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Smooth ride


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POSTED: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Grant Larson, who has been hit by a vehicle three times in six years while riding his bike in Honolulu, says he has little faith in the city improving bicycling facilities.

“;I'm a nonbeliever in, like, any effective safe bicycling program being established here,”; said Larson, 33. “;There's nothing to show for things being changed.”;

               

     

 

Bike to the Zoo Day

       

        Free admission to the Honolulu Zoo for anyone who bikes there:
       

» Hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

       

» Benefits: Free valet bike parking, and the first 200 bicyclists will receive a tote bag with goodies such as blinkers, safety materials and a bike map

       

Despite the skepticism of bicyclists, city officials say their upcoming bicycle master plan will be more successful than the last one, completed 10 years ago.

The 1999 plan contained $77 million in projects in urban Honolulu over 20 years, including a bike path that ran from Kahala to Pearl City. That path, meant to have been completed in five years, remains largely unfinished because of lack of planning and money.

For example, a Waialae Avenue portion awaits a study to remove the contra-flow lanes before bike lanes are installed. The city is still planning to complete the east-west path, including along Young Street.

“;There's a groundswell of people that want bike facilities,”; said Chris Sayers, Honolulu bicycle coordinator. He said the new planning proposal will have projects vetted and researched with more detail so “;we can implement them without too many problems.”;

Not only will the $370,000 master plan will keep the previous plan's ideas, it will expand to cover the entire island. The plan will focus on connecting existing bike paths, providing routes to rail transit stations and adding facilities such as bike lockers.

Bicycle advocates hope the new plan, which is expected to be released in a first draft in June, will help Honolulu become a more bicycle-friendly city.

Hawaii Bicycling League Executive Director Mitchell Nakagawa said Honolulu is on the tipping point of change in favor of bicycling with community support and pro-bike public policies.

“;We're in the best position that we've ever been in to make these things happen,”; he said recently.

“;There's no reason why Honolulu can't be a platinum bicycling city,”; he said, referring to a ranking by the League of American Bicyclists. “;I believe that our constituents really believe that that's possible.”;

“;There's almost endless possibilities,”; Nakagawa said. “;Some of these infrastructure projects do require a lot of money. It takes public will.”;

Since 1999, new state and city policies have laid a better foundation for the goal of a bicycling-friendly city, cycling advocates say.

In 2006, Honolulu residents passed a City Charter amendment making it a priority to design Honolulu into a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly city. In 2007, Honolulu won an honorable mention award from the League of American Bicyclists for its attempts to become bicycle-friendly.

This year, Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law a bill creating a state policy to reasonably make public roads accessible to all users, including pedestrians and cyclists.

Sayers, the city's bicycling coordinator, said the city has completed about 60 percent of priority-one projects in the 1999 plan, installed 200 bike racks and continued with bike education programs.

The city has also accomplished projects not included in the 1999 bike plan, such as a Pearl Harbor bike path extension and Kailua Beach bike path bridge, both at a cost of about $850,000.

The city receives about $400,000 a year from bicycle registration funds. For the last few years, the city has had about $1 million a year with additional federal funds. Still there is a lack of continuous bike lanes, sometimes forcing cyclists to ride on sidewalks.

“;It's unsafe, man, riding here in Hawaii. You've got a patchwork of bike lanes,”; said Roman Robinson, 29, a Kakaako resident who sometimes rides his bike to the North Shore.