City touts 'bike friendliness' of rail


POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bicycling enthusiasts see the city's proposed rail project as a way to get more people out of cars and onto bikes. So does the city.

In its first draft of a new bike master plan, the city touts the advantage the rail line will provide bicyclists who need to get from West Oahu into town and back, and visa versa.

The key for this plan is rail transit, which will stimulate less automobile-centric development around stations, providing opportunities to build bike facilities, said Wayne Yoshioka, director of the city Department of Transportation Services.

“;One of the trademarks of transit-oriented development is bicycle friendliness,”; he said.

The draft bike master plan, released earlier this month, is part of the city's goal of developing a multiple mode transportation system.

Proposed in the plan are 572 miles of bikeways around the island—which includes bike lanes, paths, and routes—on city and state property at a cost of $217 million. Of that, 40 miles are priority projects for the city, costing $18.6 million and designed to be built within 10 years.




View Bike Plan

        » See the Oahu Bike Plan at oahubikeplan.org. Submit comments on the plan by tomorrow at oahubikeplan.org/contact.html.



“;Even if we didn't do anything, the transit—when that gets built—is going to have a huge impact on bicycling,”; said Honolulu's bicycle coordinator Chris Sayers. “;We can work on that and enhance that.”;

The city is seeking comments on the draft until tomorrow. A final version is planned for release as early as October.

Officials say the $400,000 plan is more comprehensive and practical than its 10-year-old predecessor.

Yoshioka says the 1999 plan was hampered by designs that required significant changes to surrounding areas.

The old plan also proposed dream projects that would take too long to complete, such as a bike route from Kahala to Pearl City.

Unlike that plan, the new one contains bikeways that can be built quickly and around the island.

“;The focus this time around is very strongly on connectivity,”; Yoshioka said. “;What we're trying to avoid is isolated pockets of great bicycle facilities with no way to get from one to the other.”;

The method, Yoshioka said, is to build less-than-ideal facilities that can be used sooner rather than waiting for “;the perfect situation.”; Less-ideal facilities could mean shared traffic lanes instead of separate bike lanes.

The transit project won't garner federal money for bikeways, but officials hope the plan will ensure that transit stations are bike-friendly.

The draft bike plan proposes transit stations with parking for bikes, and special facilities to help cyclists walk their bikes up stairs so they can take them on the train.

Yoshioka said the plan preserves areas around the train stations for bikeways to major bike routes through the city.

“;It's not so much about building super bikeways,”; Yoshioka said. “;Transit-oriented development creates a development pattern that fosters”; lighter road traffic and encourages the use of bicycles without fear of being hit by cars or other motorized vehicles, he said.

Justin Fanslau, spokesman for Hawaii Pedal Power, a coalition of bicyclists, complimented the plan's attempt to make rail stations accessible for bicyclists.

“;We want to make sure we create these bicycle transit centers to enhance the rail project,”; he said.

Some, however, criticized the city for not accomplishing the 1999 plan's objectives.

Robin Brandt, a member of the University of Hawaii bicycling committee, blasted the city for lacking oversight and follow through with the old plan.

“;We're just going nowhere,”; she said. “;I don't feel any safer on the road.”;

The old plan proposed bicycle counts to measure usage and had benchmarks for projects, several of which the city failed to meet. The new plan has similar goals.

Yoshioka defended the city, arguing that bike counts require people and money; he called the old plan “;ambitious.”;

“;The 1999 plan was a good plan,”; he said. “;It was what you would build if you had no constraints.”;

Even if objectives aren't met, the city needs a plan, he said.

“;It's important that you have something like a bike plan to prioritize your spending,”; he said.

Funding for city bike projects is about $1 million annually—almost half from bicycle registrations and the rest from federal highway and city funds.

Using the bike plan, he said, the city could quickly add bike facilities at no additional cost when reconstructing roads.

“;It becomes part of the thinking,”; he said.