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It's time for Hawaii's people to get on our bikes and ride

By Jay Fidell

LAST UPDATED: 02:35 a.m. HST, Oct 30, 2012

Hawaii has some tough problems: traffic congestion, the rail controversy, energy costs, the ravages of obesity and shrinking disposable income. Bicycles could be a broad solution, right under our noses.

Could there be a more ideal place for cycling? The weather is moderate, the trades are friendly and the topography is perfect. How can we do rail, energy or health initiatives when we haven't yet done bikes?

Honolulu has become a freeway of malls. Our kids have grown up swamped in a sea of traffic. They never rode to school or felt the Zen of the bicycle, as so many did before and so many still do elsewhere.

Today's high-tech bikes can give us individual mass transit; reduce parking, transportation costs and dependence on oil; improve our quality of life and tourism; and keep our kids here. What's not to like?

But drivers love their cars. They buy 2-ton, gas-guzzling, gadget-laden SUVs for $50,000 plus. They drive around in tinted bubbles, hardly noticing the world around, often with a single driver sitting in traffic for hours. The economics are atrocious.

So is the congestion. Frustrated by going nowhere, drivers profile cyclists as scofflaws who get in the way. They deny cyclists any rightful place on the road. They don't realize that one good honk or nasty epithet can scare any rider.

They don't know about Kamehameha's Law of the Splintered Paddle, giving everyone a place on the road. They don't know that state law (291C-145 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes) allows cyclists to take a whole lane if required for safety.

The City Charter mandates the development of bike infrastructure, but while we argue about rail we have done precious little for bikes. The election cycles march on and the mandate gathers dust.

You'd think Kaimuki would be unanimous on bike lanes. These would make it a bike hub and support the local businesses without additional parking. But there have been public meetings torn by opposition, and self-interest has been the enemy of the good.

These attitudes are discouraging to cyclists, but the biggest turnoff is the raw danger of riding, of being snuffed by a thoughtless driver. Most people are deathly afraid to ride on our crowded, angry roads.

It's chicken-egg. A sole rider is less likely to be seen and thus at greater risk. A group of riders is more likely to be seen and at less risk. If there are more riders riding, they will all be safer. So how do we get them to trust the roads and do some riding?

By a network of bike lanes around the island; frequent organized group rides and races with escorts and support vehicles; a long-term PR campaign promoting cycling; whatever else it takes to build trust and respect between drivers and riders.

And by you, giving them room on the road, flash the shaka and, if you like, sporting an "I Love Cycling" bumper sticker. Get one at zazzle.com for $5.

We've added so many cars, but we haven't kept up with bike lanes. Our city officials regularly endorse cycling, but stasis rules under the political tension between cars and bikes. The money is on the cars.

Group visibility levels the field. Cyclists need to lobby hard on bike lanes and potholes, get into the press, weigh in on new projects, activate champions like Breene Hashi­moto, form groups to ride on City Hall, demand and secure a place on the road. Bite.

While 20 miles of rail will cost $6 billion ($300 million per mile), Oahu's Bike Plan calls for 310 miles of city bikeways for $68 million ($219,000 per mile), including 62 miles of "short range" short-term projects doable for $2.7 million ($44,000 per mile).

But the plan gives the city 30 years to do most of this. We'll forget how to ride by then. Bikes will be extinct and the tragedy complete. For any credible resurgence of biking benefits, we need to do it now.

Under Chad Taniguchi the Hawaii Bicycling League advocates for more bike lanes and more cycling. Membership is $25 a year. HBL has 700 members in a state of 1.3 million. Let's multiply that. Join, and visit hbl.org for classes, talks and rides.

But the riders can't change things by themselves. The community as a whole must come together to give them greater clout on the issue and avoid an irreversible squandering of this priceless opportunity.

Calling all environmentalists. It's time for dramatic action, not long-term lip service. Want to save our city? Here's an obvious solution. It's inexpensive, doable and, in the end, our only clear choice.


Jay Fidell, a longtime business lawyer, founded ThinkTech Hawaii, a digital media company that reports on Hawaii's tech and energy sectors of the economy. Reach him at fidell@lava.net.

