Many of Kalihi’s streets are in disrepair.

Some are littered with potholes and others are in serious need of sidewalks, making many areas of Kalihi unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Earlier this month, the Hawaii Bicycling League and the Kalihi Valley Bicycle Exchange performed a “bike audit” to assess pedestrian and bicycling safety in the Kalihi area. The audit was part of the federal Safe Routes to School program.

Boy rides away with his purchase from Sunny's Mart in Kalihi.
A boy rides away with his purchase from Sunny’s Mart in Kalihi. Lila Lee/Civil Beat

Assessing Kalihi’s Roads

The audit included a bike tour around Kalihi and a survey filled out by parents of middle and elementary school students in the area.

For the bike tour, 12 Kalihi teenagers identified their routes to school and areas they avoid due to safety hazards.

According to surveys distributed to parents of nearby public schools as part of the Safe Routes to School program, 80 percent of kids at nearby Fern Elementary School and about 50 percent of Kalakaua middle-school students bike or walk to school.

“It was eye-popping to see that there were no safe routes to successfully get to Kalakaua,” said Kevin Faller, youth specialist and program manager at KVIBE. “We need to make more bikeable roads.”

In the surveys given to parents at Kalakaua Middle School, parents were most concerned about the conditions on Kalihi Street and North King Street.

On Oct. 5, a 69-year-old Kalihi resident was killed in a bicycling accident with a dump truck on North King — the third fatal bike accident on Oahu this year — affirming parents’ worries about the busy road.

Kalakaua Intermediate School
Results from a survey distributed to students in Kalihi found that 50 percent of Kalakaua Middle schoolers bike or walk to school. Lila Lee/Civil Beat

The next step after the audit is to present an infrastructure improvement plan to the City and County Department of Transportation Services.

I think Kalihi is one of the areas with a higher bicycle use, so an improvement in infrastructure would be a big help,” said Jayne Kim, co-owner of Eki Cyclery, a bike shop that has been in Kalihi for more than 40 years.

“I don’t think that it’s safe for bicyclists here,” Kim said.

For several years, Kalihi community members and lawmakers have been pushing for transportation improvement, with only a few victories to date.

In 2014 Kalihi residents organized with community groups to protest the neglected state of Kamehameha IV Road. The joint effort resulted in the major thoroughfare being restriped with a center turning lane and two bike lanes.

“Kamehameha IV Road is great for bicyclists, but it’s kind of an island in the area,” said Daniel Alexander, communications director of HBL.

What’s Being Done

Complete Streets, a DTS initiative that contributed to the Kamehameha IV Road re-striping project, has plans for big safety improvements in Kalihi. The most immediate improvements will be the repaving of North King Street from H-1 to Peterson Lane and the addition of sharrows, or shared-use lanes.

“We’ve been looking forward to this project for some time,” said Councilman Joey Manahan, whose district includes Kalihi. “We’ve been trying to make the area more safe. North King is a main artery not only for this community, but also for the whole island.”

Michael Packard, program administrator for Complete Streets, said, “North King is in such dire need of being repaved that it can no longer be held off. It’s been on the books for so long.”

North King Street cracked road. Pothole. 8 june 2017
Uneven road near the intersection of North King Street and Kalihi Street. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In late September, the DOH office of Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response classified the area near Factory Street as potentially hazardous due to the eroding state of the street.

In 1996, the DOH found high levels of lead in the soil and it was at risk of being exposed. The Factory Street curb was “patched and sealed” earlier this month, according to the Hazard Evaluation office.

Repaving of North King Street is expected to begin later this year and take about eight months. The city also has plans to redevelop Iwilei Street, connecting future bike lanes to Honolulu Community College, Dillingham Road and the Aala area.

“I would say that Kalihi is near the top, if not the top for communities needing infrastructural improvement,” Packard said. “We need to be able to provide alternative options for people to get around safely.”

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