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Vancouver toasts second year sucesses of Bike Clark County

Vancouver toasts second year sucesses of Bike Clark County

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-27

Bike Clark County founder
Eric Giacchino.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bike Clark County celebrated its second anniversary with a party Friday night in Vancouver attended by bike activists and enthusiasts from all over the county. And there was also one notable attendee from Portland, author and journalist Jeff Mapes, who journeyed up by bike over the Columbia River via the Interstate Bridge (and had something to say about it later).

The founder of Bike Clark County, Eric Giacchino opened the event. “I had no idea when I hatched this organization,” he shared with the crowd, “that it would grow like this.” Among the accomplishments Giacchino cited for the year were the 600 elementary and middle school kids who attended the group’s bike safety and education programs, the 50 bikes repaired and donated to lower income children and the group’s role in organizing the first Open Streets event in Vancouver and advocating for the addition of bike lanes along a major bicycle corridor. “And we could do a lot more,” he added, “if we had more volunteers.”

He also announced several new significant financial contributions. One is from the City of Vancouver to buy 30 new bicycles and other equipment for the organization’s school programs and to send volunteers to mechanic training. Another was the offer from a local personal injury lawyer to donate 5% from any bicycle injury cases he wins to Bike Clark County to help improve cycling education and safety.

Sipping wine and beer and nibbling on goodies, all donated by local businesses, guests lauded the impact the organization has make on the local bike scene. “I came tonight out of respect for what Bike Clark County is doing for our community,” said Vancouver Bike Club president Dennis Johnson. “This is a celebration of the positive changes in Vancouver,” and “BCC has been a catalyst for growing the bike culture in Vancouver” said other attendees.

“I came tonight out of respect for what Bike Clark County is doing for our community.”
— Dennis Johnson, Vancouver Bike Club

Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution (Oregon State University Press, 2009) and political correspondent for the Oregonian, was the guest speaker. He was introduced by Clark County planner Laurie Lebowsky. Holding up a copy of his book, Lebowsky said, “When I was working on the county’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan a few years ago, this book was my Bible. It gave me perspective on the bicycle movement in America, clued me in to how other communities passed their master plans and helped me articulate the benefits of bicycling to the community.”

That cyclists can change cities was Mapes’ central theme. He spoke about a recent midnight bike ride in LA that reinforced his belief. “You don’t think of LA as cycling country. But there were a lot of people on this ride, a lot of diversity, and it was like a party. Outside of rush hour, there’s a lot of spare public space, and people were enjoying their own community on their bikes.”

He compared the egalitarian nature of biking, contrasted to almost every other aspects of peoples’ lives. “We have different boarding passes for different classes of airplane passengers, different rides at an amusement park depending on how much you pay, different treatment for platinum this, silver that. Cycling is for everyone. And you don’t have to bike across the county to be a cyclist.”

When asked how to change the anti-bike, anti-urban [and anti-public transportation] attitudes in Vancouver and Clark County, Mapes replied, “Time is one answer. It’s on your side. Fewer young people are driving, like my 25 yr-old son. He doesn’t have a car and is perfectly happy with his bike for transportation. A major shift is taking place, and you’re helping make it happen.”

Mapes also cited the recent expansion of bike sharing programs around the world and in the US as signs that cities are responding to the growing bicycle culture. “Who would have thought billionaire financier Michael Bloomberg would initiate such a program in New York City.”

In addition to adding his compliments to the group, Mapes commented on one of the challenges facing cyclists on this side of the river. “Biking over the I-5 bridge this evening in the dark was not exactly magical. It was more an assault on the senses, with moving shadows and tilting I-beams. Not a very comfortable experience to say the least.”

‘Welcome to Vancouver!’ is what we all thought. But at least, thanks to Bike Clark County and a growing bike movement on this side of the river, things are getting better.

— Madeleine von Laue is our Vancouver and Clark County correspondent. You can read more of her work here.

