A half-dozen cycling enthusiasts stepped up the pressure on Lacey City Council on Thursday night, urging the council to incorporate a 5-foot bike lane into the city’s plans to widen College Street Southeast.
Cyclists appear to have won an ally in Councilman Michael Steadman, who said he thinks the city should delay the widening plans to get the project right.
“This is a legacy project,” he said about widening a major arterial such as College Street. “I don’t want my name on a project that lasts 50 years but says coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
Leading the charge Thursday night was avid cyclist and Lacey resident Vaughn Nelson, who has testified before about the need for bike lanes on College Street.
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“If you build it now without bike lanes, what will you tell people 20, 30, 40 years from now?” Nelson asked. “That you couldn’t wait a year? That it would be better to permanently detour people through a neighborhood? That you couldn’t give up one extra foot of sidewalk? That you were willing to take out 23 homes but not three more?
“It’s up to the seven of you to make this decision,” Nelson said. “It’s not the Public Works Department, it’s not the cycling community, it’s the seven of you.”
College Street, between Lacey Boulevard to just north of 37th Avenue Southeast, is set to be widened from 45 feet to 61 feet, including a 3-foot shoulder. The project is expected to cost more than $30 million.
Public Works director Scott Egger has said the city looked at increasing the size of the road shoulder from 3 feet to 5 feet to accommodate bicyclists, but it would have cost an additional $1.7 million: $1.2 million in construction and $500,000 to buy right-of-way property.
Nelson said he thinks the city can redesign its plans without significant costs or the need to acquire additional right-of-way.
The design calls for a 6-foot sidewalk and a 4-foot tree well for College Street. Nelson suggests shortening both by a foot, which would create an additional 2 feet to add to the 3-foot shoulder. Voila: a 5-foot bike lane.
Still, city officials believe they already have a good north-south corridor for bikes: The Chehalis-Western Trail, which sits a few blocks west of College Street.
Cyclists at the meeting, though, said the trail is best for recreation, not transportation.
Ron Jones of Tumwater said the trail isn’t safe at certain times of day because of homeless people who camp near the trail and drug dealers.
“That leaves people vulnerable,” he said.
One person spoke against the bike lanes at the meeting.
Shannon Reynolds, who grew up in Portland, said the bike lanes in the Rose City are everywhere and they hinder vehicle traffic.
“What really gets me is that the automobile pays for the roads (via gasoline taxes), while bicyclists take all this space and slow everybody down,” he said.