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Wazdat wrote:
Great points.
on October 30,2012 | 03:41AM
MANDA wrote:
second that - excellent article.
on October 30,2012 | 06:47AM
mellishi wrote:
... yes an excellent article. It covers it all and is cost effective - thank you Jay Fidell.
on October 30,2012 | 03:31PM
mellishi wrote:
...I forgot to mention, go to the City website and check out (www.honolulu.gov ) "the Oahu Bike Plan" - it has been completed and is downloadable.
on October 30,2012 | 03:35PM
Nesmith wrote:
Is this a current plan or the 15 year old plan that's been collecting dust.
on October 30,2012 | 10:05PM
bikemom wrote:
It's the updated plan, but it has one more step to go before it is final. It still has to be approved by city council.
on October 30,2012 | 11:52PM
star08 wrote:
In theory, there is no difference between reality and theory but in reality there is a difference between safely riding your bike in Honolulu and the reality of dying from being hit on your bike. I know b/c I've been hit on my bike by a car- lived through it, but not an experience I want to repeat. Until there are separate lanes with raised barriers it will not be safe. cars will and do cross over lines and will hit bicyclists. The reality is that cars will bump you or edge you out of the roadway. Until that time, I will not ride my bike on streets in Honolulu again. The reality is that our politicos are unable/unwilling to do what is right because of pay-to-play. Only when we have public financed elections will we have politics of the people, by the people and for the people.
on October 30,2012 | 08:13PM
allie wrote:
on November 1,2012 | 11:26AM
loquaciousone wrote:
A study by an independent federal consultant reported that if the rail is built, other city services will have to be reduced. Along with the bus service homicide, our sewer and water systems already decades behind in maintenance and our roads pocked marked with pot holes other services will also suffer. I used to ride a bike and have been all over the island on my trusty bike. However the prolifieration of bike monuments along our roadways scares the bejeezus out of me and now my bike sits in the garage collecting dust. Our city leaders suffer from rail tunnel vision and have no time or money to take care of our basic infrastructures.
on October 30,2012 | 03:52AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Fortunately rail has not affected our wonderful, best in the nation Bus service! Well, except for the part about gutting schedules to artificially lower transit costs to the City.
on October 30,2012 | 09:20AM
allie wrote:
on November 1,2012 | 11:26AM
iwanaknow wrote:
time to put your bike on craigs list?
on November 2,2012 | 03:18PM
hilocal wrote:
Wonderful column, Jay Fidell! Implementing the bike plan will go far towards reducing our dependence on oil, cars, improving health, and reducing our cost of living. Your column should be sent to our city council members and legislators.
on October 30,2012 | 07:17AM
Allenk wrote:
I think that more people will ride bikes if it could be made much safer. I know too many people who have had accidents training for triathlons as well as commuting to other places. Waialae Avenue is really treacherous, although I see UH and Chaminade students traverse it all of the time.
on October 30,2012 | 09:33AM
control wrote:
Still way too dangerous to ride a bike here, even outside of urban Honolulu. Kailua has bike paths leading into town but no safe place to ride once you get there. Tourist bike rentals are now popular and people are being run over on the narrow sidewalks. Major pedestrian thorough fares are often obstructed or even totally blocked with their parked bikes.
on October 30,2012 | 08:16AM
Kaluu wrote:
Too sweaty! Maybe whenever daytime temperatures are around 60 degrees.
on October 30,2012 | 08:49AM
1coconut wrote:
You need to get out and smell the real air not your air in your conditioned suv.
on October 30,2012 | 09:25AM
allie wrote:
Not to mention sexual harassment! Last week biked only over to Kaimuki and locals were honking, drooling and cursing! Not a pretty sight!
on November 1,2012 | 11:28AM
This is a problem that could be solved, but probably won't. We have some of the same problems in Key West, but after writing the local newspaper and sheriff, nothing gets done. We are the most dangerous bkinig town in FL. Biking towns with good laws that are enforced and laws heeded are Hilton Head Island and St. Simons Island, Ga. where everyone has a bell or horn on their bike and uses it for passing pedistrians and obeys other laws. The Fla. gov't. gave our town money to help with the problem and guess what they did with it?- gave the police officers time and 1/2 to patrol certain areas on Fri. nite to spot offenders. I think articles in the paper to educate the public would have been a better idea. You have population density on Oahu in some places that will always make riding a bike there a hard thing to do. But there is no excuse for Laihana- you bike in that small town at night and the bikers DON'T HAVE ANY LIGHTS ON THEIR BIKES! How many bikers are killed there every year? Good luck with this, no elected official wants to bother with this touchy issue, he wants to be re-elected.
