Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Delayed repairs for Indian Street bike lane

Cyclists in Bellingham’s Sehome neighborhood will have to wait a little longer for road repairs to the Indian Street bike lane.

The much-needed repairs to the bike lane on Indian Street have been on the city’s long list of road repairs for more than three years, said Sehome Neighborhood Association President Charles Dyer.

“One of the suggestions on our neighborhood plan that was docketed in 2007 was to get [the bike lane] repaired,” Dyer said. “But the procedure for getting roads fixed takes a long time and the city has a small budget and a long waiting list.”

At the Sehome neighborhood association meeting Tuesday, May 25 Neighborhoods and Special Projects Coordinator Linda Stewart discussed city budget issues and the need to put some projects on hold.

“In case you didn’t know, the city is broke, and we’re not getting richer any time soon,” Stewart said.

Though funds are limited, Dyer said, he’s called a couple times to check on the progress of the repairs, but the city has several necessary repairs that take priority.

Bike safety concerns in the neighborhood

“I’ve received several calls about getting the bike lane repaired,” Dyer said. “Someone hitting a pothole on a bike and falling into traffic is a big safety issue that may not be reflected in the city’s charts on what needs to be repaired.”

But potholes aren’t the only safety hazard to cyclists in Bellingham.

City Transportation Options Coordinator Kim Brown said safety issues for cyclists include the road surface—like the terrain on Indian street, driver behavior and cyclist behavior.

Brown said most collisions are due to driver and cyclist error, not road surface issues.

“Collisions that have occurred on Indian Street are due to driver error—not yielding to bicyclists coming down the hill,” Brown said. “Drivers stopped on Maple often pull out without yielding to bicyclists who have the right-of-way coming down Indian.”

The intersection at East Maple Street and Indian Street is the primary location of these collisions, Brown said.

What can cyclists do to stay safe?

“Ride responsibly,” Brown said. “And if a cyclist identifies a spot in the road that is problematic or a safety issue they can contact me or the public works department. The city will assess the situation and decide how to deal with the problem.”

Brown also chairs the Share the Road and the Rules bike safety committee.

“We put on educational campaigns throughout the year to help motorists and cyclists learn how to safely coexist,” Brown said.

Whatcom Council of Governments EverybodyBIKE Coordinator Ellen Barton said the number one thing cyclists can do is get educated about bike safety.

EverybodyBIKE teaches bicycle safety classes every other month. The next class is at 6 p.m., June 22 at the Sehome Village REI store.

“One main thing cyclists should know is to stay visible,” Barton said. “If the bike lane is full of potholes or is hard to see then cyclist should ‘take the lane’—it is legal and advised for bicyclists to drive in the motorist lane.”

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