Bicyclists are anxious to get rolling
Update on Spokane master plan coming up at Nov. 18 open house
On weekdays, Dave Silver and his son, Zak, leave their home about 8 a.m. and bike to work and school.
They are among a cadre of dedicated, year-round bicycle commuters in Spokane.
Sally Phillips, who works downtown, takes a six-mile route from her home in southeast Spokane. She’s been commuting by bicycle for 20 years.
They know what would make bicycle riding safer and more attractive in Spokane.
“What we need more than anything is a network of connected bike routes,” Phillips said.
The city of Spokane is in the middle of a yearlong effort to update its master bike plan to expand those routes. An open house on the update is set for Nov. 18.
The goal is to identify places where bicycle routes could be designated or improved or where separate bicycle and pedestrian paths should be built. Ultimately, proponents want a designated bicycle route within a half mile of every city residence.
In April, nearly 300 people turned out for a series of open houses while an additional 800 submitted their ideas on how to improve bicycle routes.
Planners have looked to other cities for ideas, too. The proposed plan calls for increasing the number of routes shared by automobiles and bicycles, and upgrading signs and markers.
For example, symbols on the pavement showing a bike and an arrow – “sharrows,” they are called – are likely to start appearing in Spokane to designate lanes shared by bikes and autos.
A study done through the Federal Highway Administration last year showed that 0.8 percent of Spokane commuters travel by bike, compared with 2 percent in Minneapolis and 1.5 percent in Columbia, Mo., suggesting the possibility of increasing the number of bicycle commuters here, officials said.
In the past year, bicycling enthusiasm has grown. Nearly 900 people signed up for the first bike to work week in Spokane last May, and the city’s first SpokeFest drew 1,200 riders in September.
Officials are mounting a campaign to have Spokane designated as one of 40 communities where federal funds would be used to build and expand bicycle routes.
Currently, the city has 17 miles of dedicated bike lanes, said Bob Lutz, chair of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board.
“We are going to have a plan that allows the community to move forward with an idea of what cycling will be,” he said.
Improvements are already occurring. Reconstruction of North Wall Street between Wellesley and Francis avenues was accompanied by elimination of parking on Wall, allowing safer bicycle travel.
Other ideas involve creating bike lanes or bike boulevards on the uphill segment of Five Mile Road; Belt Street north of Northwest Boulevard; Astor Street in the Logan Neighborhood; Regal Street in Hillyard; and building a switchback bike path through Pioneer Park along Ben Garnett Way.
After next week’s open house, the master plan goes before the city Plan Commission for a workshop, a separate public hearing and vote on a recommendation to the City Council. Then, the council will schedule its own hearing prior to adoption.
“This is a good opportunity for people to have a say on what they want on the ground,” Lutz said.
Post Falls alert
Post Falls officials are warning motorists about a traffic change. The intersection of Poleline Avenue and Chase Road is being changed to a four-way stop. The change began last week with installation of signs. The city’s engineering division found that traffic patterns warranted the change. Previously, the intersection was a stop on Poleline only.
“Motorists are urged to use additional caution at the intersection until local traffic becomes familiar with the revised conditions,” according to a press release.
Work is continuing in the Suncrest area on Highway 291 near Swenson Road, where workers are installing new shoulder turn lanes. Flaggers will be on duty.
In Spokane, leaf pickup starts today in northwest sections of the city, including the Woodridge and Shadle Park areas.
Aubrey L. White Parkway west of Downriver Drive will be closed for two more weeks while crews work on a storm sewer overflow system. The closure extends to the wastewater plant. The plant is accessible from Rifle Club Road.
Workers will be sealing pavement cracks on Northwest Boulevard from Assembly to Alberta streets; Broadway Avenue from Oak to A streets; and Fifth Avenue from Pittsburg to Thor streets.
Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or email@example.com