A number of streets in Blaine could be made friendlier to bicyclists, and Blaine public works staff are receptive to public comment on where bike lanes or shared roadways need to be added most.
However, space limitations often determine where the city can add dedicated bike lanes, acting Blaine public works director Bill Bullock said. Roads designed to be shared by bikes and cars but lacking bike lanes are typically slightly wider than normal roads, and bike lanes add between 3 and 5 feet.
“It’s very, very difficult to add extra width,” Bullock said.
The best option for bicyclists is dedicated bike lanes, but shared roadways are another option when widening the road is not possible. In addition to being slightly wider than normal roads, shared roads are outfitted with additional signage and striping that tells drivers to be aware of bicyclists.
“We don’t really have a rigorous process for determining what [road] gets a bike route and what doesn’t,” Bullock said. “We try to accommodate the best we can allow for, and hopefully in the end we get the best results.”
Sometimes city public works staff will determine a road would benefit more from becoming a shared roadway than from dedicated bike lanes. The city recently re-striped the section of D Street from the I-5 overpass to 4th Street to make more room for bicyclists, parked cars and cars on the roadway.
Previously, this section of D Street had parallel parking spaces and a dedicated bike lane, but Bullock said parked cars would often encroach into the bike lane. This forced bicyclists to veer into the drive lanes to avoid the parked cars.
The city painted over the bike lanes, but made the drive lanes wider and added striping that designated the road as a shared roadway. So instead of drivers unexpectedly seeing bikes veer into the drive lanes to avoid parked cars, drivers are now expected to see bikes sharing the roadway.
City public works staff went a similar route with the reconstructed H Street by widening the road and adding shared roadway striping instead of bike lanes, Bullock explained. To add bike lanes, the city would have had to eliminate the center turn lane, which Bullock said bicyclists can also use and provides a safer road for driver and bicyclist.
The city is aware of a few trouble areas where space for bicyclists is extremely limited, such as the section of Peace Portal Drive from Cherry Street to Bayview Avenue. Public works staff are planning a 4,400-foot-long paved bike and pedestrian path that would run along the east side of Peace Portal Drive separate from the road. Bullock said construction on this project should start next spring.
In the longer term – five to 10 years – Bullock said Blaine public works is looking at providing a dedicated bike and pedestrian path through the old airport property and stretching a bike path out to the Pipeline Fields. In the meantime, Bullock said the city will continue to use public opinion as a gauge to direct where bicycle and pedestrian route improvements can be made.