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

 
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