Green-painted cycle lanes proliferate in Bremerton – with more to come
BREMERTON — Bremerton’s green streets are on the rise.
New stretches of green-coated bike lanes are popping up across the city this year. The largest effort, a $2 million safety project on Kitsap Way from Highway 3 to Callow Avenue, will complete construction in August. More such lanes were added to Austin Drive and downtown streets around the ferry terminal earlier this year.
And there’s more to come, says Mayor Greg Wheeler, whose goal is to make sure bike paths connect to each other, rather than remain isolated islands.
“We are working to tie them all together,” he said.
Cities across the country are grappling with the dilemma of installing bike lanes that lead nowhere. For example, the brand new half-billion-dollar Sixth Street Viaduct in Los Angeles has raised sighs among some cyclists because you have to drive through traffic to get there, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Bremerton’s plans include extending new lanes west on Kitsap Way to Kitsap Lake; adding new ones to much of Naval Avenue, as well as Sixth Street between Callow and Warren Avenue, and creating a new east side bike corridor along Almira Drive.
“When we’re done with these projects, we’ll have a network,” Wheeler said. “They are designed to help people navigate the city, while reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions.”
Although hilly, Bremerton is geographically “a whole bunch of peninsulas”, according to avid cyclist and local resident Travis Merrigan – meaning there are lightly traveled roads around its perimeter, making it an ideal place to drive safely, he said.
Some of the inspiration for the Kitsap Way project came from West Sound Cycling Club members Paul Dutky and Dianne Iverson. For years, the Bremerton couple have been knocking on residents’ doors for opinions, measuring streets and even designing potential fixes across the city in an effort to make cycling safer here. The new green paint on Kitsap Way, they said, will give bikers a much more defined path of where to ride while also better alerting motorists to where they will be.
“It went from a suicide ride to a much safer place to ride,” Iverson said.
Bike lanes are not without detractors, who say they can slow down traffic. “The problem with protected bike lanes is that cities typically put them on arterial roads, removing parking and narrowing traffic lanes,” blogged Shelia Dunn, spokeswoman for the National Motorists Association.
But with the growing popularity of battery-powered e-bikes, more and more people are riding the streets of Bremerton on two wheels. Merrigan wishes the Kitsap Way project had gone even further to separate bikes and cars, to include barriers that would further increase safety and reduce or even eliminate some car lanes to allow more room for bikes.
“Space is scarce in the city,” he said. “But the roads here are very wide.”
City engineers said they tried to strike a balance that would increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians while ensuring space for vehicles was maintained, according to project manager Gunnar Fridriksson.
“We only have a little grip and asphalt,” he said.
Fridriksson noted that there are also benefits for motorists. They are now more aware of where the bikes will ride, thanks to the prominent green paint, and the federal grant also covered improvements for intersections on Wheaton Way, including synchronization of traffic lights across the whole of this corridor which will occur in September. .
The town had tried the first cycle lanes on Kitsap Way about a decade ago. Fridriksson noted that the science around road safety has continued to evolve.
“It’s been a learning curve for us,” he said.