Vancouver residents, speak up for bicycling at Washington State Senate listening sessions

Vancouver residents, speak up for bicycling at Washington State Senate listening sessions

If you think projects like this new buffered bike lane in
Vancouver are the right direction for Washington,
it’s time to make your voice heard.
(Photo: Dan Packard)

Do you like the new buffered bike lanes along MacArthur in Vancouver? Want a multi-use path out to Vancouver Lake? How about a 33 mile trail through the county near Battle Ground? Face dangerous conditions biking to work or can’t find a safe way to get around your neighborhood? Worried that your kid may be injured biking to school?

Residents of SW Washington will have a chance next week to tell legislators that we want and need more bicycle and pedestrian facilities in our communities and that they should be part of a statewide transportation package.

The State Senate Transportation Committee is holding ‘listening sessions’ around the state and will be in Vancouver Monday, October 7, 6-9 pm at the Department of Transportation Southwest Region Office (11018 Northeast 51st Circle). The hearing was originally scheduled to be held at the main library, but so many people have attended previous sessions — almost 400 people showed up in Bellingham — the location was changed to a larger facility.

“You need to speak up for smart, healthy, cost-effective transportation networks that mean safety and jobs for all of us,” reads a statement on the Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s website. “Now is our time to let them know that Washingtonians want a balanced transportation package that invests in safer streets for our schools, and that investments in walking and biking provide cost-effective and common sense solutions to congestion, improving safety for people who drive, walk, bike, and take transit.”

It will likely be crowded, so if you plan to attend, show up early (especially if you want to speak). Speakers will likely have two or three minutes to talk. Bring your personal stories about bike or walking experiences, both good and not so good, and how better infrastructure would help. And as a bonus for attending: Bike Clark County will be handing out their cool t-shirts!

Those unable to attend the session can submit comments online.

— Read more from our Vancouver, Washington correspondent Madeleine von Laue in the archives.

In Vancouver, bike lovers celebrate restriping of an overbuilt arterial

In Vancouver, bike lovers celebrate restriping of an overbuilt arterial

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, center, joined
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.

Vancouverites energized after successful ride for Lower River Rd project

Vancouverites energized after successful ride for Lower River Rd project

A big crowd showed up to learn more about the project.
(Photos: Jacob Brostoff)

A Washington state legislator, the bicycle-pedestrian coordinator for the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, the mayor of Vancouver and several city council members and council candidates and representatives of the Port of Vancouver and the US Congress were among the more than 70 people who turned out Friday afternoon for a ride supporting a new cycle path along NW Lower River Road in Vancouver. Speakers touted the benefits of a new path, and urged community residents and leaders to push for additional funding to speed up its completion.

“This will make all the natural areas west of town more accessible. And people will come to take advantage of it and eat at local restaurants and stay at local hotels.”
— Larry Smith, Vancouver City Council

Moms pulling kids in trailers, kids on their own bikes with their dads, bike commuters taking a quick break from work, recreational cyclists sporting ties and other “professional” attire, baby boomers and empty-nesters were also among the peloton that rode along River Road and the newly completed path section.

“This ride proves that our community really wants this trail and will benefit from it,” said ride organizer Todd Bachmann. “This will be an awesome carrot to get people out to Frenchman’s Bar and Vancouver Lake.”

Vancouver City Council Member Larry Smith echoed that sentiment. “This will make all the natural areas west of town more accessible. And people will come to take advantage of it and eat at local restaurants and stay at local hotels.”

Said Mayor Tim Leavitt, “Residents want accessibility and connectivity. This trail will encourage people to get out and provide them with another safe way to get exercise and be in better touch with the environment.”

NW Lower River Road runs through Port of Vancouver land. A small section of the trail, all of which will be a multi-use path separated from the road, has been completed, with funding secured for another small portion. But with funding tied to development in the port, officials estimate the complete 3.7 mile trail could take 25 years or more to complete.

Bachmann said he staged the ride primarily for state representatives, as in normal budget years, the state has funding for transportation projects like the LRR trail. “We know they don’t have the money right now,” he said. “But we wanted to get this project on the radar screen so that when the economy turns around and there is funding, we’re high on the list.”

