Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Biking safely in Bellingham

For Bellingham’s 13th annual Bike to Work and School Day Friday, May 21, cyclists heading south from the Sehome neighborhood to Western Washington University will quickly discover that the bike lane on Indian Street is in a state of disrepair.

The Indian Street bike lane is littered with potholes and uneven pavement which pose a safety hazard to cyclists headed uphill to the university.

With “Bike to Work and School Day” approaching, Whatcom Council of Governments EverybodyBIKE Coordinator Ellen Barton said there are two lesser-known safety tips cyclist should know before hitting the road.

1. If the bike lane is full of potholes or parallel ridges that could trap the bicycle wheel, cyclist should merge into traffic and ride in the car lane. This will allow greater visibility to drivers and provide a smooth surface to ride on.

If the bike lane runs parallel to street parking, cyclists should stay at least four feet from the parked cars to avoid being hit by an opening car door, even if this means merging into traffic.

“Cyclists think riding close to the curb and away from traffic is safer, but it’s actually the opposite,” Barton said. “Often riding in the street is safer than riding in the bike lane because motorists will be able to see the cyclist.”

Check out the everybodyBIKE website for more tips and videos on bike safety.

May is Bike Month--for more bicycle assistance or to find bike maps, check out the city of Bellingham’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The bus stops here

Long-awaited bus stop relocates next to crosswalk in Sehome neighborhood.

A new bus stop on bus route 107 Samish Way/Downtown was installed for crosswalk users on East Maple and Edwards Street in the Sehome neighborhood.

Until two weeks ago, the new crosswalk has ushered walkers across the busy four-lane section of East Maple Street between Samish Way and downtown but the nearest bus stop on the north side of the street has been more than two blocks away.

The long-awaited bus stop was relocated from the corner of Ellis and Liberty Street two weeks ago. The bus stop was moved to be closer to a crosswalk that was installed a year ago for pedestrian safety.

More than a year ago a bus stop on East Maple Street was removed to make way for the crosswalk as part of the city of Bellingham’s transportation improvement program said City Engineer Rory Rourke in an e-mail on Wednesday.

“The old bus stop was right in front of the crosswalk, which invites people to cross in front of the bus,” WTA Operations Supervisor Chuck Boyle said. “But if a car come up on the left side of the bus they won’t see someone crossing in front and a person could get hit.”

Boyle said the WTA moved the stop around the corner on Ellis Street to make using the bus safer.

Don Keenan, Sehome neighborhood association vice president, said when the city started construction on the crosswalk they were working with the WTA to have a bus stop easily accessible to the crosswalk.

“Originally the WTA thought they could not put a bus stop there,” Keenan said. “But I talked to Rick Nicholson [WTA director of service development] and they came out and looked a second time and decided they could safely change the stop on the carwash side.”

Neighbors like crosswalk, missed bus stop

Sara Richmond, a Western senior, has lived on the south side of East Maple for two years. Richmond’s house looks out at the crosswalk and the new bus stop.

Richmond said the crosswalk has been helpful, but when the crosswalk went in the bus stop that she always used was removed.

“My roommate complained to the WTA about them moving the bus stop because that’s why they put the crosswalk in—for people who use the bus,” Richmond said.

Richmond said she’s glad to have a bus stop back instead of having to get off two blocks before or after the crosswalk.

Crosswalk added, bus stop removed

City Transportation Options Coordinator Kim Brown said the city worked with the Whatcom Transportation Authority [WTA] during the crosswalk construction project.

“We looked for the most appropriate and safest spot to put in a crosswalk and tried to coordinate it with the bus stops.” Brown said.

Brown said Sehome neighbors requested the crosswalk be installed along the busy section where Samish Way turns into East Maple and the city determined which location would be best.

Boyle said the city assumed that when the crosswalk was installed the WTA would move bus stops closer to accommodate users, but Boyle said that’s not always possible.

“All kinds of factors are involved in moving bus stops,” Boyle said. “Sight distance for other cars, distance from other bus stops, and all kinds of safety factors.”

Boyle said bus stops have to be beyond crosswalks so when the bus is parked the back of the bus is past the crosswalk. That’s why the bus stop was relocated a year ago.

Boyle said he and Rick Nicholson assessed the stops on both sides of East Maple and determined that the bus stop on the north side could safely be moved closer to the crosswalk.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

House-naming tradition adopted by neighborhood

Student renters on Bellingham's High Street have adopted a tradition of naming their houses names like "The Future" and "Ladies Market."

Like Thomas Jefferson’s “Monticello” or George Washington’s “Mount Vernon,” the student renters in Bellingham’s Sehome neighborhood have created a tradition of naming their residences.

