Reader view: In defense of planned bike lanes on Main Street

Photo courtesy Unsplash

Editor’s note: The following was sent to the Edmonds City Council and is being republished here at the author’s request.

Edmonds City Council:

I am writing to request that you support completion of the planned bike lanes on Main Street as part of the Main Street Overlay project. In case some of your concerns have to do with saving costs during our city’s financial crisis, you may be referring to Ordinance 18.80.015 – Complete Streets, Exception 2d: Facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and/or people of all abilities are not required to be provided where the cost would be disproportionate to the current need or probable future uses. Let me assure you that the current need is real and probable future uses will increase.

Here is my point of view:

1. I am as legally entitled to use any street in the city on my bicycle as anyone in a car is.
2. I use an e-bike and am a confident and experienced rider. So I will continue to use Main Street to get to my destination when it’s the route that I choose, whether or not there are bike lanes or sharrows. Other cyclists will too, in increasing numbers as more e-bikes come into use.
3. A bike lane reassures drivers that I don’t intend to swerve all over the lane, and puts them on notice to watch for me and not collide with me. It sets the expectation that cyclists have a right to be there. Conversely, sharrows are not always understood by drivers or can be seen as merely a suggestion that there might be cyclists in the street.
4. The cost difference between painting lines for a bike lane or adding sharrows is negligible.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How do these apply to the discussion of bike lanes on Main Street? Here are the inalienable rights I have in mind while cycling:

Life. I have a right, legally, to use the streets of Edmonds riding a bicycle. I have a right to use them without any more risk of collision with a car when using my bike for transportation than when I’m using my car. According to Washington State Patrol data, 10 of the 47 people on bikes struck by cars in Edmonds since 2018 have happened on the Main/212th corridor between the ferry and Highway 99. Isn’t that at the heart of the Complete Streets ordinance, to make our streets equally safe “for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and persons of all abilities” as well as for cars? We all have an equal right to safety and staying alive while getting around our lovely city.

Liberty. I have the right to choose which streets to use on my bicycle. While the Bike Route and Bike2Health signs in downtown are informative and helpful, they are not a mandate on where I can ride. Nor do they help me get out of the Bowl to my home in Seaview in the most direct and efficient route. I do use and will continue to use Main Street on my bike all the way up to Maplewood Drive or Five Corners.

The pursuit of happiness. I have a right to pursue happiness and good health by riding my bike. I have a right to pursue the satisfaction of knowing that I’m reducing global heating and helping mitigate the climate crisis by riding my bike instead of driving my car. And I have a right to pursue the happiness of being heard by my elected officials and having them consider my needs.

Please do consider my needs and the needs of the increasing number of cyclists in coming years, and go ahead with the planned bike lanes on Main Street.

Thank you.

— By Margaret Elwood

Edmonds resident Margaret Elwood is co-chair of the Edmonds Bicycle Advocacy Group (EBAG)

  1. I live and drive around Edmonds every day. I never see anyone using the expensive bike lanes except vehicles.

      1. Main and Dayton are very busy thoroughfares already. Why not have a bike lane on a less traveled street like Bell. The cyclists could still find their pursuit of happiness on a much less traveled street that has room for bike lanes without obstructing car traffic. It would be safer for all.

        1. Barbara, have you been down Bell Street lately from 8th. Ave (It’s a dead end between 9th. and 8th). The hill portion between 8th. and 7th. is a hit and miss mix of parking strip, sidewalk and no sidewalk on both sides often blocked down to one lane passage due to construction or events at FAC and Civic Field Park. On the North side of Bell another home is being crammed in on a skimpy and very marginal building lot. Most of the housing is quite crammed together with owner’s cars coming and going frequently – Definitely not a great candidate for a bike lane. If we must have the bike lane put it up on Main. Dayton is also a mess between 8th. and 7th.; very congested much of the time and not a great candidate for a bike lane either.

