The City of Bellingham is in the discovery phase of updating its Bicycle Master Plan, with the aim to increase safety and improve existing infrastructure to make cycling more accessible. City officials are researching existing policies and plans, analyzing the current bicycle network and seeking public input.
Since the Bicycle Master Plan’s initial adoption in 2014, the city has completed over half of its recommended 164 miles of bikeway projects. This included the implementation of bike lanes along Billy Frank Jr. Street and Bill McDonald Parkway to make cycling more accessible to Western Washington University students commuting to and from campus.
However, Bellingham Public Works said on the Bicycle Discovery Phase web page that as the city’s population continues to grow and the needs of the community shift, updates to the plan have become necessary and community feedback is encouraged.
The city has already identified several key areas of focus for the updated plan, such as increasing safety for cyclists on roads by adding protected bike lanes and improving busy intersections. Other focus areas include expanding the bicycle network and improving connectivity between neighborhoods and major destinations.
Andrea Reiter is an environmental education and outreach specialist with the City of Bellingham Public Works Communication and Outreach team. She is the department’s main spokesperson for the 2022 Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan Updates project and has been updating the community and answering incoming questions.
“We’ve heard that residents would really like to see protected bike lanes from the north, east and south sides of the city to the downtown core,” Reiter said in an email.
Reiter said the city cannot make any promises yet, due to potential challenges such as funding and physical space on the roads. However, she also said some of the city’s next projects will include the implementation of new bike lanes on Eldridge and Cornwall Avenues, as well as on Meridian, Illinois and Girard Streets, beginning this summer.
Tammi Laninga is a Western associate professor in urban and environmental policy. She said adding marked bike lanes and signage on roads commonly used by cyclists are important aspects of creating a safe environment for commuters.
“Generally, people who are driving cars aren’t necessarily looking out for bicyclists. So anything that the city can do to notify the driver of a vehicle that [they’re on] a road that’s shared with bicyclists is really important,” Laninga said.
The updated plan is also expected to address issues such as the integration of cycling into the city’s transportation system and bike parking.
Mary Anderson is the senior transit planner at Whatcom Transportation Authority, and she often commutes to and from work by bike. She said that updates to the Bicycle Master Plan are important to WTA as they will include the implementation or improvement of infrastructure around the city that allow riders to safely get to the buses.
Anderson also said WTA is hoping that improvements to bike parking situations will encourage people to ride their bikes and the buses more often.
“If we’re able to have more and better bike parking — say, near the transit station or Lincoln Creek Park & Ride or whatever it might be — you can ride your bike to the transit station, safely and securely lock your bike up and then ride the bus up to campus or wherever it is that you need to go,” Anderson said.
The city encourages all community members to participate and help shape the future of Bellingham’s cycling infrastructure by filling out a survey and adding suggestions to an interactive map.
“It really is everybody working together, doing their own part, that makes biking fun to do in Bellingham,” Anderson said.
The public input period will run through May 31. After reviewing feedback from the community, the city will incorporate it into the updated plan, which is expected to be adopted at the end of this year along with the updated Pedestrian Master Plan.
Isabel Hyde (she/her) is a city news reporter for The Front. She is a third-year studying public relations. In her free time, she enjoys watching films, curling up with a good book, and going to local music shows. You can reach her at email@example.com.