“It’s really important that elected leaders hear directly from Vancouver residents that projects like Lower River Road Trail are important priorities when transportation investments are made,” said Blake Trask, Statewide Policy Director for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. “These trails improve connectivity, grow local economies, improve safety, and attract bicycle travel and tourism. They’re cost effective, affordable projects that Washingtonians want.”

State Rep. Jim Moeller

State Representative Jim Moeller, who serves on the House Transportation Committee, said he would be happy to work with the community to incorporate funding for the trail in a state transportation funding package. “This is a very worthwhile project.”

In addition to budget allocations, other sources of funding are being explored. “I was very impressed by the turnout,” said Ian Macek, Washington State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, “and I will be working with the port to apply for state and federal bike and ped and possibly recreation and conservation grants to speed up construction of the trail.”

Everyone on the ride was jazzed both at being able to ride on a path separated from the fast truck traffic on the road, even if for only a short section, and also at the possibility of having their own path all the way to the recreation areas west of town.

The ride took place early afternoon, and most of it was on the narrow shoulder of the very busy River Road. “Now I know why I don’t come out here during the week,” local resident Holly Williams said, as big rigs and other vehicles swept past. “Trucks are scary, right next to you and coming from both directions. There’s no place for you to get out of the way.”

Riding on the completed section of trail, Mary McLaren, a Vancouver Bicycle Club member said, “I wish this could go on forever!”


A frequent rider to Vancouver Lake, Nancy Chandlee was also thrilled. “This is really neat. People would start flowing out there with a real trail. And this is how things happen, everyday people getting involved.”


Organizers plan to do just that, get more people involved and encourage them to speak out for the trail. Check the BikeVanWA blog for updates.

Vancouver advocates plan ride to push timetable on Lower River Road project

Vancouver advocates plan ride to push timetable on Lower River Road project

Advocates want a safer and more pleasant way
to ride along Lower River Road.
(Photos: Todd Bachmann)

This story was written by our Vancouver correspondent, Madeleine von Laue.

Bicycle activists in Vancouver are organizing a ride with elected officials along Lower River Road this Friday (8/23). The ride is an attempt to raise support for a project that would complete the path along the high-speed road that connects downtown with popular recreation areas west of town such as Vancouver Lake and Frenchman’s Bar along the Columbia River. The Port of Vancouver recently received a federal grant to construct one segment of the path, and advocates want to build on that momentum.

“This is a community driven ride to showcase the importance of this trail to Vancouver’s health and outdoor recreation potential,” said ride organizer Todd Bachmann. Currently, funding for the complete 3.7 mile trail is pegged to development and could take 15-25 years to materialize. “We’re asking our state representatives to help find grants and other money to accelerate the project’s completion.”

Lower River Road is the westward funnel for several major arterials, including Mill Plain and Fourth Plain boulevards leading from downtown, and it parallels the Columbia. It offers views of and access to some of the region’s best recreational and nature sites. And it’s an ideal route for cycling and running. But the road runs through a growing industrial area, and with a 50 mph posted speed limit and a steady stream of big rigs, garbage trucks heading to the landfill, pickups, vans and other traffic, it is unpleasant and unsafe for non-motorized users. (See a Google Map of Lower River Road created by The Oregonian.)

A recently completed section of the path.

“The route shouldn’t be just for elite runners and cyclists,” said Bachmann. “Kids and families and older adults need to feel safe and comfortable riding out there. It has tremendous potential to help Clark County citizens get outside and be more active, and it addresses a priority of our county officials to make our community healthier.”

“The route shouldn’t be just for elite runners and cyclists. Kids and families and older adults need to feel safe and comfortable riding out there… and it addresses a priority of our county officials to make our community healthier.”
— Todd Bachmann

The port also recognizes the assets a trail along the road would provide. “The port’s ongoing efforts to construct the multi-modal pathway are grounded in its mission to provide economic benefit to our community…,” according to a recent news release about the project from the port. With approximately 2,300 people currently employed by businesses at the port and an expected additional 2,000 employees in the next five to 10 years, the port is also well aware that a path connecting the port to the city’s residential areas and the C-Tran bus service is a crucial part of a strong transportation system.

