A stretch of Waialae Avenue connecting the university and Kalanianaole Highway has become the latest battleground in the fight to make Honolulu a bike-friendly community.
Now a paving project on Waialae has become a rallying point for cyclists fed up with the lack of progress.
Honolulu bikers are planning a community rally Friday to show the depth of support for adding bike lanes to the thoroughfare.
The Waialae resurfacing project, described by city Transportation Director Wayne Yoshioka as “imminent,” will run from roughly 4th Avenue in Kaimuki to 17th Avenue. The estimated completion date is November. Once the road is resurfaced, Waialae will be restriped, and will include “sharrows” — symbols of a bike painted on the road that indicate bikers may use a full lane if there is too little room for a car to pass safely.
But sharrows only reinforce already established law.
Bike enthusiasts want bike lanes. Daniel Alexander, a member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Bicycling, says the lanes create a safer environment for beginning bikers and fulfill the spirt of both city and state laws requiring Honolulu to become a bike-friendly city.
“A few years ago, we had several elderly people killed in a short period of time here in Honolulu,” Alexander said. “I think there’s been a growing consciousness that we have roads that are dangerous within our city… I think we’re just starting to realize that we need safer roads for everyone. That includes walkers and bikers.”
In 2009, Gov. Linda Lingle signed Act 54 into law — known as the Complete Streets Act — a measure requiring “the Department of Transportation and the county transportation departments to seek to reasonably accommodate access and mobility for all users of public highways, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, motorists, and persons of all abilities.”
That came after Honolulu voters said it should be a city priority to “make Honolulu a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly city.”
Finally, the Oahu Bike Plan, which stemmed from the 2006 amendment, calls for bike lanes to be implemented for Waialae. However, the plan is still in the draft stage and is awaiting approval by city officials.
Yoshioka tells Civil Beat the Waialae project is complying with the laws.
“There was a charter amendment that talked about bike friendliness,” Yoshioka said. “And there’s a state statute about Complete Streets that the counties adopt a Complete Street policy and we’re going through that right now. And we’re working very closly with everyone — the AARP, the Hawaii Bicycling League and a lot of other groups to try to move forward with this.”
“To me, the Complete Street law is a political institute telling our bureaucratic agencies, ‘this is how we want you to operate.’ It’s not prescribing that they operate a specific way every time but saying this is generally how he want to operate. I think, in this case, they’re not living up to it.”
The reason Waialae will not include bike lanes is because the project was never scheduled as a complete reconstruction project, Yoshioka said. To include bike lanes, community feedback would be required well in advance of breaking ground.
“This project went out as a resurfacing project,” Yoshioka said. “The point is that we’re certainly taking advantage of it so we can put sharrows in.”
Yoshioka says one of the problems with bike lanes on Waialae is that some parking stalls would have to be moved to accommodate them. He said community input on different street designs would be required before any plans for lanes could go forward. The Department of Transportation does intend to eventually implement bike lanes for Waialae, he said. It’s considering several scenarios.
Alexander believes he can prove Waialae community support for bike lanes. And he thinks he can do it in a week.
“If we really want to change our communities, I don’t think we rely too much on our bureaucratic agencies to do it for us. We really need to have a voice ourselves.”
He is co-organizing a “rally/party” Friday at Kaimuki Park and is seeking signatures from Waialae businesses and residences for the lanes.
“This is where we’re trying to mobilize the community and say, ‘Hey, the community is behind this. Look at the presence that we’ve got,'” Alexander said. “So leading up to that, we’re trying to get community organizations and local businesses to officially support this.”
Chad Taniguchi, executive director of the Hawaii Bicycling League, which advocates bicycling in Hawaii, says he will be at the Friday rally and that the city would benefit by creating bike lanes today, rather than tomorrow.
“It would be very cost-effective to do it now,” Taniguchi told Civil Beat. “Because once they repave, there will be a blank slate and then you could paint whatever lines you thought were appropriate.”
Taniguchi says he often hears from people who say they would be more likely to bike if there were bike lanes.
He isn’t optimistic the city will change its course on Waialae. But, he says the rally will bring the issue to light and act as an example of public support for bike lanes in the future.
“I think the rally is a great thing,” Taniguchi said. “It will call attention to this situation and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
The rally will take place at 6 p.m. Friday at Kaimuki Park. There will also be sign-waving at the corner of 10th Ave. and Waialae Ave. at 3:30 p.m.