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StarBulletin.com

Let's roll on bikeways


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POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2009

Today is the 15th annual national Bike to Work Day, but too many bicycles will remain idle in Honolulu because some accommodating projects that were part of a 20-year plan a decade ago were not completed. Fortunately, many of the unfinished projects have been dusted off and are going forward, with the goal of making Oahu bike-friendly.

A new $350,000 master plan is intended to return to the 1999 plan for $77 million in urban Honolulu projects and expand the effort to cover the entire island, said Chris Sayers, bicycle coordinator for the city Department of Transportation Services. “;There's a groundswell of people that want bike facilities,”; Sayers told the Star-Bulletin's Rob Shikina.

Three years ago, voters approved a City Charter amendment making it a priority to redesign Honolulu into a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly city. In 2007, the League of American Bicyclists awarded Honolulu an honorable mention for its attempts to become friendly to two-wheelers.

The league ranks Hawaii 22nd among states in bicycle-friendliness, which is unsatisfactory when considering the islands' fair climate and low levels of air pollution. Gov. Linda Lingle this year signed into law a policy of reasonably making public roads accessible to all users, including pedestrians and cyclists.

The city has completed about 60 percent of the projects in the 1999 plan, Sayers said. The plan calls for completing a bike path stretching from Kahala to Pearl City, which was to be completed five years ago but was set aside because of lack of planning and money. The new plan is to connect existing bike paths and create new ones to rail transit stations.

The city receives about $400,000 a year from bicycle registrations, and federal funds have increased revenues to $1 million in recent years. Projects not part of the original plan but now completed include a Pearl Harbor bike-path extension and a Kailua Beach bike-path bridge.

The popularity of biking soared last summer when high gasoline prices prompted commuters to consider alternatives. The national bicyclers' league points to health benefits of bicycling, noting that nearly two-thirds of American adults are overweight and nearly half of those are obese.

Bikers account for less than 1 percent of commuters in the United States but as much as 6 percent in Portland, Ore., one of three recipients of the league's platinum award for high levels of bicycle use and a commitment to improve conditions of cyclists ranging from avid mountain bikers to everyday commuters.

“;We're in the best position that we've seen to make these things happen,”; said Mitchell Nakagawa, executive director of the Hawaii Bicycling League. “;There's no reason why Honolulu can't be a platinum bicycling city.”;