Posted by Madeleine von Laue (Contributor) on September 10th, 2013 at 11:24 am
the crowd trying out a newly right-sized
MacArthur Boulevard Saturday.
(Photos: Dan Packard)
"Like it a lot." "Love it!" "Feels a lot safer!" "Freakin' FANTASTIC!"
These were some of the comments from people on a bike ride Saturday along the newly restriped, right-sized MacArthur Boulevard in Vancouver, Wash. After months of advocacy and activism, people who use bikes finally have a model transportation corridor along a portion of the major east/west bicycle route across the southern part of Vancouver.
Mayor Tim Leavitt was one of the approximately 35 people who joined the ride of the new buffered bike lanes. Speaking afterward, he said, "I'm very pleased with the outcome of all the public involvement and advocacy. This new configuration really improves connectivity and safety for everyone who uses the road. And this is just the beginning for this community and will be an example of a smart, safe transportation corridor."
As part of a restriping project along MacArthur, the city had initially proposed sharrows as a way to appease both people concerned about a sub-standard shoulder for bikes and people who wanted to keep two lanes of auto traffic in each direction, even though the road is very lightly traveled.
Some people who bike protested that sharrows wouldn't work for drivers who didn't understand what they mean, and wouldn't be safe to ride in, especially for children and less experienced riders. MacArthur has two public schools along the route and runs through several residential neighborhoods. Cars frequently speed along the road.
The city responded by doing traffic studies that confirmed what most cyclists already knew: traffic on the road did not warrant two lanes of travel, and speeds well exceeded the posted limit. City engineers then re-worked their plans and decided on what bicyclists, pedestrians and safety advocates had been urging all along: one lane of traffic and a buffered bike lane in each direction. There is of course still grousing among motorists. Several of the riders Saturday had also ridden the route a few days before. Ron Doering said a motorist blasted past him honking his horn. "You can tell an angry toot from a friendly one," said Doering. Other riders reported hearing irate comments from drivers yelling at the painting crew.
One of the most prominent voices of opposition is conservative commentator Lars Larsen, who actually lives in the neighborhood. As reported by the Columbian, he emailed the following to Leavitt: "Which idiot decided to stripe MacArthur down from two traffic lanes to one? ... How does it serve the commuting public, 95 percent of whom use automobiles, to reduce the lane capacity of any major street by 50% to superserve the bicycling public … who are likely less than five percent of the commuting?"
In a leavened mood, Leavitt addressed those comments. "If he'd paid less attention to the CRC [Columbia River Crossing] and more attention to what's going on around him – read the coverage in the paper, attended neighborhood meetings and followed local issues - he would have seen the studies and this would have been no surprise to him. You all know we've had several city council meetings to discuss this, and the council unanimously agreed with the plan."
Riders in the group Saturday, speaking as regular drivers themselves, agreed that the new configuration was better.
"With two lanes, it was sometimes uncomfortable," said Glenn Teague, who lives in an adjacent neighborhood and drives frequently along MacArthur. "People were always speeding by."
Carole Dollemore has a five-year-old grandson and really appreciates the safeness of the new layout. "This will get kids used to riding in the street. It's a good way to get them out there without the hazards of regular riding."
And even experienced cyclists were impressed: "Wow, we have our own lane!" and "It makes you feel important!"
Some more photos of the day, from Dan Packard:
Madeleine von Laue is BikePortland's correspondent in Vancouver, Wash.