Though most houses are renamed with each wave of new students, some houses have retained their names even when new residents move in. Some of these include "The Aquarium” and “The Barn.”

Other houses get named because the residents have to select a name for their newly installed wireless connection.

Dan Langager said that’s how his house on High Street got named.

“We needed a name for our wireless network,” Langanger said. “So we named it ‘The House of Class ‘n Ass.’ I guess it just became the house name after that.”

Margot Meuleman at “The Sunflower” said that was how her house got named as well.

“When my roommate and I moved two years ago we asked the girl that lived here before us why the wireless was called ‘Sunflower.’” Meuleman said. “That’s when we found out it was the name of the house.”

Meuleman said she and her roommate made the sign that now hangs above the door displaying the house name.

Some houses in the neighborhood retain their names because they continue to house residents that are involved in the same activities.

This is the case for "The Home" and "The Mansion," which occupied from year to year by interns who work with Campus Christian Fellowship, a religious club at Western.

View Sehome Neighborhood House Names in a larger map

Exploring house names:

The Home and The Mansion

The student house-naming tradition in the Sehome neighborhood started more than 30 years ago with “The Home” at 1210 High St.

The Home was started by Campus Christian Fellowship Pastor Brady Bobbink in the late ‘70s to house young men who are involved in the group.

Bobbink’s assistant Sara McFarlane said The Home has been housing Western students for more than 30 years and is where interns who come to work with CCF stay during their one- to two-year internships.

McFarlane said “The Mansion,” just one house down at 1200 High St., was started a few years later to offer the internship to women as well.

“The reason the interns live at The Home and The Mansion is because it’s an affordable way to live and a great way for them to stay connected to the community,” McFarlane said.

The Home’s house manager, Jeff Springer, said he’s been living at The Home for 5 years but was unsure exactly when The Home got started.

“The impression I have is that it’s been called ‘The Home’ from the beginning, 30 years ago,” Springer said.

Springer said students who are involved in CCF occupy several of the named houses in the neighborhood. CCF women live at “The Barn” located across the street from The Home, Springer said.

“There’s a funny story about The Barn’s name,” Springer said. “A whole new group of girls moved in a few years back and they wanted to change the name. People [at CCF] threw a fit about it and said they would never call it anything else, so the girls had to keep the name.”

The Aquarium

“The Aquarium” can be found on the 1100 block of High Street. A painted sign of the house name hangs up of the door.

Aquarium resident Leah Schlegel said the house was already named before she and her roommates moved in almost two years ago.

“The girls who lived here before us had a sign up, but they took it when they left,” Schlegel said. “My roommates made the sign that’s up there now.”

The Western junior said she didn’t know how the house got named, but she was sure it had something to do with the bright blue color. Schlegel said the house was named for at least two years before she moved in.

Before Schlegel lived at The Aquarium, Western alumna Christine Everson lived there.

Everson said she lived at The Aquarium from Sept. 2006 to Aug. 2008.

“The Aquarium was named by the girls that lived there before I did, and they lived there for two years,” Everson said. “It must have been named in 2004.”

Everson said the signage outside the door was part of the tradition of naming the house. She said the first group of women all signed the back of their Aquarium sign and took it with them when they moved. When she lived there, Everson said, her friends did the same thing.

“I’m really glad they made a sign for it,” she said. “I’m glad the name and the tradition carried on.”

Everson said she thinks the house naming tradition is Western’s way of compensating for not having a Greek system.

“The houses are obviously smaller than sororities and fraternities, but each has its own personality that gets passed along,” Everson said. “It’s a way for students to create communities and families.”

The Convent

The women who live at “The Convent” on the 1000 block of High Street said they started thinking about what they would name their house even before they moved in.

Resident Emily Schmuhl originally proposed the name to the other residents.

“I had just read this book, ‘Finding Calcutta,’ and I was thinking about Mother Teresa and the sisters,” Schmuhl said. “It’s kind of what we’re about, we love Jesus and it’s just girls in the house.”

Schmuhl said when she first proposed the name to the other residents they were hesitant, but eventually the name stuck.

Convent resident Allison McKenzie said The Convent has become the theme of the house.

“We have a toilet that’s really small and we call it the confessional,” McKenzie said.

Naming their house made it easier for the residents to create a Facebook page for it and invite people over for parties and events McKenzie said.

“It’s easier than saying the address,” Schmuhl said. “We can just say, ‘Come on over to The Convent tonight.’”

The residents of The Convent said they hope the name carries on after each of them move out.