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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Getting There: City marks 125 years of bikeways as routes expand

It's summer. Teens can ride a bike for a little excitement. (Molly Quinn/The Spokesman-Review)
It's summer. Teens can ride a bike for a little excitement. (Molly Quinn/The Spokesman-Review)

Pop the bubbly, roll up your pant leg and straddle that saddle, because in 2018 we celebrate.

This year marks the 125th year since Spokane built its first bikeway. In fact, it marks the 125th year since pavement came to town, so cyclists and motorists alike can cheer.

One way to celebrate is by grabbing the new regional bike map published by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, updated with all the new bike lanes, paths and trail connections completed last year.

The new bikeways include a bike lane heading up Five Mile Prairie, shared roads in downtown Spokane, lanes out in the county and some work in Airway Heights.

New bike facilities are a good thing to celebrate, but in context of where we began and we’re headed, we have a long way to go.

In 1893, a 5-foot-wide bike path was constructed alongside Broadway Avenue in the West Central neighborhood. Unlike the road it paralleled, the bike path was graded, graveled, covered with cinder rock and flattened with a 6-ton roller until it was as hard as stone. Horses could only wish for such luxury.

The city’s bicycle tax, passed in 1889, paid for the work, and the path was exclusively used by wheelmen, as they were called. It took four more years for Howard Street to be paved, the first “official” paved road in Spokane even though it came well after the city’s first bike lane.

So where are we now?

In 2017, the various jurisdictions in Spokane County laid 1.8 miles of Class One bike facilities, paved bike trails separated from roads. This addition brings a total of 86.5 miles of such bikeways.

As for bike lanes that share the road with vehicles, separated by just a strip of paint, 2017 brought an additional 5 miles, marking the total 124 miles. Notably, a smooth new bike lane curls up the west side of Five Mile Prairie on Barnes Road.

Lastly, and in this case last is definitely least: the shared roadways. The dreaded “sharrow” routes that have bikes and cars sharing lanes, designated by a sign here and a bicycle icon glued to the road there. With less than a mile added to the region’s supply of bikeways, we now have 76 miles of shared roads.

All bikeways are welcome, and signs reminding drivers of cyclists and encouraging them to be safe are great, but in a county with thousands of miles of paved streets and nearly half a million people, we can do better.

Especially with bike lanes that are separated from the roadway in some way. Research indicates that one sure way to encourage people to ride bikes is by providing them with safe infrastructure. Separated bikeways like the Centennial, Ben Burr and Fish Lake trails not only get people out and exercising, but also keep them out of their cars and not contributing to traffic. The Ben Burr Trail is a great example of a facility that is perfect for commuters.

As Spokane continues to grow and attract new residents, the region’s traffic is bound to get worse. Planners could learn something from the wheelmen of 1893 and keep the bikeways coming.

Sprague work needs input

Another section of East Sprague Avenue, from Bernard to Scott streets, is about to get redone and the city wants your opinion.

Though the work won’t occur until 2019 at the earliest, the city wants feedback on lane configurations, streetscape improvements, lighting, signals and stormwater work. In particular, the city wants to hear about a potential left-turn lane at Browne, three traffic configuration options and the possibility of incorporating bike lanes on the new section.

Everyone interested in the project is encouraged to attend an upcoming public house, Thursday, March 29, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Pride Prep Charter School, 811 E. Sprague Ave., to hear more about the project.

Sewage tank to close street in Kendall Yards

The construction of two large combined sewer overflow tanks will close a section of Cedar Street beginning this week.

The $1.5 million project will will construct a 38,000-gallon storage tank and a 13,000-gallon storage tank, and will close Cedar Street from south of Bridge Lane to Summit Parkway.

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