on October 30,2012 | 09:01AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
We should make bicycle travel a major part of our lives! An integrated transportation plan would provide safe, dedicated bicycle lanes and routes but instead we are sacrificing this to the rail boondoggle so that a few people can get rich on development and 6% get an "option" for their commute.
on October 30,2012 | 09:18AM
1coconut wrote:
Every mayor since Fasi has pledged to support bike path building and we still dont have the bike path from the stadium to Ewa Beach finished because of one single little bridge. If the bridge at Depot street just before the City convenience center is completed a lot of people would use the bike path to get to Pearl Ridge and Pearl Harbor as well as recreational riding. But alas that bridge belongs to the state and no governor or state DOT department head has shown the slightest interest in solving this issue. Its easier to spread misinformation about the benefits of rail than it is to solve problems. I made the mistake in voting for Neil last time but I wont make the same mistake again.
on October 30,2012 | 09:24AM
BTO wrote:
This a great idea but practicality and safety issues always the struggle. Maybe we can start by dedicating a solid vein roads (not bike paths) to Waikiki from the University, maybe start one weekend day per week. Shut 1/2 the road off and make it one way pattern on Sunday, the other half specifically for bikes. This will start an excitement to ride for pleasure and in a safe way for the sport rider and recreationist.
on October 30,2012 | 10:17AM
bikemom wrote:
It sounds like you are describing, in part, a cyclovia. We had the first one in Kailua on August 26. The next one is being planned for Kakaako in May. You're welcome to join us. (CycloviaHawaii.org -- working on site update.)
on October 30,2012 | 02:01PM
rytsuru wrote:
I love riding my bicycle, and I love driving my car as well...would like to point out that even bikers have road laws that they must obey too! I have given bikers their space and have also been flipped off by bikers who came careening towards my car inching out of a driveway, as they biked against traffic. The reality is, traffic in general in Hawaii would be far better off when EVERYONE minds their road manners.
on October 30,2012 | 10:25AM
bikemom wrote:
". . . as they biked against traffic." We need to work on this. Some people learned that they should ride against traffic. Not only is that against the law, it is more dangerous than riding with traffic.
on October 30,2012 | 02:03PM
Numilalocal wrote:
Can't wait until gas is so expensive that people are forced out of their cars. Hmmmm, riding the bike lane on H3 or the Pali - how cool will that be? Not to mention out to the west side on H2 - enjoying the views and company of fellow riders!
on October 30,2012 | 10:30AM
environmental_lady wrote:
When I lived in Oahu I used to ride my bike in Honolulu streets all the time and attended city council meetings on bike paths and little has been done. Jay is right about that, few people care about bicycles except when gas prices soar or The Bus drivers go on strike. Excellent article.
on October 30,2012 | 12:14PM
hollyn wrote:
"sharing" lanes are not adequate bike lanes! Steeper punishments for motorists hitting bicyclists and education about safety would be a great help. UH has started bikeUHM to help aid this.
on October 30,2012 | 01:13PM
bikemom wrote:
Thank you, Jay. You made very good points. I'd like to add that Cycle On Hawaii, a new 501(c)(3) organization, also promotes bicycling through cyclovias, bike parades and other events. Education is a strong component of the bike plan, and we look forward to working with the state on Safe Routes to School and other projects.
on October 30,2012 | 02:09PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I like the headline..."get on our bikes and ride"....which is a tag line from Queen's song "Fat Bottomed Girls". The elimination of some FBG's should be motivation enough!
on October 30,2012 | 04:42PM
Alamosakid wrote:
Agree with the majority of posters; nicely written article Jay! I would love to bike around Oahu, but as the sole income provider for a wife, 2 young daughters and 2 doggies, I've got to think of my personal safety and avoid the major roadways. I live in the Waikele area and work in town but that commute on a bicycle terrifies me. There are some parts of Oahu that have totally separate bike paths for bikes (such as in Pearl City near the shoreline) but those are too few. I think totally separate bike paths from auto lanes is the way to go and if we had such paths, I'd be riding it. Biking away from cars would be great; good cardio; save on gas; staying healthy... what's not to like?
on November 1,2012 | 10:22AM
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