  2. By the above logic, all streets in the State would have bicycle lanes (life, liberty and pursuit of happiness). Of course, that would be excessive when considering the percentage of cyclists in our area. The City should provide reasonable access for cyclists, but to assure safety and provide for street use of all citizens, bicycle lanes should be located in the safest areas and lower-use areas. Main Street and Dayton are both extremely busy streets and not the safest path for bicycles. It would fail to provide safety for all parties using the street. Added bicycle lanes would also stress the lack of parking in the downtown area. When the percentage of bicyclists does increase to a much higher level, then the City may reasonably reconsider the expenditure of taxpayer funds.

    1. Hi Helen – I ride this street regularly, and alternate between Main St. and Dayton to get up to the bike lanes on 9th. I can totally empathize with the challenge of adjustment to new lines on the road: it’s hard, especially if you’ve been driving the same road the same way for a long time. However, as Margaret points out, people on bikes are already able to ride on both of these streets, and frequently do. Paint won’t make a huge difference in growing new ridership – we will see the biggest gains if we add protection, like a small concrete curb – but it is a good way to demarcate the right-of-way, and sets the stage for installation of protective barriers in the future. Centering our City’s transportation network around cars has unfortunately pointed us towards insolvency: see Mayor Rosen’s note from his State of the City that the City has consistently been unable to fund street maintenance to maintain road conditions over the last 5 years with our current revenue model. No city has ever been designed for cycling – not even the European cities that seem to be designed for it – and we won’t see more cyclists until we make it more comfortable for them to ride. Striping is a low-cost, incremental first step. It can be easily revised.

      1. The only honest way to make it substantially more comfortable for cyclists to ride here would be to flatten the hills and change the weather pattern so it doesn’t rain as often. Until then it will be a transportation or recreational novelty.

  3. It is perfectly legal to ride your bike on Main Street today, and as long as you follow the rules of the road, you’ll be as safe as you would be in a bike lane. This issue is 100% about the cost verses benefits. There is never enough money for every pet project a city is asked to undertake. We should not be funding bike lanes that very few people will ever use due to our weather, hills, cost of e-bikes and demographics. Parents are not going to pop their kids on their bikes to get them to school. Bike lanes are not a good use of limited fiscal resources. Our city would be safer for many more people if we directed the funds to adding sidewalks and improving accessibility around all our neighborhoods.

  4. Just a question or two: when the stripes marking the bike lanes on 9th converge, are bikes supposed to vanish? Or simply venture out into traffic? And are the wavy yellow lines part of some messaging – or just a drunk driver on the paint truck? It seems we can’t even do a bike lane sensibly or properly. Some are so narrow you need high-pressure road tires to fit in, and your handle bars protrude outside the lanes!

    No more ill-conceived, badly executed, and unneeded bike lanes! I’m all for biking, but can’t we do it sensibly?

    1. Great points Nathaniel. I’m still waiting for an accounting (answer) from the city about who just paid for the major do over on the line painting and line removal on the 9th. Ave. Project which was originally financed with a grant. Please, Nelson/Now Rosen Planning and Maintenance Dept.s who paid for the re-do and how much did it cost? If it was the original contractor on it’s dime, I’m impressed. otherwise, not so much.

  5. This comment should matter, but seemingly does not, for both Edmonds officials and residents alike. OVD from Perrinville to 168th, was to have much needed bike lanes put in during the “improvements” over a decade ago. They got nixed late in the process, all because of (I was told) Lynnwood Public Works decision that it was too costly to buy up the necessary footage from OVD homeowners. If Edmonds, who btw is on this borderline, was involved in this decision, I’m unaware, but should have been, both in cost and decisions. Terrible, awful decision! Groups of cyclists of a dozen or more going by on weekends. students who bike to school, parents towing toddlers behind their bikes, all on this 30 mph arterial. It’s disgusting honestly. Semis, various trucks, delivery drivers and many many Edmonds residents fly by these bikers in a very unsafe manner. Not much outrage here, Edmonds. So even if there’s “planned” bike lanes that are incredibly needed, the almighty dollar wins out. Bottom line drivers, please share our roads and SLOW DOWN! Thank you.

