A supportive group of residents turned out for last week’s public hearing on Spokane Valley’s proposed Bike and Pedestrian Master Program, several of them arriving by bicycle.
Nearly everyone who testified in front of the city’s Planning Commission spoke in favor of the plan, which outlines the city’s future plans for sidewalks, bike lanes and shared use paths.
After some debate, the plan was recommended unanimously to the City Council for approval.
The plan was a collaborative effort with local agencies, said city senior planner Mike Basinger. The local school districts provided information on walking routes to schools to help the city decide where to put in bike lanes and sidewalks. The plan also includes possible locations for bike boulevards. It essentially means identifying a street that has a low speed limit and traffic of fewer than 3,000 cars a day as a bike friendly street. One example is Valleyway Avenue, Basinger said. “They’re affordable and easy to implement,” he said. “Many streets meet this standard.”
Several public meetings and open houses were held to get input and people said they wanted more and better north-south routes to deal with obstacles like the Spokane River, I-90 and railroad tracks, Basinger said. “We made several north-south connections,” he said. “What we’ve tried to do is take the riders off the major arterials.”
Resident Richard Bryant said he prefers separated bike paths. “I lost track of how many tires I had to replace one summer,” he said. “It gets very dangerous out there. Some drivers go in the bike lanes.”
Sheila Gates-Ping said she lives in the Valley and works downtown and would like to ride her bike to work if improvements are made. “I think it’s a really great idea,” she said.
Scott Paulus suggested making improvements to traffic signals. “Bicyclists are invisible to a lot of the traffic signals around here,” he said. The city’s north-south routes are the worst, especially for commuters, he said. “It’s miserable, quite frankly.”
A couple of Greenacres residents spoke in favor of a separated bike path along Mission Avenue instead of bike lanes even though the city wants to put in a shared use path just a couple blocks to the south of Mission. “We really want the kind of path the Centennial Trail has,” said Mary Pollard. “We want the bike path off the roadway.”
Fellow Greenacres resident Dick Harmon said Mission will see increased traffic when the extension of Indiana Avenue is finished and the road would become too busy for bike lanes. He suggested putting in a separated bike lane between Flora and Barker roads. “That gives a place for kids to ride their bikes,” he said.
Several planning commissioners asked for more details on the bike lanes on Mission in Greenacres. Commissioner Joe Mann expressed concern about the cost of a path. “I don’t know if we have the resources to do that,” he said.
Traffic engineer Inga Note said the city is currently working on plans to redesign and reconstruct Mission in that area and the design, including possible bike lanes, won’t be finalized until after public meetings are held. There are also safety concerns about putting a separated path in that area, she said. “They don’t mix well with driveways and cross streets,” she said. “It’s a little too early for use to commit to one facility or the other.” Bike lanes are simply the minimum the city could do there, she said.
Commissioner Steve Neill said he had concerns about several areas in the plan that seemed to call for the city to take immediate action. “Those could be misconstrued as a mandate,” he said. “I would like to see that changed.”
Basinger said those timelines are associated either with programs the city is already doing or simply asks businesses or the city to consider or encourage something. “Most of them don’t require any funding,” he said. “It’s not setting us up to do anything but continue what we already have going on.”
Commissioner Bill Bates said the plan was “well done” but thought there were too many new bike routes identified. “I think there’s far too many to accomplish in five or six years,” he said.
Mann asked how much the plan would cost to implement. “I think we would be remiss if we didn’t know what this is going to cost,” he said.
Commissioner Rustin Hall said it is a long-term plan. “We have to have a point of beginning,” he said. “We need to do this as we can afford it.”
Nothing will be done on any proposed project until money becomes available and until the City Council votes to approve it, Basinger said. “The plan is a plan,” he said. “It’s a vision for the community. You won’t find anything in here that says we have to do something tomorrow.”
Hall said he’s not sure there is an answer on the total cost of every proposal included in the plan. “This will be implemented and paid for from any number of sources of a period of time,” he said.