If your Luddite tendencies have you running in terror from Google's new bike directions (or Seattle cyclist Matt Mikul's Velo Routes), the Seattle Department of Transportation has the answer. On Tuesday, SDOT released the 2010 Seattle Bicycling Guide. Hard copies of the map can be ordered for free through SDOT's web site, where you can also download a PDF of the map. (They're also available in person at City Hall).
One side of the guide is a map of Seattle, highlighting bike paths, bike lanes, sharrows, arterial streets, highways (and new for 2010) light rail, bike shops, schools, farmers markets and libraries. (!) The other side has tips for safe riding, Washington State bicycle laws, a list of all the bike shops in the Seattle area with phone numbers and addresses, detailed maps of downtown and the U District, and insets with tips on riding the Ballard, First Avenue, and I-90 bridges.
I got my hands on the new guide at the Seattle Bike Expo from the SDOT booth. SDOT says they took lots of input from Seattle cyclists in redesigning the guide. Compared side-by-side with last year's guide, the new version includes a number of clear improvements.
For one, it's easier to read. Instead of laying out streets, trails, and markings over a brown topography map (as in the 2009 version), the new bike map lays everything over a white outline of Seattle. The white background makes everything clearer, a worthwhile trade-off for a topo map nobody likely ever used. The map still marks steep hills with a series of arrows laid over hilly streets. (Editor's minor quibble: The map recommends traveling to and from Seward Park on hilly Orcas Street—one of the steepest streets in that part of the city, and where a cyclist was killed by a negligent driver while heading downhill last year). Parks and other major geographical features (Boeing Field, the stadiums, etc.) are demarcated in an eye-pleasing all-caps sans serif font.
There are other additions that make the map particularly useful. The inclusion of light rail and street car routes and stations makes it easy to plot out multi-modal routes around town. The map clearly shows significant landmarks, tourist destinations, and parks in big, bold text and denotes the major neighborhoods—making it useful for out-of-towners, new riders, and residents exploring new parts of town.
A final new addition of note is the markings for public schools. It'd be great to see more kids pedaling to school instead of being driven. The map doesn't include school names, but the markings are presumably enough to help parents find their child's school and plot out a safe route to get there.
The map is probably best used for planning purposes. When folded out, it's about 3'x2', which may be too big and unwieldy for mid-ride directions compared to a cue sheet. But it folds up small enough to toss into a bag for emergency use on a ride around town.