Cyclists question Newport trails decision

November 25, 2008

By Jon Savelle

 

By Dona Mokin

By Dona Mokin

In many ways, the planned walking and cycling path along Northwest Newport Way is a dream come true for car-free travelers. Its dedicated right of way will provide a place for cyclists and walkers to move without fear of other vehicles. 

 

Or so it is thought. Design of the path is about 50 percent finished, but some of Issaquah’s bicycle riders and commuters are worrying about details that they say could make the route more dangerous, not less.

The path will be built along the north side of Northwest Newport Way between Lakemont Boulevard and Oakcrest Drive. A similar project, called phase one, already is under way on the section of Newport between Oakcrest and state Route 900, paid for by the Talus developer in a deal that freed it of the obligation to build additional affordable housing in Talus.

Information about the Oakcrest-to-Lakemont section, or phase two, was provided to the City Council’s Transportation Committee recently, where city engineers handed out drawings of the project. They were met with questions about parking, striping for the path and safety issues. 

Todd Christensen, senior engineer in charge of the project, said he will look at parking and may incorporate minor design changes. Otherwise, the public process is closed and design is proceeding toward an expected completion in December. Construction bids will be solicited early in 2009, with construction starting in spring. The job should be finished by summer. 

Some cyclists, however, still have questions. One of them is Paul Winterstein, a Squak Mountain resident who bikes to his job in Redmond every day. He uses Northwest Newport Way going both directions, and recently he was shocked to discover that restriping of the lanes in the phase one segment had eliminated space for cyclists. 

“What you encounter is, cars are all the way over,” he said Nov. 20. “On Monday there were three cars whose tires were off the asphalt. That is taking what is already a tight place and making it tighter.”

Karen Behm agreed. The bicycle commuter who regularly uses Northwest Newport Way said the trail design was poorly thought out.

“I don’t think the user community was consulted in this,” she said. “It’s got some pros and cons; a trail is good. But for bicyclists, losing a shoulder — I don’t like that at all. It puts a message out to motorists that cyclists have to use a trail, and we don’t have to.”

Behm said she also believes many cyclists won’t be comfortable using the trail for two-way travel and will revert to the roadway regardless.

In the design for phase two, Christensen has incorporated a low curb to separate the bike path from the roadway. He said it is intended to prevent bicycles from straying into traffic, and to keep motor vehicles out of the bike lane. 

But local cyclist Barbara Shelton said she isn’t convinced. She said there might be instances in which a cyclist is riding in the vehicle lane and want to move into the bike lane — but be blocked by the curb. A car, on the other hand, could drive over it.

“I don’t think it is going to prevent a car heading into the trail,” she said. “If they want to put a barrier there, it needs to be a Jersey barrier.”

An incident in Seattle supports her argument. It occurred July 6, 2007, when resident Terry McMacken was cycling across the Ballard Bridge over the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Between his lane and motor vehicles was a concrete curb about one foot high.

For some reason, McMacken struck the curb and toppled over it into the path of a car. He received permanent brain damage and injuries that forced the amputation of his right arm and shoulder. 

McMacken died this month from injuries he sustained in the crash. He was 51.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or jsavelle@isspress.com.

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