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[Editor’s Note: This article was cross-posted from PeopleForBikes.]

A few months after Honolulu’s first protected bike lane opened, it’s the latest to demonstrate a very consistent trend across the country: almost every protected bike lane cuts sidewalk biking in half.

From August 2014 (before barriers were installed) to February 2015 (after), the number of bikes using King Street (both directions, road bed and sidewalk combined) soared 71 percent.

An opening ceremony for King Street's protected bike lane in December. (Courtesy Being 808)
An opening ceremony for King Street’s protected bike lane in December. (Courtesy Being 808)

And in the same period, Honolulu bicycle coordinator Chris Sayers said Monday, the number of bikes on the sidewalk plummeted 65 percent.

That’s no big surprise, because someone biking on a sidewalk is just trying to ride in the protected bike lane that isn’t there. When cities make part of a street comfortable to bike in, people naturally choose to use it.

That makes things better for everybody, Sayers said. “It just sort of organizes the whole roadway better,” he said.

We’ve been in touch with bike coordinators around the country who’ve done similar counts, and compiled every such study we’re aware of into the chart below. Honolulu’s finding is strikingly consistent with the others, all of which saw between a 27 percent drop in sidewalk biking (L Street in Washington DC) to an 81 percent drop (Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, New York).

honolulu-bike-lane-02

As you can see, those declines took place even though each protected bike lane  dramatically boosted the total number of bikers. King Street is no exception; Sayers said riders have been so eager to use it that the city had to accelerate its plans to convert the 10-foot-wide lane with a three-foot buffer from a one-direction to a two-direction.

On Monday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell personally installed the first of 13 bike-specific signals on King Street. They’ll complete the lane’s conversion to two-way, with a buffer of curbs, posts and parked cars.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell celebrated a milestone on Monday. (Courtesy City of Honolulu)
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell celebrated a milestone on Monday. (Courtesy City of Honolulu)

“I think nobody anticipated it to be so many people, that the desire would be so strong to do the two-way immediately,” Sayers said. “We had to hurry up to get this done.”

[Top image: An opening ceremony for King Street’s protected bike lane in December. Courtesy Being 808. ]
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Michael Andersen

Michael Andersen

Staff Writer at Green Lane Project
The Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.
Michael Andersen

6 COMMENTS

  1. I am not certain that I understand. This article celebrates that bikes on sidewalks have dropped by 65%. Aren’t bicycles on the sidewalk against the law in most cities? Us bicyclists must follow local traffic laws if we want to be respected. We can’t have it both ways. Bikes on sidewalks are dangerous to pedestrians. Laws against cyclists on the sidewalk should be enforced.

  2. The Honolulu King street bike lane is a travesty!

    While it has doubled my car commute time from 15 to 30 minutes, the real problem is that the cyclists act like they are in a protective cocoon.

    There are numerous cross streets and driveways along this route. Since there is a line of parked cars between the cyclist and the traffic, cars don’t always see the cyclist. But truly the worst is the way many cyclists don’t check traffic when at greenlight cross streets. They just go right through, obliviosly.

    In my years of cycle commuting, I always kept my eye out for dangers. Now we are teaching cyclist to bike without using common sense.

    Remember as a child being told to look both ways before crossing a road? Just go out and watch what is happening on this street and you will rue the day some bureaucrat came up with this poorly designed system.

    A city law suit will come soon. I expect that this tax payer paid project will be removed in a year. Way to go Mayor Caldwell and your over paid cronies.

  3. Let me get this straight: A city installs a special sidewalk for cyclists, and sees a drop in the number of cyclists who misuse pedestrian space, but still celebrates the bad geometry that such special infrastructure creates at intersections and driveways where the crashes happen and bicycle users get injured because cyclists are still considered inferior users of shared public space that have to be corralled into their own space because cycling is so dangerous otherwise because cyclists have been treated like evil stepchildren of the transportation system for the last hundred years or so anyway…

    Got it.

  4. There are bike lanes on both sides of Westport Road between Hubbards Lane and Herr Lane. I routinely see as many people using bicycles on the sidewalks as I did before Westport Road was widened six or eight years ago.

    I asked a local bike lane advocate whether he would allow his child to bicycle on Westport Road, now that the wonderfully-safe bike lanes are there, and got the response “Heck, no!”

    So, instead of a cyclist being allowed to control an eleven-foot travel lane, and get motorists to change lanes and give the cyclist several feet of passing clearance, a cyclist is required by Kentucky law (KRS 189.287 establishes that KYTC can promulgate idiocy like 601KAR14:020 (9) (2) which requires that if a bike lane is present, the cyclist must use it if feasible. The last two words of that sentence translate to “if the cyclist knows that the bike lane is a hazardous line of travel, the cyclist may reasonably expect to be second-guessed by people with subject matter expertise approximating that of a tennis ball, but who also hold arrest powers.”

    Unless and until those advocating for on-street bike lanes recognize that they are creating ghettos where cyclists are required to ride AND fomenting harassment for any cyclist that refuses to use a marked shoulder because the harassing motorist fails to understand or recognize the difference between a marked shoulder and a properly-designed bike lane, I will work to keep on-street bike lanes from being built. 90+% percent of them give the rest a bad name. They do nothing to protect cyclists (the numbers of cyclists who are hit while in bike lanes nationwide proves this point), and do much to endanger cyclists (designers who claim that they can “mitigate” the hazards bike lanes add in and near intersections start by admitting that they are increasing the risks of crossing conflicts in those areas, thus violating the “do no harm” part of any sound engineering code of ethics).

  5. Why can’t we think outside the box and try something different? Protected bike lane sounds great in theory and in some places it is the only solution, but we can’t have protected lanes everywhere we want to go. In city like Louisville, upgrading the sidewalks to accommodate both bikes and pedastrians might be the best solution. It works at many of our parks where cyclist and walker share paths without problems. I walk and cycle around downtown and Bardstown rd area and I hardly ever see anyone using the side walk. So making another road just for bikes is waste of space and money.

  6. bikes belong on the road, not the sidewalks. If you are going to ride downtown, you need to learn how to ride in traffic. forget the bike lanes, just go with the traffice AND OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS!

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