September 27, 2010 in City, Idaho

Getting There: Road-sharing just got easier

Marked lanes, ‘sharrows’ create designated bike routes
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Christopher Anderson photo

The city of Spokane received a $600,000 grant to establish a bike loop downtown, including this new lane on Howard Street.
(Full-size photo)

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The Howard Street corridor in Spokane from Fourth Avenue to Buckeye Street is being turned into a bicycle route.

In addition, a bicycle loop is being marked off in the downtown area west of Howard.

The idea is to make bicycle transportation safer and more inviting.

The city of Spokane is spending $600,000 in federal grant money to lay down new pavement stripes and arrows to mark the routes.

The Howard Street portion runs from Fourth Avenue on the south to Buckeye Avenue on the north and passes through Riverfront Park.

Howard is now marked with lane stripes for bicycle riders. Some parking was removed along Howard, and some sections that had four lanes for drivers have been reduced to two.

Fourth from Jefferson to Lincoln streets will feature a bike and pedestrian path separated from the street. Fourth from Lincoln to Howard streets will have bike lanes on each side of the street. Parking will be removed on the north side of the street and remain on the south side.

On Spokane Falls Boulevard and other streets being designated as bicycle routes, motorists and riders will see a symbol known as a “sharrow” on the pavement.

The symbol shows the figure of a bike rider below a group of arrows, indicating that the lane is intended for equal use by bike riders and motorists.

“When the bicyclist is in the sharrow, they kind of own that lane,” said Ann Deasy, a city spokeswoman.

Motorists should follow at a safe distance, or pass the bicycle rider in the adjacent lane to the left, much as they would pass a slower vehicle, she said.

The sharrow symbol also acts as a warning to motorists that they are likely to encounter bicyclists on that route.

The loop route follows portions of Spokane Falls Boulevard, Main Avenue, Riverside Avenue, Jefferson Street and Fourth Avenue.

“It’s certainly a good step forward,” said bicycle advocate Bob Lutz in an e-mail. “It also represents an easy fix for the city and is not that controversial.”

He said other improvements, such as creating separated bike lanes, would cost more money and likely spark debate.

The Howard Street route through Riverfront Park to Buckeye is the same route that the newly inaugurated Summer Parkways event used.

During those events on July 11 and Aug. 22, Howard Street was closed to vehicles and became a parade of nonmotorized transportation.

William Bender, an organizer of Summer Parkways, said it was no accident that Howard Street was chosen for the event. The fact that the city was going to turn Howard into a major north-south bike route was a key to the choice of Howard for the Summer Parkways route, he said.

The addition of the bike routes downtown was part of a series of recommendations in a comprehensive traffic study done for the city in recent years.

As much as drivers might complain about traffic enforcement cameras at traffic lights, an insurance company in Washington says there is evidence the cameras cause drivers to be more careful.

Pemco Insurance commissioned a poll recently that shows that 55 percent of the state’s drivers think twice about running through a yellow light that’s about to go red if they know there is a chance they might get caught with a violation.

The poll has an accuracy rating of 95 percent.

Spokane began using photo camera enforcement two years ago.

ISP classes include tips for winter driving

Idaho State Police this fall is offering free safe-driving classes that will include instruction on winter driving.

The classes are on Oct. 9 at noon and Oct. 23 at 9 a.m. at the ISP regional office at 615 W. Wilbur Ave. in Coeur d’Alene. The classes last for up to three hours.

Call (208) 209-8620 to sign up. Registration is limited to 60 drivers per class.

This is the eighth year that the award-winning program has been offered.

Work to watch for

• Construction work at Wellesley Avenue and Division Street continues to hamper traffic there. Wellesley is closed at Division, and Division has lane restrictions.

• Interstate 90 at Stateline should be flowing more smoothly again in the westbound lanes. The Washington Department of Transportation last week said it was reopening two-lane traffic westbound after one lane was closed to allow for construction of a new port of entry.

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