Luke Distelhorst prefers getting around Edmonds on his Cannondale bicycle.
It doesn’t work for every errand, especially when he or his wife need a lot of space, such as toting their daughter to softball games or practice. But pedal power has proven his preferred option for trips downtown, where he would like to see more dedicated space for bike travel.
As a city council member, he is in a position to push for those changes in the budget and through policy.
In Edmonds, a city of over 42,600 residents, there are about 16 miles of bike facilities which includes markings on roads shared with vehicles and dedicated lanes as well as 25 bike racks in the public right-of-way.
“We still have many areas of Edmonds that need bike facilities to make it easier,” Distelhorst said.
The city’s public works department is planning $1.85 million in bike and pedestrian projects this year. A Sound Transit grant funded the work to improve connections between the agency’s services at the Sounder station near the waterfront and light rail stations set to open in 2024 in Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. Construction could begin this year but certainly not in time for Bike to Work Day on May 21 when city employees who participate ride from the PCC Community Market at Highway 104 and 100th Avenue W to the Edmonds Ferry Terminal.
Edmonds is putting that money into bike lanes on 100th Avenue W/Ninth Avenue S from 244th Street SW to Walnut Street; Bowdoin Way/Walnut Street from Ninth Avenue S to 84th Avenue W; 228th Street SW from 78th Avenue W to 80th Avenue W; and “sharrows” (a road with bicycle markings shared between cyclists and drivers) on 80th Avenue W from 228th Street SW to 220th Street SW.
“These are some real key connections that we’re making,” Edmonds Public Works director Phil Williams said.
To make those new bike lanes, some existing on-street parking will be removed. In spots, such as along Ninth Avenue S, where parking exists on both sides of the road the spaces will only remain on one half. A parking survey in the area found “minimal” daytime parking use except for some spots where city staff are trying to work around, Williams said.
Debby Grant, an Edmonds resident and treasurer of the Snohomish County cycling club, said she wasn’t familiar with the city’s project plans other than hearing disagreement about the loss of parking and the public input process.
“As a bicyclist I very much like the idea of a bike lane or sharrows on Ninth/100th but if I were a homeowner living on that street I might prefer to have some parking remain,” she wrote in an email. “I ride that stretch as it is now but it would be much safer without parked cars and dedicated space for cyclists.
As part of the city’s project on 76th Avenue W, vehicle lane width was reduced between 208th and 220th Streets SW. Bicyclist counts rose “very quickly” by over 35%, Williams said. It proved the need for more room where people could bike or push a stroller, he said.
Concerns about parking are common for Williams and his staff. It’s been an ongoing complaint about downtown for decades. But the simplest first option is to make existing space use more efficient.
Most parking in Edmonds isn’t regulated, except downtown where the spaces are marked. Many are just open parallel parking rectangles, but city employees started adding hash marks every 20 feet and narrowed them from eight feet to seven feet.
“If there is a clear indication of where we would like them to park, the compliance is just remarkable,” Williams said.
Edmonds’ plans were good news for Rick Proctor, president of the BIKES Club of Snohomish County. He often leads group rides in Edmonds but his routes skip downtown because the traffic volume, even at 25 mph, makes bunch biking a bit stressful. The amount of parallel parking also worries him when drivers and passengers open doors without looking first, a technique called the Dutch reach.
“I like to avoid the busy boulevards even with a bike lane,” he said. “If there’s a quiet residential street, I’d rather ride that.”
Proctor, 69, is deft at planning rides by using United States Geological Survey topographical maps to gauge elevation. He has been biking with the club for about six years, enough time to learn the area and its unofficial paths and trails, such as a pedestrian crossing over a creek from Hindley Lane to Brookmere Drive/Eighth Avenue N.
“That kind of connector is invaluable because it lets you get off the main drag,” he said. “That works out for pedestrians, dog walkers and bicyclists.”
When Proctor bikes, he prefers routes with stops at coffee shops. But a persistent problem he has seen is a lack of safe bike storage, either racks in eyesight of the storefront or fenced-in lockers.
Distelhorst, the Edmonds City Councilman, wants to hold the city’s budget to its stated goals around accessibility and climate action. Getting people to ditch gas-powered vehicle trips for rolling or walking around, or using transit, is one way to help the city achieve its target of reducing average rising temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“It’s not responsible to pass a target like that and then not try to get there,” Distelhorst said.
The city’s bike plan is about six years old and Williams, the public works director, said it should be revised and updated soon. That could mean more space and storage for bikes.
“There’s more opportunities to put in bike lanes in town. I think you’ll see that,” Williams said. “We can make sensible changes that will balance the use of the right-of-way.”
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