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Hawaii pushes for a better bicycle commute

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Hawaii pushes for a better bicycle commute

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

It's about time! That's all I can say! ;)

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To the recreational rider, bicycle improvements might mean scenic bike paths and routes that don't take children into traffic.

But those who want to swap their cars for bikes on a regular basis just want safer ways to share the road with other vehicles.

A law that took effect July 1 allows biking initiatives that go beyond bike path improvements to be funded with federal dollars and requires the state Department of Transportation to involve bicycling organizations in planning decisions.

Those changes at the state level complement a city charter amendment adopted during the 2006 election that requires the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services to make bikeways and pedestrian-friendly improvements a priority. About 77 percent of voters approved the amendment.

Kristi Schulenberg, executive director of the Hawai'i Bicycling League, said the law passed by the Legislature during the past session could make the state eligible for $2 million to $4 million in federal money to establish bike lanes, bike paths and multi-use paths.

"From a financial perspective, it's great because it provides consistent funding each year," she said.

However, the new law does not require the state to change the way it already spends money on bicycle facilities, said DOT Deputy Director Brennon Morioka.

"We already use state highway funds to do bicycle facility projects or just building new bike paths," he said.

Although the Hawai'i Bicycling League is concerned that there is no bike coordinator within the DOT focused specifically on bike improvements, Morioka said the state is committed.

"We would like to encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation, not just jumping in their cars and getting on the highways," he said.

Morioka does object, however, to a section of the law that requires convenient ways for bicyclists to connect to mass transit stations because it could lead to jurisdictional problems, since mass transit is a city undertaking.

But Schulenberg said her league is also working with the city to make sure proposed transit stops will be easy to get to by bicycle or on foot.

"Who wants to encourage people to drive their car three miles, park and get on a train?" she said.

The initial vision is a safe place to store bicycles before commuters board the trains. But eventually, the bicycle league would like to find a way for commuters to bring their bikes with them, as is done in other cities.

Other parts of the law call for safety improvements like signs or safety devices along the highways so motorists know that they're expected to share the road.

"That's a safety enhancement we're looking for statewide," she said.

To those who already commute, these changes could make a tremendous difference.

"It's not just a bike path issue," said Janice Marsters, who commutes from Manoa to 'Aiea by bike a couple of times a week.

In fact, Marsters said she bypasses some sections of bike paths because they aren't fast enough.

While she said that some improvements have been made along Nimitz and Kamehameha highways

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