Tag Archives: traffic

8 Reasons Why These Local Boys Do Good

Mike and Jason of Urban Build Inc.

We are in the final phase of a garage conversion which has gone unbelievably well and quick.  The biggest chore in fact was clearing out, recycling, using, giving away 10 years of stuff from the garage so it could transition to its new self.

We sort of had the insulation and demo lined up and were looking for drywallers when I had a moment of clarity.  It went like this:  couple months back we had a repair which required a full day of my presence at home.  I arranged it, canceling meetings and such, basically a day of work lost but it had to be done.  So here I am, waiting…waiting.  Finally the guy calls and says he’s coming from North Seattle, is stuck in non-moving traffic on 5 and won’t make it that day.  The whole day?  Yeah, whole day.  Too late to pick the shambles of my schedule up and too late to find a new company to work with.

So when I started to get bids for the drywall on this project, I recalled that and revised my craigslist search to <drywall west seattle>.  I found a few names, one with a website I could refer to  , Urban Build Inc–local guys, they live near Alki, so I gave them a call.  They came by that afternoon…and after talking with them, I decided to ask how they would do the whole job, not just the drywall.  Cut to the chase, their bid was fair, clear and made sense, so we gave it a shot.

Here is a list of the many reasons I’ll use Mike and Jason of Urban Build again:

  1. Fast: Since they were local, they could drop by to view the site on their way home from the project they were working on and give me a bid by the end of the day. Immediate turn-around.
  2. Conscientious:  avoid unnecessary waste, mess, or toxins.
  3. Experience: Their professionalism took me by surprise–I don’t know, sometimes I have low expectations of craigslist.  These guys take enormous pride in what they do and how they interact with the client.
  4. Communication: clear, easy, consistent. Super-value add: they listen.
  5. Can-do: There was virtually nothing I suggested that they said couldn’t be done. That sounds weird but we’ve worked with a few guys who were all “oh no, you can’t do that. you’ll have to tear the house down to do that.” Really. Mike and Jason might add some ideas or explain how we might do it differently but “no” just isn’t part of their vocabulary.
  6. Magic: They said what they were going to do and then, magically, they just did it.  In my experience, this is unusual.
  7. Work ethic: Did I mention pride of work and ownership?  Again, less common all the time, and the job they did was gorgeous.
  8. Design sense: they’ve seen a lot and have good taste–good ideas and suggestions.  For Mike and Jason, it’s the art and mechanics of the job, not just the muscle and know-how.
These guys are keepers and they are right here on The Rock.  They work all over, of course, eastside, north and south, but my preference is to keep things local when I can–especially with the price of gas and traffic issues we’re having just now.   If you need a contractor who can do it all, elec to drywall and plumbing, give these guys a shout.  
Also, just so’s you know I’m not overly partial, here are some rave reviews from West Seattle Blog and Yelp.

construction in process Urban Build

Day 255-256: MLwC and Prop 1 in Seattle

My neighbors Susan and Tom stopped me in the driveway yesterday asking if I’d read Jay Inslee’s opinion in the Seattle PI from Thursday regarding his endorsement of the hotly contested Prop 1 transportation bill. I like Jay Inslee so I was interested to hear he was supporting this thing, but indicated I’d already voted, and my vote was No.

I read the opinion and we returned to the discussion later in the evening around their always-welcoming kitchen table–good old fashioned grass roots political discussion, you don’t have much of that anymore. So, I announced up front that Inslee’s editorial not only didn’t change my mind, it actually knocked Inslee down a few pegs for me. Why? Let me quote a couple of paragraphs back to back, and we’ll go from there:

Prop. 1 also would improve bus service, create new bike lanes and add HOV lanes — additional means of getting commuters out of single-passenger cars.

Alas, there’s not much explanation of how it would improve any of those things, and those things–bus and bike–are very important to me. So far, I’ve seen “bike lanes” all over the city that amount to a white line separating the main street from the street parking area. If there are no cars parked there, you can use that space as a bike lane. And buses–don’t get me started. Now the corresponding quote:

Second, efforts to move to a carbon-free economy may be advanced as much by revolutionizing automobiles as eliminating all lane building. By the time we fix the U.S. 2 bypass in Monroe, we’ll be able to drive plug-in hybrids that charge in our garage at night, drive 40 miles off that charge, and then run off environmentally friendly biofuel produced in the Evergreen State. We can’t rely on a strategy of doing away with all passenger vehicles, all the time. But it is a realistic strategy to get next generation green cars mass produced and supplemented with mass-transit projects, such as those in Prop. 1.

