Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell took state and federal officials for a bike ride Wednesday as he sought to build support for new bike lanes along King and Beretania streets. However, the biggest splash came when the mayor announced that officials were studying the possibility of a bike path underneath the city's planned $5.3 billion elevated railway, which stretches 20 miles from East Kapolei to Ala Moana.
"I like to call it the 'Green Line,'" the mayor told reporters. "You can ride under the train system… and then connect to these other bike paths we're talking about now."
City Transportation Services Director Mike Formby noted the mayor's capital-improvement budget for the upcoming fiscal year contains $100,000 to study the possibility of a "Green Line," which includes the preparation of a multimodal bike plan.
"So, that's a concept we're pursuing," said the DTS director.
Tagging along with the mayor on his 5-mile trek was Gov. Neil Abercrombie's chief of staff, Bruce Coppa, EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld, and several bicycling advocates.
Blumenfeld said federal spending on dedicated bike lanes has reached hundreds of millions of dollars, and Honolulu could benefit greatly from infrastructure that encourages residents to get out of their cars. Although Hawaii ranks 14th among the 70 largest U.S. cities in the number of residents who primarily use a bicycle to get to work, only 1.6 percent of all commuters use pedal power to get to and from their jobs. That's according to an analysis of 2010 Census data by the League of American Bicyclists.
"It's just making sure that the proposal is competitive so that Gov. Abercrombie and the mayor can put forward a project that really shows how bicycling can take off in Honolulu and other places," said Blumenfeld. "How do you move forward on bicycling with the next generation?"
Caldwell acknowledged bike lanes on Beretania and King streets would be painted at first, but he said the long-term goal is to build so-called "bike tracks" that are sandwiched between sidewalks and parked cars. The mayor's initiative to make Oahu more friendly for cyclists is part of the city's Complete Streets program, which hopes to increase opportunities for safe and convenient walking and bicycling, while also improving connectivity to public transportation.
"I think it'll become transformational," Caldwell said of the bike track concept. "I think that will encourage many people, including families with children, and make it a little safer to ride."
Chad Taniguchi, Hawaii Bicycling League executive director, said the fact that bike tracks are slightly taller than the existing roadway also reinforces good driver behavior.
"It's visually and physically separated from cars, so drivers know that they shouldn't encroach into that area, and if you do, they're going to hit a bump," Taniguchi explained.
Formby said Beretania Street would be restriped with a dedicated bike lane as soon as a notice to proceed with a resurfacing project is issued. However, the bike lane on King Street is the focus of an ongoing study that's scheduled to end in November, and will be followed by a lengthy public comment period.
"It's still a ways off, but we're aggressive upon the schedule," Formby said of the future bike lane.