The Port is proposing a 12′ path separated from traffic by trees and other landscaping. A .5 mile section was completed last year (see photo above), and the new grant will allow the port to complete another .5 mile section.

“This is a very expensive project,” said Katy Brooks, Community Planning and Outreach Manager for the Port. “It crosses major wetlands and several sections have multiple owners. We’ll also need to widen the road.” The total project is estimated to cost about $2.5 million.

A number of local and state officials have RSVP’d for the event, including Representatives Jim Moeller and Ann Rivers, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, Vancouver City Council members Larry Smith and Bill Turlay, and council member candidates Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Alisha Topper.

Organizers are encouraging the community to join the ride. Participants will meet at 1:00 pm at 2121 St. Francis Lane (map). The ride will be an easy three miles, and the event is expected to end before 2:30. For more information, see the BikeVanWa blog.

Vancouver readies for first carfree, ‘open streets’ event

Vancouver readies for first carfree, ‘open streets’ event

Sunday Streets Alive website.

This article was written by our Vancouver contributor Madeleine von Laue.

Vancouver residents won’t have to cross the I-5 bridge to participate in a Sunday Parkways event this summer, nor will runners or skaters or anyone else; the City of Vancouver’s very own first Sunday Streets Alive will spin to life August 18, bringing fun and frolicking to approximately four miles of streets through downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.

“This is more than an event. We want it to be a movement.”
— Tricia Mortell, Clark County Public Health

“I’m so excited to see this event come together,” said Eric Giacchino, president of Bike Clark County. “Events like these are great for families and the host neighborhoods they travel through; each one takes on its own unique identity. Of course you could always travel to participate in someone else’s event, but Sunday Streets Alive keeps it local and provides an opportunity for new people to try it out.”

The event will feel a lot like Portland’s Sunday Parkways. Participants will be able to walk, run, skate (and bike, of course) along the 4.2 mile route, exploring downtown Vancouver, Uptown Village, the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Officer’s Row as well as Clark College and the Marshall Center. The event will be from 11 am to 4 pm; participants can jump in whenever and wherever they want.

The route is just a few blocks north of the Columbia River, making it very accessible for Portlanders.

Six programming stations along the route will sport a wide range of activities, including obstacle courses, circus classes, Zumba, pet shows, juggling, stilt walking and disc golf. And of course music. Food booths and vendors will set up along the streets, and organizers are encouraging more organic activities such as neighborhood garage sales and lemonade stands. “Sunday Streets Alive is a great opportunity for people to see what opportunities there are for being active in our community,” said Clark County planner, Laurie Lebowsky.

It’s also a great opportunity for a first time visit to Vancouver. In addition to the sites and neighborhoods listed above, the route goes by the award winning Fort Vancouver Regional Library, a lively play structure at Marshall Center, and the acclaimed Esther Short Park, the oldest park in Washington, with its bustling Farmers’ Market.

For folks coming from Portland, the route and one of the activity centers are just a short five blocks from the I-5 bridge. Vancouver is also accessible by public transportation; the yellow line Max stop at Delta park has a C-TRAN bus connection to downtown Vancouver.

SSA is presented by Kaiser Permanente in partnership with the City of Vancouver, Bike Clark County, Clark County, Clark County Public Health, and the Destination Downtown program. Organizers hope the event will become an annual happening in Vancouver and would like to see other communities in Clark County launch their own open street events. “This is more than an event,” Tricia Mortell, an event organizer and program manager for Clark County Public Health said. “We want it to be a movement.”

Organizers are also putting out a call for volunteers. “Volunteers are the backbone of Sunday Streets Alive,” said Jenny Jasinski. “We need over 300 volunteers to make this event a smashing success. One of our greatest needs is for Intersection Superheros. Stationed at every intersection along the route, Intersection Superheros will fill a very important role by helping re-route vehicles as needed, help residents access their homes, and encourage participants to have a good time, all the while having fun themselves!”

To find out how to volunteer or get more information about the event, visit SundayStreetsAlive.org.

Vancouver readies for first carfree, ‘open streets’ event

Vancouver readies for first carfree, ‘open streets’ event

Sunday Streets Alive website.

