Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fish Lake Trail

There's a well-coordinated and supported effort to pave the Fish Lake Trail from Fish Lake to the Centennial Trail. Personally, I'm sort of in the middle on this one. One of my favorite quick runs is a ride through the unpaved portion of the Fish Lake Trail. I have it documented on Bikely.

I really enjoy riding Thorpe Road, which is a nice dirt county road, and hooking up to the trail at the top of the hill on Thorpe. The trail is some single-track, double-track, and contains all sorts of surfaces: sand, hard-pack, pebbles, "rail" rock. It's an interesting ride -- and fun. Right now the pavement starts about 2 miles out of Marshall and goes for about 3 miles, where you end up on a Burlington-Northern access road, cross two sets of live tracks, and then another mile to the Fish Lake Trail head parking lot, where the trail is paved to Curtis Road/Cheney. I enjoy taking a fattish-tired road bike or fixed gear on this route. So as I think about FLT being paved, it kind of bums me out, because today this is a quiet, under-used, no-traffic bike route.

Folks pushing for pavement here suggest that this will be an ideal commuter route for Cheney-Spokane commuters. Maybe so. The Cheney-Spokane Road is a good route for that too, although there are some pieces that are a bit tight.

The major cost of the project is not in paving, but in putting up overpasses over two live railroad tracks. I can't remember the numbers exactly, but what I seem to remember is that there is about a $6 million cost for this project; $4 million of which is for the overpasses. That's a good gob of money.

It's interesting what draws bike-related money -- people love the idea of multi-use paths with no traffic. I understand the draw, but if I had $6 million for bike-stuff in Spokane, I'd be pretty satisfied with the Centennial Trail. If you're a recreational cyclist; Spokane is great. You've got to be happy.

On the face of it, it sounds crazy, but, thinking about it, I'd blow most of that wad on education: teaching drivers and cyclists that it's ok and normal and lawful for cyclists to use the road. Like the "seat belt saves lives" campaign when I was a kid. There was a time no one wore seat belts. Then we were clobbered for years with TV, radio, print ads that told us to wear seat belts. In addition, there was a threat of fines if you didn't wear a seat belt.

What if we did the same for cyclist/driver-education? What if the message: "cyclists have the same rights to the road as a car; bikes are vehicles; cyclists have the same responsibility to follow the rules of the road as car drivers" was pounded into us everywhere we turned? What if we taught our kids, in school, how to safely ride in traffic? What if parents rode their kids to school, on bikes, while following traffic laws? What if the WSDOT manual and related driver training had more emphasis on bikes-as-traffic? What if your traffic violation doubled if cyclists were in the area, as we do for work zones? What if cops busted cyclists for traffic violations or riding on the sidewalk?

Eventually, I think we'd see a lot more folks riding their bikes in traffic and a lot less need for more multi-use trails.
Oh yeah, and if there was any money left over; I'd be painting some sharrows.


Web said...

Paving the Fish Lake Trail will also draw more bicycle tourism to Spokane, allowing touring cyclists to travel from Pasco to Coeur d'Alene on a paved, non-motorized trail. Those cyclists would allow construction costs to be recouped in a matter of years.

I can see why you'd mourn more cyclists on this trail though - it's beautiful.

Larry Lagarde
Urging bicycling for recreation, commuting, health and a better future.

John Speare said...

I wouldn't argue against that -- this trail will likely bring more bike tourists to Spokane.

The underlying argument there then is that we'll see a return on this money spent -- that it's good for economic development.

I say the return on the same money by enabling a greater portion of our population to travel/run errands by bike has the potential to be even huger in terms of economic, health, quality of life, etc returns. For each person running an errand/commuting on a bike instead of a car we are not subsidizing their roadways as heavily; we are not breathing their fumes; we are not sucking up as much fossil fuel. And maybe most importantly, we are interacting in a human scale way with the people in our community when we pass each other on bicycles.

I love Spokane and want smart people to come and live here and visit here, but I'm personally not interested in generating a "tourist" destination.

Re-reading, I can see that it looks like I don't want more cyclist on the trail. That's poor writing on my part: I'd love to see more folks on the trail. I referred to "non-traffic" in the post, and by that I just mean, non-car-traffic. There's nothing to stop anyone (tourist or not) from hopping on the trail and riding the length as it is. And I'd be very happy to see other folks on that trail.

jim g said...

I agree w/you, and I'm going to do my small part in getting the message out by plastering these stickers all over my bike.

Unknown said...

I Agree in that I love the diversity of the FLT as it is, if you jump onto it just behind the Sunset Babtist Church at the bottom of the Sunset hill you can get 4 miles of great trail rides in before you get to the paved section. What i like about it is that it gives me a MTB commute from the Silver lake area instead of always being on my road bike. Its such a peaceful and senic route; but I tend to seek out dirt and trails when ever I can. On the flip side we are very fortunate to be in a city that has many opportunities to "hit the trails".
Bike on