It’s time to grease those rusty bike chains and check the brakes. May is Bike Everywhere Month.
Riding on busy roads, jockeying for space with cars can be intimidating, but the annual event is a good time for people to give bike commuting a try.
Kristin Kinnamon, who has made biking part of her commute for about two decades, recommends starting slow, biting off small chunks at a time.
“Be easy on yourself,” she said.
The Marysville resident began by adding biking as a complement to public transit. She would cycle a few miles to connect to a bus, working her way up to riding all the way home after work.
“When leaving Everett in the evenings, you don’t want to be on I-5 in a car, you want to be on a bike,” Kinnamon said. “It’s really fun to be passing cars.”
With its wide shoulders, and little cross traffic, she likes to take Highway 529 north to her home at the end of the day.
“Recognize the route you drive to work may not be the way you want to bike,” she added.
Tyler Rourke, the founder of Everett Bike Walk, a local advocacy group, likes to use one street off a main arterial. On the more residential streets, there tends to be less traffic and vehicles’ speeds are lower.
For new riders he suggests planning your route and taking a practice ride on a day you aren’t pressed for time. Rourke likes to wear a reflective vest to make himself more visible on the road.
The daily bike commuter wants to get more riders on the road, so if you need help planning a route or finding a buddy for a practice ride, email Rourke at everettbike firstname.lastname@example.org.
Drivers can also help promote bike commuting. After all one more bike on the road means one less car. The Washington State Driver’s Manual mandates motorists allow at least three feet of space when passing a biker. And always check blind spots before pulling into traffic or opening a car door when parked along a street.
Community Transit publishes a bike map for Snohomish County that lists paved trails and bike lanes.
Rourke launched Everett Bike Walk to start a conversation about improving biking and walking infrastructure in the city.
The group’s latest big project is bringing about 50 bike racks to downtown Everett. Installation began last week. Rourke worked with Everett Transit to secure a grant, then found local businesses (Everett Steel, D&D Welding and Mukilteo Powder Coating) that were willing to give steep discounts or offer services at below cost.
As Everett and the county’s population increase, Rourke wants other modes of travel, besides vehicles, to be considered.
“There doesn’t seem to be a strong push or motivation to make bicycling or walking a priority,” he said.
The city hasn’t done a lot of work on the Bike Master Plan adopted in 2011, he said.
“There’s more people who would bike or walk more if there was the infrastructure,” chimed in Rourke’s wife, Brittany.
The Rourkes also want to see more signs to help cyclists find bike routes in the city.
“It will also remind people that this is a shared space,” Brittany said.
At any given time, the city has about half a dozen projects in various stages that fulfill the Bike Master Plan, said Ryan Sass, Everett’s director of public works.
He pointed to a project that will complete the last block of the Hoyt Avenue Streetscape adding a bike lane and to a plan aiming to improve the connection to the Interurban Trail at 41st Street. These are both scheduled to start this year or next.
As part of routine street maintenance every year, the city tries to widen existing bike lanes where possible by narrowing travel lanes, he said. In the last two years, this happened on Merrill Creek Parkway and Glenwood Avenue, according to Sass.
“The vast majority of transportation funding is grant funding, that’s always the limiting factor,” Sass said.
Those interested in taking the Bike Everywhere Month challenge can register here: loveto ride.net/washington. Participating in community rides is also a good way to ease into biking. Cascade Bicycle Club hosts several rides a month in the county.
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