This article was written by our Vancouver contributor Madeleine von Laue.

Vancouver residents won’t have to cross the I-5 bridge to participate in a Sunday Parkways event this summer, nor will runners or skaters or anyone else; the City of Vancouver’s very own first Sunday Streets Alive will spin to life August 18, bringing fun and frolicking to approximately four miles of streets through downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.

“This is more than an event. We want it to be a movement.”
— Tricia Mortell, Clark County Public Health

“I’m so excited to see this event come together,” said Eric Giacchino, president of Bike Clark County. “Events like these are great for families and the host neighborhoods they travel through; each one takes on its own unique identity. Of course you could always travel to participate in someone else’s event, but Sunday Streets Alive keeps it local and provides an opportunity for new people to try it out.”

The event will feel a lot like Portland’s Sunday Parkways. Participants will be able to walk, run, skate (and bike, of course) along the 4.2 mile route, exploring downtown Vancouver, Uptown Village, the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Officer’s Row as well as Clark College and the Marshall Center. The event will be from 11 am to 4 pm; participants can jump in whenever and wherever they want.

The route is just a few blocks north of the Columbia River, making it very accessible for Portlanders.

Six programming stations along the route will sport a wide range of activities, including obstacle courses, circus classes, Zumba, pet shows, juggling, stilt walking and disc golf. And of course music. Food booths and vendors will set up along the streets, and organizers are encouraging more organic activities such as neighborhood garage sales and lemonade stands. “Sunday Streets Alive is a great opportunity for people to see what opportunities there are for being active in our community,” said Clark County planner, Laurie Lebowsky.

It’s also a great opportunity for a first time visit to Vancouver. In addition to the sites and neighborhoods listed above, the route goes by the award winning Fort Vancouver Regional Library, a lively play structure at Marshall Center, and the acclaimed Esther Short Park, the oldest park in Washington, with its bustling Farmers’ Market.

For folks coming from Portland, the route and one of the activity centers are just a short five blocks from the I-5 bridge. Vancouver is also accessible by public transportation; the yellow line Max stop at Delta park has a C-TRAN bus connection to downtown Vancouver.

SSA is presented by Kaiser Permanente in partnership with the City of Vancouver, Bike Clark County, Clark County, Clark County Public Health, and the Destination Downtown program. Organizers hope the event will become an annual happening in Vancouver and would like to see other communities in Clark County launch their own open street events. “This is more than an event,” Tricia Mortell, an event organizer and program manager for Clark County Public Health said. “We want it to be a movement.”

Organizers are also putting out a call for volunteers. “Volunteers are the backbone of Sunday Streets Alive,” said Jenny Jasinski. “We need over 300 volunteers to make this event a smashing success. One of our greatest needs is for Intersection Superheros. Stationed at every intersection along the route, Intersection Superheros will fill a very important role by helping re-route vehicles as needed, help residents access their homes, and encourage participants to have a good time, all the while having fun themselves!”

To find out how to volunteer or get more information about the event, visit SundayStreetsAlive.org.

Riders cheer City of Vancouver decision for bike lanes on MacArthur

Riders cheer City of Vancouver decision for bike lanes on MacArthur

MacArthur Blvd

The City of Vancouver has just announced that the entire stretch of MacArthur Blvd from East Mill Plain to South Lieser Road will have a dedicated bike lane.

Thanks to the diligence and perseverance of activists and local bike riders, the city reversed an earlier decision to remove bike lanes and replace them with sharrows along a popular bike commuter and recreational route, and is now planning a ‘right-sized’ road with one lane of traffic and a buffered bike lane in each direction. “The reconfigured MacArthur will continue to meet the needs of the current traffic volumes,” reads the City’s project website, “while allowing for full bike lanes in each direction.”

MacArthur Blvd., the only east-west bike corridor in the city, has long been considered overly developed for auto traffic, with two lanes in each direction through a residential neighborhood with several schools along the route. A resurfacing and restriping project opened up possibilities to reconfigure the road. In April, the city conducted traffic volume and speed studies and found, what cyclists and others already knew, that the number of cars didn’t warrant four lanes, and that the average speed was too high to provide safety for cyclists in a sharrowed lane.

