Thursday, November 16, 2017

First in Bellingham, a bike lane on right side of parked cars. Past Bellingham Gather Apartments



I've heard about this being done in Europe and seen it in Portland, OR. but this is the first time I have seen this in Bellingham. A bike lane on the far side of parked cars that's protected from the traffic lane. It's on Forest Street going by a big new apartment complex.

That stretch of street has an interesting history. Built in the early 1980s as the "Ivy Street Connector." Connects northbound Forest Street to the Boulevard. It was designed as part of a one way system as State Street takes the southbound traffic.

About 15 years ago, the lanes were reduced on State Street from 3 lanes to 2 lanes and a bike lane. Better for bikes. Also, who needs 3 southbound lanes leading to 1 when it gets to the boulevard? Later that improvement also came to Forest.

Then they decided to build this large apartment complex. Only part of it is shown in the picture. Density, which is often better for bikes, pedestrians and transit. Bellingham has a housing shortage. Population growth.

Now Ivy Street Connector to northbound Forest is down to one lane plus the bike lane and parking. Seems to work good. Maybe drivers will grumble that there is only one lane, but there's also need for more parking with all those apartments. There's parking garages in the apartment complex as well, but there's, of course, never enough of anything. That's true in this life, I guess.

Seems like the setup works pretty well. More housing and now we have a protected bike lane behind the parked cars. First one of these I've seen in Bellingham.

Some people grumble that the apartments are too "cookie cutter dull," but that's yet another story.

Back in early 1980s, some people in the neighborhood complained about the building of the Ivy Street Connector. I lived on Forest Street, then and wrote a letter to Bellingham Herald. Surprising some folks, I was kind of justifying construction of the connector, but blaming the whole thing on people's over dependence on automobiles.

Here is letter text from my archive. Early 1980s.

Now that the Ivy Street connector is finished noise and traffic has arrived here on Forest Street. It would have been nice if we could have preserved quietness in this neighborhood by keeping through traffic out. Some of my neighbors tried to stop the city from building the connector; but their opposition did not do much good.

The opposition could not contend with the fact that there is no other viable place to route excess State Street traffic; and State Street; itself; has become too crowded. Efforts to stop construction of a street in order to preserve quiet in a local neighborhood are no match against the overall circulation needs of the city.

Underneath this dilemma lies a deeper issue: There are too many cars on American streets. If we could get thousands of local people to agree on drastically reducing the number of trips they take in their cars; the bottleneck on State Street could have been solved without ever needing to build the Ivy Street connector. If thousands of people could agree to walk; bike or ride the bus instead of using their cars; Forest Street could have remained a quiet residential street.

We tend to blame our city planners when a quiet neighborhood is disrupted by a noisy street; but planners are often just as helpless as we are. If State Street is too crowded; while Forest Street is the only other economically viable place to route the traffic; planners must follow inevitable circumstances. The best way we have for preserving quiet neighborhoods is to get our people using their cars less. This is something we cannot look to our city planners to do for us. It is something the people; themselves; must do. We may not be as helpless as we think.

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