Excuse me? Prop 1 has nothing to do with revolutionizing automobiles. What’s interesting to me is that this part of his article is very articulate about something that doesn’t exist, while the very real need of improved mass transit barely gets two lines. So Inslee’s article was, well, not convincing. We’ll leave it at that.

Now for Prop 1 itself. Interestingly, Inslee’s article title is “Take Bold Action by Passing Prop 1,” and that where I have to laugh. Bold? Isn’t Bold a code word for lots and lots of money? Bold in this case certainly cannot be referring to more of the same–the bottom line on this Prop. More of the same: more north/south light rail, more HOV lanes to Redmond, more and wider roads….where is the breakout thinking? Where is the vast new plan that suggests proprietary lanes for bikes and buses, for example? Or that closes most roads into downtown like London did? Give me a truly bold plan and I’ll give you my vote, but don’t give me more of the same and ask me to believe it’s going to change anything.

Susan riffed for a while on how myth makes us suffer, and it seems applicable with regard to transportation. The myth is we can buy our way out of our current single-occupancy-car-addiction without having to change or do anything different. That’s the myth. We hold onto it, we invest in it, and the more we invest, the harder it is to change our thinking. The truth is we have to change the way we think and the way we do things. We have to make more room for bikes, buses, rapid transit. We have to actually give up something to get something new. No one wants to propose truly Bold action because the public doesn’t want to have to do anything.

To quote Carless in Seattle once again:

Excess demand for roadways during peak hours is the real problem, to which congestion is the most feasible solution.

And for that reason alone, I’m sticking with my vote for Prop 1. It’s simply not Bold enough.

Daily stats (Fri, Sat)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: 5
Bus: 16

Days 241-243: MLwC and 64 Miles to Mindfulness

I headed out yesterday to an all day meditation retreat held by Seattle Insight Meditation at Bastyr College, a 24 mile drive from my house in West Seattle. I was really looking forward to this retreat as I’ve been a little, well, how to say? Unfocused lately.

Anyway, so I took off leaving myself plenty of time for traffic, should there be any on an early Saturday morning through downtown Seattle. What am I saying? There’s always traffic through downtown Seattle. But I hit something a little more than just your usual traffic–all lanes were virtually stopped, with no explanation of what was going on.

We inched along and finally, as we get just past Capitol Hill I learn that there’s construction and they’ve closed all but one lane from downtown to the University district. Holy cow. I’m getting increasingly irritated and concerned that I’ll not make it on time, I’ll walk into the serene environment of meditators laughably late, no doubt indicating some transcendent failure on my part.

Finally a light bulb comes on in my head: I’ll take the 520 bridge exit, get off on Montlake, zoom up arterials and grab the freeway somewhere north of this mess and all will be good, right? Wrong. Lots and lots of other people have the same idea and then another light goes on in my increasingly unfocused head: I’ll just stay on 520 over to the eastside and go to Bastyr from there! After all, Bastyr is on the eastside, kind of, isn’t it?


So narry another thought presents itself to dissuade me and off I go. By the time I reach land on the east side, I have realized I wouldn’t know how to get there…I’ve always had someone with me who actually knows the eastside and knows the back roads. I have virtually no chance of getting there without getting at least a little lost.

By this time I realize that it’s so easy to go sailing down the freeway, so easy! So easy and fast that I’ve simply been in “get-away-from-traffic” mode rather than just relaxing and knowing I’ll get there when I get there. It’s a meditation retreat, for goodness sakes!

So, yes, I turned the car west and retrace my path back to the original plan, get back on the freeway–I’ve managed to get farther north at least to avoid the bottleneck–and resume my trip. With an added 9 or 10 miles to the odometer. I make it to the retreat 15 minutes late and settle in for an excellent day.

