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League helps pedal toward a bicycle-safe Hawaii

By Natalie Iwasa

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:23 p.m. HST, Aug 05, 2011



Last December, a young man with a promising baseball career at Hawaii Pacific University was killed in a hit-and-run crash near Wahiawa.

Zachary Manago was cycling with a group of friends around the island while following safety guidelines — helmet, lights, group riding. He was hit from behind by a driver who had just passed about 30 other cyclists. Ironically, several weeks before his death, Zach had written a paper about bicycle safety and increasing bike lanes in Hawaii.

On July 9 and 10, the Hawaii Bicycling League, with the support of the Manago family, held a Ride in Paradise in memory of Zach. The main goals of the ride were to raise awareness about bicycling and promote bicycle education, which is desperately needed for motorists as well as bicyclists.

The event was well received, with more than 100 bicyclists participating each day, and hopefully it will kick-start various improvements that have been postponed or left by the side of the road.

A look at some of these:

» Hawaii has received about $1 million annually in federal funding for the Safe Routes to School program since 2005. As of March 2011, Hawaii was dead last out of all 50 states for the percentage of grant funding announced. This program would improve biking and walking routes within a two-mile radius of elementary schools.

» The 1999 Oahu Master Bike Plan included provisions for a bike lane on Waialae Avenue. When the city recently notified the community that Waialae would be repaved, bicyclists noted the bike lane was conspicuously missing, even though a striping alternatives plan was commissioned in 2005.

» The state Department of Transportation's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator position has been vacant for about two years and external recruitment is currently suspended.

» The state Legislature passed Act 54, Complete Streets, in 2009, yet the City and County of Honolulu has still not adopted a Complete Streets policy as required under the law.

» The Policy Committee of the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization voted early this month to remove a Neighborhood Mobility Review project that was supported by the Citizen Advisory Committee. This project would have looked at specific neighborhoods and applied Complete Streets policies to develop context-sensitive solutions to improve safety as well as provide other benefits.

In conjunction with the Ride in Paradise, the Hawaii Bicycling League introduced the Safety Education and Awareness Program, which will be carried out mainly by league-certified instructors (LCIs) who have been certified by the League of American Bicyclists.

Courses taught by LCIs include review of laws affecting bicyclists as well as maneuvers bicyclists can use to help them avoid certain dangerous situations.

These courses, along with increased awareness by motorists that bicyclists are out there (and are allowed to be in the roadway), will help improve the environment for all users of the road. Additional improvements can be made, however, by holding our elected officials and appointees accountable.

Let's not wait for another bicyclist or pedestrian fatality before we do so.






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