LYNNWOOD — “Sharrows” are going down. Signs are going up. Bike lanes are being added.
A new bicycle network is taking shape across three south Snohomish County cities, starting with Lynnwood. Improvements in Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace will follow next summer.
The Bike 2 Health project is funded by a $1.9 million grant from Verdant Health Commission, one of the largest it has awarded.
The Interurban Trail is the best-known bicycle route in the area.
“But if you’re not a bike commuter, you may not know how easy it is to the get to the community college, or the hospital, or the ferry terminal” on a bike, said George Kosovich, assistant superintendent at Verdant.
Once complete, new routes will help cyclists get to and from major destinations, such as Edmonds Community College, the Edmonds ferry terminal, the Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace transit centers, and Swift bus rapid transit stations.
There are more than 20 miles of bike lanes or marked paths already between the three cities. Still, those were added in isolation over the years, and there are gaps.
A 2013 assessment of the area’s “bikability” by Cascade Bicycle Club, also for Verdant, planted the seed and provided the data needed to move forward. Lynnwood took the lead on the grant, with Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace joining. Brier, which also is within Verdant’s focus area, declined to participate.
The project will fill 11 key gaps, totaling 10 miles of roadway. Six of those miles will include dedicated bike lanes. Other improvements include shared lane markings (“sharrows”) and way-finding signs.
The project aims to improve the community’s overall health.
Cycling groups have used money from Verdant to teach kids at local schools how to bike.
“You give kids that skill. But if your neighborhood doesn’t support you actually getting on a bike — it doesn’t feel safe, there aren’t bike lanes — then it’s hard to get that in practice,” Kosovich said. “This is that next logical connection.”
Beyond health, the improvements will help the cities as they try to urge multiple modes of transportation amid increasingly crowded conditions.
“Lynnwood specifically has an interest in making ‘mode shift’ — getting people out of their cars and into transit, or biking or walking — a high priority, particularly in context of opening light rail,” said Sarah Olson, Lynnwood’s deputy director of parks, recreation and cultural arts, and a project lead for Bike 2 Health.
The Sound Transit light rail station is slated to open in 2023 and is expected to attract tens of thousands of riders, but with only a fraction’s worth of parking stalls.
“The goal is to have people being multi-modal in their approach to commuting — taking the ferry, taking the bike, taking the train,” said Peter Hallson, co-chair of the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group, a project partner.
The project is a significant step, but only a piece of a much larger puzzle that remains to be solved, cyclists add.
“We’re trying to fill in the missing links on a skeleton of a bicycle network. But there’s still a lot more to come down the pike,” said Jan Ahlquist-Niemi, co-chair of EBAG with Hallson. “This is in my mind stage 1, and there are probably 10 more stages to get a good network going.”
Much of the problem comes when cyclists cross the invisible lines between jurisdictions.
“You’re riding along on beautiful lanes and then all of a sudden nothing,” Ahlquist-Niemi said. “If you’re a bike commuter every day, you figure it out. But for people who are wary or leery of doing much on their bikes or afraid of traffic, it makes those people more afraid.”
In that sense, Bike 2 Health sets a good model for other communities, boosters say.
“There’s a collaboration that’s taking place that didn’t occur in the past. So that’s been a good thing … in addition to getting the work done,” Hallson said. “It really becomes a community-wide challenge for us to get people waking up and saying, ‘You know, it’s going to be fun if I just get on my bike and begin riding.’”
More info: http://tinyurl.com/Bike2Health
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