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E-bikes, bike rentals possible commuting plan during 'Seattle Squeeze'

E-bikes, bike rentals possible commuting plan during 'Seattle Squeeze' (PHOTO: KOMO News)

Time is running out to finalize your plan to survive the “Seattle Squeeze."

Some commuters are ditching their cars for bicycles, and they're not just renting e-bikes, they're buying them.

"I'm a West Seattle resident that works in Ballard," said Tessa Ward. "Normally I ride the bus, but that will get so much worse when the viaduct closes."

Ward is a bike enthusiast and she decided to ditch the bus for rain gear, two wheels and a motor over the next three weeks.

She is practicing her survival technique now by taking a couple laps of her new route on an e-bike. It's her go to ride in the summer, but this winter strategy is all about the viaduct permanently closing on Friday night.

"I think for me I’m just very anxious and eager for it to finally be here so we can all roll with it," Ward said.

She’s had a lot of practice — she works for Rad Power Bikes in Ballard. Ward insists e-bike riding now is all about survival. Stephen Fissel agrees and is buying his first e-bike.

"Commute times have just gotten so extended," Fissel said.

He's a trombone player for the Seattle Symphony and commutes from Ballard to Seattle twice a day.

Fissel is one of dozens of customers who have turned a slow time of year at Rad Power Bikes into booming business, all because of the viaduct.

"We're normally slow this time of year," said Traci Schlosser, a Rad manager. "We had almost 70 percent more test riders coming in and test riding our bikes."

She said those numbers are in comparison to the same time last year. December and January have been busy for the bike company.

Riders can use the pedal assist or the bike's throttle to power through — something Schlosser says appeals to buyers with longer commutes.

"It's less taxing physically," said Fissel. "And, I can do it twice a day."

Commuters may opt to rent bikes too.

Bike rentals in the city will increase from about 6,000 bikes to 8,000 during the closure.

"Something like this is really making people think differently," said Schlosser.

She said the recent closure of some viaduct on-ramps and this morning's gridlock out of West Seattle are forcing commuters to finalize a plan.

The 2,000 additional rental bikes are coming from Jump, Uber's bike rental program.

LimeBike is partnering with King County Metro to offer trip discounts in certain areas. The promo code just announced today is "PMCLIME".

Schlosser knows some people will just opt to stay home and telecommute.

"I’ve definitely said good bye to my west Seattle friends in January and February," said Schlosser. "See you in March, maybe."

It's a temporary inconvenience for permanent improvement.

"I'm a little anxious but excited about the opportunities it presents to the city," said Fissel.

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