October 22, 2007 in City

Bike boulevards could ease stress for commuters

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Imagine living on a street with no car traffic or riding a bike to work without having to worry about being hit by a car.

Both prospects soon could be reality if Spokane moves forward with emerging plans to build two bike boulevards.

Other cities, such as Berkeley, Calif., and Tucson, Ariz., already have bike boulevards – re-engineered residential streets closed to automobile traffic other than to and from the homes along them.

People who don’t want to ride with traffic can use the routes with ease.

Features like speed bumps, bumped-out curves and plantings make them a poor choice for drivers seeking a quick, through route. Often, but not always, the streets run parallel to arterials. Signs and striping make it clear that bikes are the first priority on these roadways.

In Spokane, two routes are under consideration for pilot bike boulevard projects. One route would run along Hatch Street, north of 29th on the South Hill. The other would run along or near Wall and Post on the North Side.

“There’s definitely been a lot of momentum behind bike boulevards,” said Bob Lutz, chairman of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board.

Lutz, who used bike boulevards while living in Tucson, is a fan of the designated bikeways but is urging caution implementing them in Spokane.

He’s uncertain either route is ideal for a first run in Spokane.

Hatch, for instance, isn’t a through route for a long enough stretch, he said. He thinks the Post/Wall route has more potential.

In some cities, bikes can trigger sensors on bike boulevards to cross busy arterials. It’s unclear whether such triggers would be installed in Spokane or whether “traffic-calming” devices would be built to keep most auto traffic off the boulevards.

Just painting bikes on the asphalt and adding signs is inadequate, Lutz explained.

“This all has to be worked out much more,” Lutz said. Discussions with neighborhoods and cyclists are essential. “We’re really stoked about the idea. We just need to be a lot more deliberate.

“This is a great idea that could go awry if it’s fast-tracked.”

Snow? Really?

After the controversy SeaTac Airport created last year when it removed its Christmas trees in response to a rabbi’s request that a menorah be added to its holiday display, airport officials are taking a different approach this year.

The new holiday display being installed this year will avoid Christmas altogether, focusing instead on winter and peace. Airport displays will feature birch trees with crystals and mirrors and snow falling hourly to the sound of wind chimes.

Snow? Winter in Seattle rarely includes much snow. How about rain?

If it must be snow, how about ditching the planned wind chimes? Instead add the sound of West Side drivers unaccustomed to the white stuff crashing into one another.

Spokane International Airport, meanwhile, will display its traditional two wreaths along the skywalks between the parking garage and terminal.

Airport spokesman Todd Woodard said the terminal doesn’t have room for large decorations.

Seat belt goes in front

Washington is launching another round of night-time seatbelt patrols, running this week and next.

Instead of running through seat belt usage statistics, here’s a reminder about how to wear a seat belt.

The shoulder belt goes in front of you, not behind you.

Kate Carlsen with the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission said that during the last patrols many drivers and passengers had the shoulder harnesses behind their backs.

In that case, you may have clicked it, but you’d better still expect a ticket.

Slow going

Interstate 90

•Crews will be cleaning out drains this week. Expect intermittent lane closures in areas between the Sunset Hill and Argonne Road from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

North

•Crestline Street is closed from Illinois Avenue to Wellesley Avenue for paving. Detours are in place.

•Monroe Street is reduced to one lane in each direction on the north end of the Monroe Street Bridge.

•Five Mile Road is closed from St. Thomas More Way to Strong Road until Oct. 31. Traffic is detoured to Cedar Road as crews work on sewer lines and paving.

•Boone Avenue is closed just east of Ruby Street through November.

West

•In Browne’s Addition, Riverside Avenue is closed from Hemlock Street to the Marne Bridge.

•Hayford Road is closed south of Highway 2.

Spokane Valley

•Pines Road is closed at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing Tuesday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

•Barker Road is closed Wednesday and Thursday about one-quarter mile south of Trent Avenue. Barker is also closed at Euclid Road on Thursday and Friday.


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