“We’re a long way from the transportation designs of Europe or even Portland, but this is a very positive step.”
— Jan Verrinder, who lives and rides along the MacArthur corridor

Local citizen activists are celebrating the victory. “This totally changes the reputation of Vancouver,” said Eric Giacchino, president of Bike Clark County. “It puts the city council in the forefront of promoting active transportation in the city and making us more bike friendly.”

Jan Verrinder, a resident along the corridor, “Our city’s decision is a huge step in the right direction. Our mayor came out on a Tour de Mac with us and was joined by more than 50 other cyclists. Our city council listened and our city engineers executed a new traffic volume and speed study giving them the numbers that turned the tide. Most of all, to me however, it was a sign that we can work together for all road users. We’re a long way from the transportation designs of Europe or even Portland, but this is a very positive step.”

The city’s public works department will be presenting this proposal to the city council Monday. Activists are urging everyone who cares about traffic safety to attend the meeting to thank the city for choosing what is a controversial plan in that neighborhood and to show support more forward-thinking transportation planning in the city. Activists will be gathering at 6:30 pm outside the council chambers: 415 West 6th St., Vancouver, 2nd Floor.

Learn more about this project, and their rationale for the road diet and bike lanes, on the City of Vancouver’s website.

Riders cheer City of Vancouver decision for bike lanes on MacArthur

Riders cheer City of Vancouver decision for bike lanes on MacArthur

MacArthur Blvd

The City of Vancouver has just announced that the entire stretch of MacArthur Blvd from East Mill Plain to South Lieser Road will have a dedicated bike lane.

Thanks to the diligence and perseverance of activists and local bike riders, the city reversed an earlier decision to remove bike lanes and replace them with sharrows along a popular bike commuter and recreational route, and is now planning a ‘right-sized’ road with one lane of traffic and a buffered bike lane in each direction. “The reconfigured MacArthur will continue to meet the needs of the current traffic volumes,” reads the City’s project website, “while allowing for full bike lanes in each direction.”

MacArthur Blvd., the only east-west bike corridor in the city, has long been considered overly developed for auto traffic, with two lanes in each direction through a residential neighborhood with several schools along the route. A resurfacing and restriping project opened up possibilities to reconfigure the road. In April, the city conducted traffic volume and speed studies and found, what cyclists and others already knew, that the number of cars didn’t warrant four lanes, and that the average speed was too high to provide safety for cyclists in a sharrowed lane.

“We’re a long way from the transportation designs of Europe or even Portland, but this is a very positive step.”
— Jan Verrinder, who lives and rides along the MacArthur corridor

Local citizen activists are celebrating the victory. “This totally changes the reputation of Vancouver,” said Eric Giacchino, president of Bike Clark County. “It puts the city council in the forefront of promoting active transportation in the city and making us more bike friendly.”

Jan Verrinder, a resident along the corridor, “Our city’s decision is a huge step in the right direction. Our mayor came out on a Tour de Mac with us and was joined by more than 50 other cyclists. Our city council listened and our city engineers executed a new traffic volume and speed study giving them the numbers that turned the tide. Most of all, to me however, it was a sign that we can work together for all road users. We’re a long way from the transportation designs of Europe or even Portland, but this is a very positive step.”

The city’s public works department will be presenting this proposal to the city council Monday. Activists are urging everyone who cares about traffic safety to attend the meeting to thank the city for choosing what is a controversial plan in that neighborhood and to show support more forward-thinking transportation planning in the city. Activists will be gathering at 6:30 pm outside the council chambers: 415 West 6th St., Vancouver, 2nd Floor.

Learn more about this project, and their rationale for the road diet and bike lanes, on the City of Vancouver’s website.

Vancouver residents fight to keep bike lanes on MacArthur Blvd

Vancouver residents fight to keep bike lanes on MacArthur Blvd

MacArthur Blvd south of Mill Plain Blvd with MacMcLoughlin Middle School in the background.


