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Saturday, May 19, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Thousands of cyclists answer Friday roll call

Seattle Times staff reporter

Thousands of commuters pedaled through Seattle Friday morning in a vote of support for making city streets safer for bicyclists.

Volunteers from the Cascade Bicycle Club counted nearly 500 passing bicyclists by 8 a.m. Friday at Mercer Street and Dexter Avenue North, one of only two northern arterial streets with bike lanes.

On the Burke-Gilman Trail, more than 650 bicyclists had passed Ballard's Fred Meyer store by 9 a.m., twice last year's count.

For Starbucks Bike to Work Day, volunteers provided riders with energy bars, bicycle maps and on-site emergency repair at various commuting stations.

City officials estimate that about 6,000 people commute by bicycle on a typical weekday. About 1 to 2 percent of Seattle adults commute by bike, but surveys suggest 8 percent would do so if they felt safer. Last month Mayor Greg Nickels issued a new bicycle master plan that will guide the spending of $27 million earmarked for trails, bike lanes and safety projects citywide.

Friday morning the bicyclists making their way down Dexter Avenue North toward Denny Way encountered a torn-up roadway, a construction excavator and a narrowing of traffic lanes that forced some to ride on the sidewalk.

"Given the street conditions, it's amazingly busy today," said Bill Lemke, a Cascade Bicycle volunteer at Dexter Avenue North and Mercer Street.

Harry Romberg, 57, wasn't deterred by the construction work. The chemist has been cycling 16 miles from his Lake City home to his Georgetown office for five years. Romberg said he gets satisfaction from reducing his impact on global warming and saving money he'd otherwise spend on gasoline.

"It's actually invigorating after a long day at work to ride home and get the blood flowing again," Romberg said.

Record gas prices and an epidemic of obesity may be increasing demand for bike lanes, but many commuters are fearful of getting hit by a car.

Romberg encourages people to drive their car to a park-and-ride lot and then bike the rest of the way into the city.

"Take off that iPod and make sure you're aware of what's going on around you at all times with your eyes and your ears," he said.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or sbhatt@seattletimes.com

Staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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