Bicycling In Hawaii

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Despite an ideal climate for bicyclists — consistent weather, a dense urban center on flat terrain and an extensive bus system — Honolulu has struggled to create a bike-friendly environment. Funding issues, geography, and a lack of strong lawmaker support and steady advocacy have resulted in Honolulu falling behind other large cities on the mainland.

But in August 2012, the city of Honolulu approved a plan to make Oahu a more biker-friendly Island.

Overview

There were 284,509 bicycles registered on Oahu in 2009, according to the city’s Motor Vehicles, Licensing and Permits Division. The city receives between $400,000 and $500,000 for bicycle program funds from bike registrations each year.

There were 45 miles of bike lanes, 47 miles of bike paths and 37 miles of bike routes on Oahu in 2010, according to the Oahu Bike Plan. There are about 30,000 loadings per month on the bike racks on city transit buses. There are about 500 bicycle parking racks throughout Oahu, according to the city Department of Transportation Services.

Honolulu had the 14th highest mode share for bicycle commuting among the 70 largest cities in the United States, according to the League of American Bicyclists. The mode share was 1.6 percent in 2010. The national average was 0.53 percent.

In 2007 Honolulu was awarded an honorable mention from the LAB’s Bicycle Friendly Community Campaign. Communities are given an award of platinum, gold, silver or bronze status good for four years. Hawaii has never received a status. Honolulu did not receive an honorable mention in 2010 or 2011.

In 2007 the LAB gave the following grades per category: legislation, F; policies and programs, C; infrastructure, D; education and encouragement, A; evaluation and planning, B; and enforcement, F. Hawaii ranked 30 out of 50 states.

The Hawaii Bicycling League runs BikeEd Hawaii program, which teaches bicycle safety to fourth graders. In 2007, Honolulu gave HBL $150,000 in grant money to run the program.

The state has 208 miles of existing bicycle routes across the state, with 123 more miles underway, according to the state’s Bike Plan Hawaii 2003. The proposed bike plan would add 1,723 miles of bicycle facilities.

Fatal bicycling injuries between 2005 and 2009 averaged about four per year, compared with seven from 2000 to 2004 and six from 1995 to 2004, according to Dan Galanis, epidemiologist with the state’s Injury Prevention and Control Program. Most — or 86 percent — of the nonfatal injuries treated in hospital settings didn’t involve motor vehicles. On average in that period, there were 124 nonfatal hospitalizations involving bike accidents and 1,287 emergency room visits involving bike accidents.

History

Eki Cyclery opened in 1911 on the corner of King and Alapai streets to serve a growing population of bicyclists, mostly plantations workers and students. Many of Hawaii’s first bicycle plans were created following the oil shocks of the 1970s. but once oil prices fell, these plans were shelved and the state focused on motor vehicle traffic almost exclusively. City bus strikes in both 1971 and 2003 may have resulted in more bicycle commuting.

The state’s Bike Plan Hawaii master plan was approved in 2003 and hasn’t been updated since. It guides the actions of the state Department of Transportation.

In May 2009, then-Gov. Linda Lingle signed SB 718, the Hawaii Complete Streets Bill, into law. It requires the state Department of Transportation and the county transportation departments to create a policy to reasonably accommodate all users of the road, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and people of all ages and abilities. The bill established a task force to review certain highway design standards and guidelines.

House Bill 983 passed in May 2009. It requires the director of transportation to provide federal Safe Routes to School funds for school-based workshops and community-based planning projects that will reduce vehicular travel and congestion, encourage walking and bicycling, and promote health and safety. It also requires the director to develop a streamlined process for the federal Safe Routes to School grant program.

That same year, City Council Bill 64-09, which would have required motorists passing a bicyclist to keep at least three feet away and ban throwing objects or substances at bicyclists, was supported by the city Department of Transportation Services but opposed by the Honolulu Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office because it would be too difficult to enforce. It did not become law.

Key Players

  • Chris Sayers, Bicycle Coordinator, Traffic Engineering Division, Department of Transportation Services: (808) 768-8335, csayers@honolulu.gov
  • Wayne Yoshioka, Director, Department of Transportation Services: (808) 768-8303, wyoshioka@honolulu.gov
  • State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator (position vacant), Hawaii Department of Transportation: (808) 692-7675
  • Laura Manuel, Hawaii co-coordinator, Safe Routes to School: (808) 692-7695
  • Chad Taniguchi, executive director, Hawaii Bicycling League: (808) 735-5756, bicycle@hbl.org
  • Cycling Manoa

Resources

 
These Kalihi Streets Are A Big Hazard For Bike Riders Lila Lee/Civil Beat

These Kalihi Streets Are A Big Hazard For Bike Riders

Honolulu DTS has plans for improving safety in the area, including repaving North King Street and adding shared-use lanes.

What Could $1.5 Billion Buy You (Besides More Of The Rail Project)? Cory Lum/Civil Beat

What Could $1.5 Billion Buy You (Besides More Of The Rail Project)?

The Honolulu City Council is weighing extending the general excise tax surcharge by five more years to raise $1.5 billion more for rail. But what else could all that money pay for?
Hawaii Road Fatalities In One Map

Hawaii Road Fatalities In One Map

On the south shore of Oahu, distracted driving was responsible for many pedestrian deaths.
Bill Slowing Bike Lane Construction Approved Over Bike Riders’ Objections Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Bill Slowing Bike Lane Construction Approved Over Bike Riders’ Objections

Councilman Trevor Ozawa's bill would require two Council hearings before any bike lane could be installed.
In Car-Free Paris, Lessons for Honolulu Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In Car-Free Paris, Lessons for Honolulu

The Guardian reports on what happened when Parisians walked, biked or relied on public transit for a day.
It’s a Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Change the Honolulu City Charter

It’s a Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Change the Honolulu City Charter

An assessment of the controversial Honolulu Police Commission is up next for the panel looking at improving the structure of Oahu's government.
The Projector: Bike, Energy and TMT Events Unfold, But a Sewage Spill Overshadows All Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Projector: Bike, Energy and TMT Events Unfold, But a Sewage Spill Overshadows All

BikeShare Hawaii showed off options for bringing two-wheelers to the masses. Hot-button energy issues were the focus of a high-profile conference. And the Supreme Court held a TMT hearing. But what the world knew about the islands this week was that a sewage spill closed Waikiki beaches.
City Needs to Manage Bike Lane Projects Better, Audit Says Cory Lum/Civil Beat

City Needs to Manage Bike Lane Projects Better, Audit Says

Some projects were never built, resulting in a loss of federal funds. The lack of adequate financial tracking between departments is cited.
Civil Bytes: Bikeshare Hawaii Wants You Out of Your Car Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Civil Bytes: Bikeshare Hawaii Wants You Out of Your Car

Organizers of an ambitious effort starting in downtown Honolulu eventually hope to have about 2,000 bikes across 200 stations.
Honolulu Bike Lane: If You Build It, They Will Come City and County of Honolulu

Honolulu Bike Lane: If You Build It, They Will Come

The King Street protected lane is a great start. But the city needs to work quickly to beef up its bike-friendly projects.
Why I Ride a Bike in Honolulu — and Why You Should Too

Why I Ride a Bike in Honolulu — and Why You Should Too

It makes economic sense for people to give up cars in exchange for bicycles and the city's growing transit ecosystem.
The Projector — Photos of Boys of Summer, Honolulu Cycling and Political Scrutiny PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The Projector — Photos of Boys of Summer, Honolulu Cycling and Political Scrutiny

People hit the surf, a new bike lane opened and police and mental hospital management faced review.