Friday, November 23, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle's ready to peddle the pedal

What is the best thing about the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan? Project manager Peter Lagerwey of the Seattle Department of Transportation is emphatic: "It's going to happen."

A 10-year plan to add hundreds of miles of bikeways to Seattle streets will not molder on a shelf. Working off the enthusiasm of a growing community of bicyclists and powered by money approved by voters in 2006, elements of the plan have been under way since spring. An estimated 6,000 Seattle residents use bicycles to get to work. One goal is to triple that number by 2017, and do it while safety for bicyclists is improved throughout the city.

As the price of gasoline soars, and concerns about greenhouse-gas emissions are incorporated into daily lives, the bicycle plan contains a key observation:

"Many people would choose to bicycle if they had a connected network of comfortable, safe bicycle facilities throughout the city."

They are coming. In the first three years of the plan, the city will add 64 miles of bike lanes and hill-climbing lanes, 54 miles of marked lanes shared with cars, seven miles of bicycle boulevards, 29 miles of signed local street connections and 42 miles of multiuse trails.

Local dollars will provide about $3 million a year, but the total build-out of bicycle facilities relies on state and federal support with the 10-year vision costing about $240 million. The key is planning for bicycles as streets and roads are repaved, expanded or added.

David Hiller, of the Cascade Bicycle Club, credits broad public participation via hearings, surveys, Web sites and community meetings with producing a good plan that tapped into neighborhood groups, freight haulers and others besides cycling organizations.

For all of the physical improvements to the cycling landscape, public education is one of the plan's most important elements. Motorists need to know more bike riders are coming, and learn those painted chevrons on the street reinforce the right of cyclists to be in the roadway.

Cyclists need to obey traffic laws. Portland expanded its bike lanes, attracted more inexperienced and reckless riders and suffered an angry backlash from the public.

Seattle's bike plan is creative, expansive and, best of all, "It's going to happen."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


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