Q & A: The Fight Over Cycling Bike Lanes

1. HONOLULU HAS SEEN CONTROVERSIES RECENTLY OVER ESTABLISHING OR EXPANDING DEDICATED BICYCLE LANES. SHOULD THE CITY BE EXPANDING HONOLULU’S BIKE LANES?

Yes. And for several very good reasons. First, given the current obesity epidemic, the City ought to be encouraging activities that provide residents with more opportunities to exercise. Bicycling lanes provide such opportunities.

Second, bicycling lanes centered around Waikiki should improve the attractiveness of the destination. Tourists are increasingly looking for “green” destinations. More tourists using bicycles in the Waikiki/Kahala/Kaimuki/Manoa/Moiliili/McCully areas could reduce traffic congestion in these areas due to reduced use of rental cars.

Third, bicycling lanes can offer alternative commuting opportunities where people live close to work, high schools, or universities. Honolulu has the weather to allow commuting over 300 days per year by bicycle!

2. SO WHY THE CONTROVERSY?

Bicycle lanes can lead to less parking and sometimes to fewer lanes for drivers.

Businesses on Waialae Ave in Kaimuki have opposed bike lanes because they could eliminate parking on one side of the street if bike lanes are installed. There is, however, a parking lot in the restaurant row district between 9th and 12th Ave that could be redeveloped to provide more parking. Bicycle lanes could also bring more tourists from Waikiki and surrounding neighborhood to enjoy the Kaimuki restaurants. They might also facilitate redevelopment of some side street blocks as café streets.

3. WILL THE CONTROVERSY GO AWAY?

No, it won’t. Even if expansion of biking infrastructure leads to social gains, there will be some losers—for example those East Honolulu residents who use Waialae Ave as a commuting freeway. Losers are often quite vocal, organize and engage in political action to stop such ventures.

Expansion of biking paths has worked elsewhere—just look at Manhattan’s introduction of bike lanes—and can work here. The key is to place them in selected areas where there are big groups of people –students, commuters going only a few miles, and exercisers—who are ready to use them!

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