WSDOT crews clear it of winter snow. The highway is closed from milepost 134, east of Diablo Lake, to milepost milepost 171, 14 miles west of Mazama in the winter.
In the spring, bicyclists have a window of opportunity to ride portions—sometimes all—of the closed highway before the road is opened to vehicle traffic. (And yes, it is legal to bike this highway during its closure.) Sunny skies, combined with a WSDOT report indicating that they hoped to reopen the North Cascades Highway late this week, convinced us to bike it on Sunday.
We pulled into the Diablo Lake overlook in time to watch a group of bike riders depart for a ride up the road. We leisurely pedaled the couple of miles to the gated closure at milepost 134. There were more cyclists readying themselves for a ride, and a couple of pedestrians too. In total, we encountered 25 cyclists and two pedestrians taking advantage of the car-free highway.
The ride was amazing! Lacking a steady procession of cars and RVs, I could enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the mountains.
We weren’t relegated to shoulder riding, but you should stay on your side of the road as you may encounter approaching cyclists, heavy equipment (except Friday-Sunday), or an occasional official vehicle.
We discovered that Bigfoot had been here!
We stopped at waterfalls along the way to quench our thirst.
We witnessed where avalanches had crossed the road.
We reached the end of our climb and the end of the snow plowing at Rainy Pass.
We hung out with other cyclists to take a break and check out the fancy snow removal equipment before facing the long descent back to the car.
There’s also an east side version of the North Cascades Highway ciclovia via Mazama, as posted on the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association’s Facebook page.
Before you head out, be sure to get the latest report from WSDOT and check the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center for current conditions. The highway passes through avalanche terrain.