Saturday, December 19, 2009

Complete Streets for Spokane?

Spokane’s streets are incomplete. This doesn’t just mean we need to fill the potholes. It means we need to finish the sidewalk system, redesign old streets, and make sure we design new streets to take into account safety and freedom of choice for every type of user--pedestrian, cyclist, person with mobility problems, single-occupancy vehicle, bus, or freight. When we do this, we’ll have Complete Streets.

Right across the state line, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, became the first city in Idaho to adopt a Complete Streets policy back in May. has an atlas of the places considering and adopting such policies. There isn’t a balloon icon for Spokane, yet—but there may be soon.

In the City of Spokane, we now have pro-bike City Council members Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref, who have spoken out in favor of a Complete Streets policy, joining bike advocate Richard Rush on the council.

When a street is designed only for cars, only some of us are getting our money’s worth as taxpayers, since we’re all paying for streets.

It hits us another way as taxpayers, too--mobility, cost and transportation barriers may keep people from getting and keeping a job. in the SmartRoutes Spokane study (PDF here), they found that one in every four people in Spokane County living below 100% of the federal poverty level does not have a vehicle for transportation. These people are using transit, walking, or riding a bike, but without the full infrastructure that makes these safe, accessible choices.

We’d be healthier with Complete Streets, too. A report prepared by the National Conference of State Legislators found that the most effective policy avenue for encouraging bicycling and walking is incorporating sidewalks and bike lanes into community design – essentially, creating Complete Streets. The continuous network of safe sidewalks and bikeways provided by a Complete Streets policy is important for encouraging active travel and helping combat our country’s spreading obesity epidemic.

Want to do something about it? You’re invited to an organizing meeting to discuss the campaign to create Complete Streets policies in Spokane: Wednesday, January 13, 5:30-7pm, at the Central YMCA, 930 N. Monroe. Save the date & spread the word.


Charles said...

I keep seeing where they put bike lanes on the newer streets they keep resurfacing with our bond money, but so far they completely ignore the bike lanes they put on Crestline from Euclid to Francis. They promised the homeowners along Crestline that those bike lanes would keep the cars away from the pedestrians on the sidewalks, slow the traffic, and leave a space for the snow in the winter so they would not have to bury the sidewalks with the snow from the street. Check it out the outside lanes along Crestline are 5 feet wider than the center lanes. Now that Market is open there is less traffic on Crestline again so maybe the city could paint some bike lanes when the weather warms up.

Anonymous said...

"and leave a space for the snow in the winter so they would not have to bury the sidewalks with the snow from the street"

So they plan on burying the bike lane? As someone who bikes all year round, I don't like that. That kind of thinking from the city strengthens my feeling that the powers that be don't really care about cyclists.


Charles said...

Well the way it is now the cyclists ride on the sidewalks, so having the bike lane full of snow does not stop any cyclists. Which is more important pedestrians or cyclists?

Barb Chamberlain said...

This dialogue about where to put the snow is one reason we need Complete Streets. It's NOT a question of "who's more important, cyclists or pedestrians." BOTH are important, and neither is getting needs met through the current design of our streets. (There ARE street designs that accommodate plowing in a way that leaves clear passage for everyone--cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. We just don't have them.)

Charles, one clarification on the street bond dollars: They don't put bike lanes on those streets unless they're already there. This has been thoroughly cussed and discussed, believe me!

Bike advocates would have liked to see bike lanes ADDED to streets where they are part of the master bike lane any time a street is worked on. But wording of the street bond ordinance as passed by the voters has been defined to mean that the city can only replace existing infrastructure when they use street bond dollars. It took an action by the City Council to appropriate funding to put a bike lane onto Southeast Blvd. when it was being reconstructed with street bond funds.

Of course, when a street is being worked on, that's a cheaper time to add bike stuff than if you have to come back in later, so you'd be well served as a taxpayer if we could build out the master bike plan on any street that's being worked on where bike infrastructure is part of the plan. Logic doesn't always get to rule the day, alas.

As far as the bike lanes on Crestline from Euclid to Francis, I'll raise this question on the Bicycle Advisory Board. John Speare and I both serve on this as volunteers, and that's the place you should bring any questions, ideas, or concerns about bike stuff for the City of Spokane. See for our meeting times, members of the board, and more info.


Charles said...

I agree that it should not be a matter of who is more important cyclists or pedestrians, I do both.
Crestline had bike lanes put in BEFORE the street bond resurfaced Crestline. When it was first widened to 4 lanes I refused to sign the agreement with the city unless they would stop covering the sidewalk in snow. I wanted a grass parking strip between the street and the sidewalk, they refused, but they put in a bike lane to have room for the snow in the winter and bikes in the summer.

Not said...

I'm in favor of bike and pedestrian infrastructure, but I think there are three important things we lack in Spokane right now: understanding, enforcement, and respect.

I live near Queen Avenue in the neighborhood of Joe Albi Stadium. Queen has sidewalks on both sides here, but I frequently see pedestrians walking down the middle of the street. These people aren't using wheelchairs or canes, so I don't think the lack of curb cuts has influenced their route choice. It seems that they don't understand the purpose of the sidewalk.

A few blocks away, on Wellesley Avenue between Driscoll Boulevard and A Street, I see cars and trucks parked with the left two tires on the road, and the other two on the sidewalk, blocking the entire sidewalk. It's legal to park on the road there, so the drivers aren't gaining a parking space where none was available. I notice this kind of parking all over Spokane, which suggests that there is very little parking enforcement outside of the downtown area.

So many of you have already written about cars parked in bike lanes that I have very little to add, but it does demonstrate the lack of understanding, enforcement, and respect by drivers and police.

As others discussed, the city uses many bike lanes as a place to put snow. This illustrates the lack of respect for bicyclists by the city. Not only are these bike lanes unusable during our heavy snow months, but they remain unusable during February and March when the snow has thawed everywhere except the plowed berms.

I believe that building new bicyclist and pedestrian infrastructure is a waste of resources until these issues are resolved.

- Ventura