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City plans grid of protected bike lanes in downtown areas

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Honolulu city transit officials look to add a grid of protected bike lanes in the coming years to help better deal with the island’s crippling car traffic — and also to accommodate the future public bike-share and rail transit systems, they say.

They’re not just considering a new protected bike lane along South Street, but also mauka-makai routes to be installed eventually on Ward Avenue and Keeaumoku, McCully, Pensacola and Piikoi streets.

Those details came during a public meeting Tuesday in which city officials also shared plans to install a protected bike lane at Halekauwila Street. It would run under rail’s future elevated guideway, as it approaches Ala Moana Center.

“These aren’t just bike projects, they’re policy statements” that include redesigning local streets so that they provide more options than just cars, said city Department of Transportation Services Director Mike Formby.

A crowd of at least 200 people packed into a Blaisdell Center conference room, most of them overwhelmingly supportive of the bike lane projects, to listen to the plan while cars idled in gridlock on Ward Avenue and Kapiolani Boulevard outside during rush-hour traffic.

Attendees suggested the city install better signage along bike routes — especially where routes are about to end. They also suggested that the city better educate drivers on how to share the road — and that cyclists obey the rules of the road.

“Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies” when cyclists don’t obey those rules, said avid cyclist and community activist Natalie Iwasa. Makakilo resident Eddie Cox, who said he commutes from Kapolei to the airport by bike, called on the city to better maintain the Pearl Harbor bike path. He added that cyclists traveling to and from West Oahu need safer routes in general.

Meanwhile, city officials said they’ve studied and made changes to the King Street protected lane, also known as the cycle track, a pilot project installed on the mauka side of the street nine months ago at a cost of $500,000. The city removed 11 parking spaces on the outside of the lane to improve visibility, Deputy Transportation Director Mark Garrity told the crowd.

He further reported that cyclists on King Street typically ride between 7 and 18 mph, and that the share of cyclists who use the sidewalk on that Ewa-Diamond Head route has declined from 67 to 17 percent since the route was installed.

The meeting was devoid of the broader controversy surrounding the King Street protected lane or plans to install future ones. Only one business representative spoke at the meeting. Steve Sullivan, a vice president for operations at the Waterfront Plaza/Restaurant Row complex, suggested that the city “put more thought” into a South Street lane, particularly because the business hub has a busy loading zone where the bike lane would run, he said.

Before the meeting, Manoa resident Ted Baker said he relinquished his cars six years ago and now uses his bike almost exclusively to get around Honolulu.

Drivers in town aren’t hostile to bicyclists — it’s just that a lot of the drivers aren’t attentive to them, he said.

“It’s like reading minds out there,” Baker said. He said that while he doesn’t need a protected bike lane to feel safer, he believes that it’s encouraging more people to ride and that he’s seen an increase since the King Street lane was installed.

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