During the day, the meditation teacher, Rodney Smith tells a story of one of his students who has a packed schedule every day: two kids, a job, and appointments, activities and errands all day long. She was sitting in snarled traffic one day, the kids were fighting in the back seat, it was hot, she had lost her cool a few miles back, and suddenly she thought, “What if you just surrendered. Imagine you will never leave this car, not ever. It will always be like this.”

As he told this story, I thought: yipes! That makes me want to run screaming away from here! Yet on my way home, the 24 mile trip home, I got caught in traffic in the downtown corridor and the story popped up in my head. I thought, well, hell, why not give it a try. So I really focused and thought: “you will never be out of traffic. It will always be like this.” I felt a sinking feeling but then guess what happened? My head leaned back against the headrest and I involuntarily took a deep breath. I relaxed.


Daily stats:
Car: 64 miles
Bike: 8.5 miles
Ped: 2
Bus: 0

Day 215 and 216: MLwC and the secret bicyclist code of conduct

If I were to say, “Bicyclists have the same rights as car drivers on the road,” would you agree? And if you agreed, what would that mean? Does that mean, for example, that bicyclists have to signal before turning (not that all car drivers do, but by law they’re supposed to). Does it mean that bikes should watch the speed limit and maintain it at all times?

Anyway, do bikes have the same rights as cars on the road?

In lots of places they do. For example, there’s an online quiz out of Madison, WI to help you figure out your bike IQ and the first question lays it to rest: cyclists have the same rights as car drivers. The thing is, though, they are quite clear in stating that cyclists also have the same responsibilities as car drivers. And that’s where things might be a little dicey, it seems.

My neighbor Susan recently encountered a bicyclist on 3rd Ave W in Seattle. 3rd Ave W is a very steep hill in Seattle, heading up to the Queen Ann neighborhood which is high atop a hill overlooking the rest of Seattle. (Brian has corrected me on the Counterbalance issue–while 3rd W is steep indeed, it’s not as steep as the Counterbalance, and he as a cyclist living on Queen Ann, often takes 3rd W and finds it a path with all its own difficulties–it’s steep, it’s narrow, you’ll likely not go faster than 3 or 4 mph, and there’s not really room to pull over to the right for cars.  That said, from what Susan indicated, this cyclist didn’t even try and eventually managed to stop traffic in both directions.

So Susan is heading up this hill in her car when about halfway up she finds herself behind a cyclist who is riding in the center of the lane…and riding very slowly, as one might imagine. If I were riding up the counterbalance, I expect I would be doing about 4 miles an hour. Is it fair to expect the cars on this very busy street to do 4 miles an hour behind you, with the steep grade and traffic lining up? Of course not. And that’s where responsibilities comes in. But apparently this cyclist had other ideas….

When Susan tried to go around the cyclist, driving into the oncoming traffic, the cyclist lost it, dropped her bike in front of Susan’s car and began screaming at her that “she has the same rights as cars!” Same rights, perhaps, but same responsibilities, too.

So, I have no illusions that the cyclist Susan encountered will read this, but if she does, I personally want to thank her for doing damage to the tenuous relations between cyclists and cars.  (please read Brian’s forthcoming comments on this last bit, as he rides more than I do and has a LOT to say about the tenuous relationship between bikes and cars in traffic.)

Personally, I try to avoid cars as much as possible, and will zip here and there in my efforts to be as far from them as possible. I don’t assume I have more rights or anything else because truth be told, if a car hits you, all the rights in the world won’t protect you from harm. That said, I will note that Pemco Insurance wrangled full coverage for me the one time I was hit and made it clear to the other driver that indeed, I had the same rights as a car driver. Much appreciated, for sure, but I still won’t pit myself against a car.

My pal Brian is scrupulous about following the same traffic laws as cars and I admire him for that. He rides more than I do and I envy his approach. When I used to commute downtown on a daily basis, I found traffic made me cranky and nervous–even if you do follow the laws, that doesn’t guarantee you won’t get side-swiped or yelled at or all the other things that happen to cyclists on a regular basis.

Still, I love my bike and I love running around on it. Makes life easier lots of times, and more fun too. But you won’t ever, not ever, see me take on a car in traffic. I will zip through stops, ride on sidewalks, cross wherever I can–all to stay clear of cars and maintain my forward momentum.

Daily stats (Mon, Tue)
Car: 10 miles (6 tasks)
Bike: 0
Ped: 3+
Bus: 0