Outcry from bike advocates has succeeded in keeping bike lanes along a popular cycling corridor — at least for now. After a letter writing campaign and a rally at a recent city council meeting, the City of Vancouver is re-examining its proposal to remove bike lanes and replace them with shared bike/car lanes along MacArthur Blvd, a critical route used by people bicycling in and out of downtown Vancouver.

“Reducing any bicycle infrastructure in Vancouver simply makes no sense.”
— Amy Horstman

With two standard vehicle lanes and a bike lane in each direction, MacArthur is universally considered overbuilt for its current use. It was constructed during WWII to transport military equipment and workers; lore has it that it might have also been used as an airstrip. Now the route runs through quiet neighborhoods and is home to two public schools, a number of churches and a few small businesses. It has low car traffic volume, and with its bike lanes, it is a major section of the only east/west corridor in Vancouver that works well for bicycling.

The city’s proposal is part of a resurfacing/restriping project and may have resulted from possible liability issues with the existing bike lanes because of several sunken storm drains and steep sides. However, rather than implement long-term plans and visions that call for a road diet with dedicated bike lanes along MacArthur, the City asked residents how they’d prefer to re-stripe the road.

The response was mixed: In neighborhoods along MacArthur, people wanted to keep two lanes of traffic, but not by a significant majority. Overall, respondents wanted dedicated bike lanes. In an attempted compromise, the City proposed two standard vehicles lanes and sharrows in one of them. The bike lane would be eliminated. Cyclists were angry that the city had done no studies before making the decision and that it was passing up an opportunity to create a model multi-modal transportation corridor which could have been done as part of the re-striping process at no additional cost.

“Reducing any bicycle infrastructure in Vancouver simply makes no sense,” said Amy Horstman in her presentation to the Vancouver City Council at their last monthly meeting. Horstman, who has a daily 90 minute bike commute along MacArthur said, “We should be talking about how critical it is to invest time and money to connect our communities via bicycle lanes, separated greenways and other active transportation methods. Sadly, in a 2009 study by the Inavero Institute, Vancouver was rated as the having the worst access to bicycle routes and worst safety in the surveyed metro area.”

(Photo: Jan Verrinder)

Many people who ride bikes in Vancouver are united against having bike lanes replaced by sharrows. The official speed limit along MacArthur is 35mph; cyclists say many drivers exceed that, and expecting cars to share a lane with cyclists is unrealistic.

“The overall width and ‘freeway’ feel of the boulevard, the speed at which autos and trucks travel on the street—which in my experience is closer to 45 mph than the currently posted 35 mph,” Lou Elliott wrote in a letter to the city council, “and the general lack of understanding by automobile drivers of the ‘sharrow’ system and its intention, render the use of the ‘sharrow’ concept on MacArthur Boulevard not only ineffective and confusing but downright dangerous.”

Laurel Cripe put it more bluntly. “The only way I anticipate ‘sharing’ the road on MacArthur is the way I do anywhere there is no bike lane. I ride on the right of the lane with my teeth clenched, and I hope cars avoid running me over.”

The safety of children in the shared bike lanes is also a big concern. “We have bike programs at the middle school on MacArthur and are trying to encourage physical activity for our children,” said Jan Verrinder who lives in the neighborhood and rides along MacArthur. “Safety would be a serious issue if sharrows were substituted for the current bicycle lanes. Do we really want confused, speeding drivers coming up behind children and families in a shared lane?”

Cyclists are also concerned the city might lower the speed limit to try and mitigate the safety issues with sharrows. They are skeptical that drivers will slow down, and they wonder how the city will enforce lower speeds.

In response to cyclists concerns, the city is doing some safety and traffic volume studies and says it will have an update mid-April. Cyclists however are dubious that the city will retreat from its current plan. “The MacArthur neighborhood is an historical powerhouse,” said Todd Boulanger, a former transportation planner with the city. “They’re still living back in the old days when families were large and had five cars. They’re used to getting a higher level of attention.”

Contributor Madeleine von Laue is a Vancouver resident actively working to stop the sharrow proposal.