  6. It’s my understanding that I can ride my bicycle on any public street, whether or not there are bicycle lanes .
    I’ve ridden bicycles on the streets of Paris, France and New York City and Los Angeles , Ca. Try that for an adventure ! Thank you for allowing me my life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

  7. Margaret, it seems you are not to concerned with the life, liberty, and happiness of vast majority of residence who do not feel the need for these expansive inconvenient programs. I’ve biked all over Edmonds and never felt the need for special treatment.
    Sorry to disagree; but enough special interests in Edmonds.

  8. Bike lanes. I think bicycling is great for those who enjoy that activity for fun or for actual transportation to and from work etc. But as stated we don’t have many here yet due to all above. I also think the homeowners on OVD should sell that property on the road for little to nothing. If they did it would allow for some interim asphalt to be added and a bike lane established. This will help keep people safe. Conscience is an important part of being a human being and the drivers there should remember that if you take a life your conscience will never really recover. In the Bowl on Main bad idea. We need the parking in that area and we need safety. We NEED that commerce for yeah sales tax but also to keep this area the ART community it is recognized as. This brings vacationers and yeah we need hotels nice ones on 99. Bottom line is money in many areas that’s correct. We can’t print money ha and we can’t bleed our citizens dry or they can’t contribute tax dollars. They will move away. So, as we through time get more people it should generate more money for many of our wants. Patience is key for all of us. Anger is not productive. I know. Think outside your box. Help.

    1. Respectfully, drive, or better, walk north on OVD from Cherry Street northward, and try to find room for buying a strip of land wide enough to convert into a bike lane – there isn’t any, without eliminating driveways on one side, or shoring up the hill on the other side.

  9. I live on 9th Avenue and rarely, if ever, see anyone riding in the bike lanes, even on sunny days. I will say that I’m impressed with the passion and assertiveness shown by the local bike advocacy groups as they have become very vocal in influencing local officials to fund unnecessary bike lanes. Those who are opposed to losing more parking spots to add additional bike lanes in downtown Edmonds need to be equally passionate by writing to our Mayor and Edmonds City Council or, better yet, make public comments at their next meeting on May 6th.

  10. The EPD provided a lot of accident data to support their advocating for red light cameras at a few intersections within the city. I’m curious if they can provide similar data as it relates to accidents with bicycles in Edmonds. Where have we had accidents vs. where we have bike lanes. As has been pointed out, bicyclists have all the roadway rights as cars do. We must share it responsibly.

  11. Millions in taxpayer car tab fees were given to Edmonds by Sound Transit to create the bike lane mess now present on 9th Ave. S. I suspect when all the oldsters (like myself) forget to realize there is now a bike lane to check before you right turn into QFC there will be accidents. The theory of the bike lane grant was to promote bike ridership to Mountlake Terrace Park and Ride lot for Sound Transit. Is there anyone who actually does that? I doubt it. Do not expand this FUBAR concept to busy downtown Edmonds.

  12. I live near Westgate Elementary School and often see bike riders on 220th and 9th during the spring and summer months when I am out walking our dog. I also see vigorous riders going up Main Street hill from 9th to 5 Corners. When the weather is nice, there are lots of bike riders around.

  13. What a boondoggle …..streets have been co-opted for these bikers and all I see is empty bike lanes, wacky re-striping and narrow car lanes making it harder to drive and make turns.

    And all this for out of shape tech bro bikers on high priced RAD electric bikes ……

    These city planners, sadly are totally incompetent. No parking for ADUs , now insane bike lanes and next high rise apartments with no parking leading to total street congestion with cars ……

    Try and start from a PRACTICAL vision for a QUALITY OF LIFE !!

  14. Your completely unnecessary ad hominem second paragraph undermines your good points. We don’t need to attack or denigrate each other with a such a broad brush in order to put a case. Let’s convince, not attack. I agree with your assessment of the lanes, but not of the people.

  15. Driving on 9th yesterday, I saw they are not done painting in the bike lane. The diagonal stripes make it much easier to see how the bike lane will work.

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