Citizens’ push gets it done

Thanks to some very squeaky wheels, the grease has been applied to a plan that should make Everett one of the region’s friendliest cities for bicyclists.

Active citizens, receptive leaders and dedicated city staff combined to produce a new city bicycle master plan that was approved unanimously last week by the City Council. The document lays out a roadmap for turning a pretty good system of bike lanes and trails into an outstanding one.

Over time, it will create new routes and make connections where gaps exist, enabling more commuters and recreational riders to traverse the city on two wheels. Cost-effectiveness is a core theme of this impressive plan; many solutions can be realized simply by restriping existing roads or adding signs.

Others will require widening roads to add bike lanes, enabling bicyclists to co-exist safely with moving and parked cars. The idea is to chip away at such projects as funds become available. Having a detailed plan in place should give the city an edge in competing for grant dollars.

Adoption of the plan caps more than a decade of passionate lobbying by local bicyclists with a vision for a healthier, less congested and less polluted city. Several citizens were involved in the effort, but none deserve more credit than John Lindstrom, a retired Everett Community College instructor and longtime bike commuter whose good-natured persistence was impossible for city leaders to ignore. The role he and other citizens played in identifying key routes for improvements, along with obstacles to overcome, shows up abundantly in the finished document.

Actually, the plan isn’t finished, nor is it ever intended to be. It’s wisely designed as a “living” document, subject to updating as priorities shift or new opportunities arise.

Besides expanding routes, it proposes programs for promoting and encouraging bicycling — including creation of a city-hosted bicycle website, a system for citizens to request the placement of bike racks around the city, privately-sponsored helmet giveaways and safety events for kids.

The inclusive, bottom-up development of this plan set a standard for how to channel a community’s passions and best ideas into positive action. Rather than pretending they already had all the answers, dedicated city staff actively solicited citizen opinions in writing and in well-organized, well-attended public workshops. City Council member Drew Nielsen and Mayor Ray Stephanson, both bicycle enthusiasts themselves, made sure developing the plan remained a top priority.

The result will provide folks of nearly any age a viable alternative to driving, saving them money, improving their fitness, and reducing traffic congestion for everyone.

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