"Councilmember Jahncke stated that bicycles need to be addressed island-wide before putting a bike lane on North Mercer Way. This is a policy issue and should not be driven by the City Engineer. He proposed that the Council addresses the broader issue on bicycles on Mercer Island by ordinance. This issue needs to be addressed and implemented not just discussed.
It was moved by Councilmember Jahncke; seconded by Councilmember Goldmanis to:
Be understood that all improvements to North Mercer Way (on City owned right-of-way) between 77th Avenue SE and 80th Avenue SE, including lane configurations, sidewalks and landscaping and excluding the Park-and Ride lot, are a matter of City Council policy and staff is directed to take no further actions to approve changes to North Mercer Way without City Council review and approval.
The Chair put the question on the motion; Motion Passed 4-3 (Deputy Mayor Cairns, Mayor Merkle and Councilmember Pearman dissented)."
At the 2/7/05 City Council Meeting, the "bicycle issue" was discussed. The City Council is concerned with large groups of cyclists impeding traffic by riding 2 abreast on the island and occasionally insulting passing motorist. Unfortunately the feelings of at least one council member were very negative toward cyclist.
At the 2/25/05 City Council Meeting, the same negative feelings were expressed by El Jahncke who stated "We do not need a bicycle lane in front of the P&R, because the bikers will ignore all the rules of the road". On 3/3/05, when Jim Hunt (a Kirkland resident who commutes on Mercer Island) contacted El Jahncke to express his concerns about the negative statements toward cyclist and he was told by El "If you do not want to hear the negative comments - you do not have to come to the meetings".
It is true that you do not need to come to the MI City Council meetings, but if you are interested in a safe bicycle route in front of the new MI Park & Ride - we need your help! If you are interested in seeing the MI City Council promote bicycle street improvements - we need your help!
From my perspective the 3/7/05 Mercer Island City Council Meeting was very discouraging. Both city staff and Sound Transit staff & engineers re-recommended a dedicated bike lane on North Mercer Way in front of the proposed modified P&R. The bike lane would be 5 feet wide and be on both sides of the street.
Basically they came back with the same proposal that the city council disapproved on 11/15/04. This alone was a bad start. Also the proposal was presented as being beneficial to the “fast cyclist” and approved by the Cascade Bicycle Club – a definite red flag (in my humble opinion) for the city council members who are very unhappy with cyclist on the island. These council members feel that it is necessary to resolve the “bicycle issues” before anything beneficial toward cyclists can be considered. (Even if/when the issues are “addressed”, I have concerns that the needs of recreational & commuter cyclists will then be given consideration. These council members have been newly re-elected with terms ending in 2007.)
A proposal to move bicycle traffic to behind the P&R on SE 24th Street instead of using bike lanes on North Mercer Way was adopted with a 3-2 vote. With Deputy Mayor Bryan Cairns absenting and Council Member El Jahncke absent.
In addition to other philosophical issues concerning bicycling (discussed above), the council was concerned about safety issues. They feel that current problems including “road rage” are a result of mixing cars & bikes and it is best to keep them separated or “buffered”. They were also concerned that the use of the east bound bike lane would force cyclist to cross traffic twice.
From a bottom line perspective, the cyclist is seen a minority user of the area transportation system. It did not seem reasonable to several council members that asphalt needed for cars be used by cyclists. For example, if only 6% of the travel past North Mercer Way is by cyclist – why give them 23% of the roadway.
A proposal by Council Members Steve Litzon & Sven Goldmanis to remove Goal 12 of the MI Comprehensive Plan – Transportation Element – was narrowly defeated. With El Jahncke return for the final reading/approval, Goal 12 may not make the final plan.
(GOAL 12: Promote bicycle networks that safely access and link commercial areas, residential areas, schools, and parks within the City.
12.1 Maximize the safety and functionality of the bicycle system by enhancing road shoulders to ensure an appropriate buffer between motorized and non-motorized vehicles.
12.2 Implement the Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities Plan, which provides for a safe, coordinated system of bikeways, walkways and trails, including through bicycle routes, to meet existing and anticipated needs for nonmotorized transportation. This Plan should be coordinated with other transportation planning efforts and periodically updated.
12.3 Emphasize non-motorized improvements that provide alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles and ensure that bike transportation remains an important component of community identity.)
On a positive note, the council members reframed from the general negative comments about cyclist prevalent in the last 2 meetings. This may have resulted from my comments (see attached file) given during the “Public Appearances” part of the meeting or by the absence of Council Member El Jahncke who seems to be the most frustrated council member with the bicycle issues on the island.
Please consider adding April 18th to your calendars. This is the meeting tentatively set to address the “safety (ie bicycle) issues” with applicable ordinances etc. The council seemed impressed with my cycling apparel while delivering my public comments, so if you cycle to the meeting – dress accordingly. Please consider strict observance of stop signs/lights etc. on Mercer Island to avoid contributing to the perception that cyclists do not follow the rules of the road and therefore do not deserve the time of the day.
Thanks for the Mercer Island cyclists who showed up at the meeting.