Transport group Olympia offers improved cycle lanes on the streets

By Lorilyn C. Lirio

Olympia’s Public Works Transport Group has proposed the inclusion of improved cycle lanes in the Engineering Design and Development Standards or EDDS, linking them to future road works in the city.

Joey Johnson, a project engineer with the Public Works Transportation Group, discussed the improved cycle routes at the Planning Commission meeting yesterday, August 1.

Johnson said Public Works updates the EDDS annually. This year, they propose three modifications or additions that they wanted to add to Chapter 4 of the EDDS, which deals with transport:

  • Drawings of five types of improved cycle paths
  • Text on when space should be provided on major streets
  • Changes to standard drawings

“We are all used to seeing [traditional] bike lanes on the streets – you have your typical 10-11 foot lane for travel vehicles and then a five foot bike lane right next to it,” Johnson explained. Improved bike path provides additional protection or more separation for cyclists.

“It just improves the lane by five feet,” Johnson added.

Why Improved Lanes Can Be Expensive

Johnson warned that improved bike lanes could be costly because they take up more space to create separation from the vehicle traffic lane.

“We need more physical space, whether it’s additional right-of-way or otherwise. It can add substantial cost. We have to be strategic and we have to plan for them,” he said.

Creation of cycle paths

Johnson said their goal is for improved bike lanes to be part of all arterials and major collectors. Arterials are the streets with the highest volume of vehicles per day, while Major Collectors are next level with the number of cars that pass through them daily.

To add an improved bike path, Johnson said the road itself may need to be widened and rebuilt. “When we have major road reconstruction projects, we might add an improved cycle path at that time.”

It also provided for segments of improved cycle paths through facade improvements in the development, whether commercial or residential.

New cost for property developers

The city would require developers to incorporate improved bike lanes over 300 feet of frontage improvements.

The committee is currently studying the construction of improved cycle lanes for the next major street reconstructions at Fones Road, Mottman Road, Wiggins Road and Martin Way.

Proposed designs

Johnson presented five proposed bike lane designs that they plan to include in the EDDS. He said this would be the norm for these private projects and developments:

  • Buffered bike lane – is the least separated improved bike lane. This is a buffer zone of at least two feet that would separate cyclists from vehicle lanes.
  • Separate bike path – it has a minimum buffer zone of three feet and some vertical elements to increase this separation for the cyclist. This vertical element can be many things. These can be tubular markers, planters or mobile planters.
  • Bike lane protected from parking – it could be built on streets with parking. The bike lane is inside the parked car towards the sidewalk. Parked vehicles act as a vertical separation from the traffic lane.
  • Shared use trail – similar to the elevated bike lane and separated by sidewalks. Johnson said he had a wider sidewalk where bikes and pedestrians used the lane.
  • Raised bike lane separated by the sidewalk – the bike lane is at the level of the sidewalk. The cyclist is inside the ferry and sheltered from vehicles.

“You need some sort of delineation of where the bike lane is and where the sidewalk is to avoid conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists,” Johnson said, adding that his particular design is what they envision for Fones Road, Johnson noted.

Johnson added that the shared path should be used in an area with less bicycle and pedestrian volumes.

Maria R. Newman