How Oahu Bike Plan Will Improve Access to Public Transportation

The battle for better bike infrastructure has been ongoing since the 1980s, but little progress has been made. Last month, 14 young people from Hawaii sued the state for operating a transportation system that damages the climate by prioritizing highway construction over more environmentally friendly modes of transportation. The state plan for bicycles has not been implemented in the past 10 years, and cycling is not high on the Department of Transportation's priority list. The state of bicycle transportation in Hawaii is weak, with only one bicycle-friendly community, Honolulu, along with four bicycle-friendly businesses and no bicycle-friendly universities, according to the League of American Cyclists.

However, with pleasant weather all year round, flat urban areas hugging the coast and master plans already in place, there is no excuse for stagnation, activists say. At the county level, Honolulu has taken steps to encourage the use of bicycles with the City and County of Honolulu Bicycle Program, the Complete Streets Program, which repaves old streets with infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, the Honolulu bike sharing system, Biki, and a Bicycle Month that every July is filled with scheduled events. The state still has much work to do to increase the comfort, safety, and accessibility of cycling across the state. Ching attributes the state impasse to the scant chance of success in the world of cycling activism.

Ching has been pushing for the installation of what is known as the Sotavento Bikeway since the 2000s and finally saw the DOT start the first phase of the project late last year. The trail will connect from where the Pearl Harbor bicycle path ends on Waipahu Depot Road with the Hawaii Railway Society depot in Ewa. Ching reflected: “I hope that, before he dies, he will go through the first phase of the Leeward Bikeway.” The same is true in Maui and Kauai, where Saman Dias of the Maui Cycling League and Tommy Noyes of Kauai Path have learned to expect long delays. Noyes is eager to see progress in plans for bike lanes on Kauai but understands that “complex and lengthy legal and planning processes” take a long time before actual construction can be expected.

Activists attribute erratic deadlines to different priorities of different administrations. The Caldwell administration made headway in investing in bicycle infrastructure in Honolulu while Blangiardi government hasn't shown much commitment yet. However, Chris Sayers, bicycle program coordinator for Honolulu said that “the current administration supports bicycle improvements and other efforts to improve transportation options and reduce the climate footprint of the city's transportation system.” Even under a pro-bicycle administration, bicycle infrastructure is highly controversial. Many drivers encountered protected King Street bike path with heavy resistance due to loss of parking spaces or traffic lanes to go to bike paths.

Public resistance is one of main barriers to bicycle infrastructure projects for DTS. Ultimately, Hawaii needs a safer bicycle infrastructure to fully incorporate bicycles into state transportation system. The results of this year's Bike Plan Hawaii Refresh survey show that lack of bike paths along with unsafe drivers are main reason why bicycles rust in garages across state despite boom in bicycles during pandemic. Transforming Hawaii's fractured bicycle lane network into a cycle lane collar will also be key to promoting ridership.

Bicycle infrastructure must also become a funding priority for state to help transition. Another project awaiting funding is reconstruction of Sunset Beach bike path for which Rex Dubiel Shanahan has been lobbying Mayor Rick Blangiardi for his entire administration. Hawaii has a long way to go but perhaps with right infrastructure, funding and initiative we can use our bicycles. Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization and your gift helps us produce local reports that serve all of Hawaii.

Mahalo for shedding light on a topic close to my heart - I've been biking for more than 20 years and I welcome every new bike path no matter how small and disconnected as a good thing. The net result of reading your article is to motivate me to donate to HBL and help with promotional efforts. I'm hoping to hear about bike lanes of future but it infuriates me how long we've had to wait. Crowded inbox? Don't worry you can unsubscribe or update your preferences at any time.

This comprehensive plan was prepared with broad public participation and includes a wide range of recommendations that support Plan's vision of an island community where cycling is a safe, viable and popular travel option for residents and visitors of all ages. The need for improved access to public transportation in Oahu is clear - cycling infrastructure has been neglected for far too long despite its potential benefits for both individuals and society as a whole. With pleasant weather all year round, flat urban areas hugging the coast and master plans already in place, there is no excuse for stagnation when it comes to improving access to public transportation through cycling initiatives. At both county and state levels there are initiatives underway that are designed to encourage more people onto their bikes - from Honolulu's City & County Bicycle Program & Complete Streets Program which repave old streets with infrastructure for cyclists & pedestrians; through Biki - Honolulu's bike sharing system; right up to Bike Plan Hawaii Refresh survey which aims to identify areas where improvements can be made & provide feedback on how best these can be implemented. However, despite these efforts there are still many obstacles standing in the way - from public resistance due to loss of parking spaces or traffic lanes; through complex & lengthy legal & planning processes; right up to lack of funding & erratic deadlines due to different priorities from different administrations - all these factors contribute towards making it difficult for cycling initiatives & projects to get off the ground & become reality. Ultimately though if we are serious about improving access to public transportation through cycling then we must make it a priority & ensure that it receives adequate funding & support from both local & state governments - only then will we be able to transform our fractured bicycle lane network into a cycle lane collar that will promote ridership & make cycling an attractive option for residents & visitors alike. Hawaii has come a long way since its first foray into cycling activism back in 1980s but there is still much work left do if we are going make cycling an integral part of our public transportation system - so let's get out there & make it happen!.

Marci Carlini
Marci Carlini

Subtly charming creator. Infuriatingly humble coffee specialist. Freelance zombie buff. Professional social media advocate. Infuriatingly humble food junkie.

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