biker on Eagle Harbor Drive

Bikers on Eagle Harbor Drive. Photo credit: Demi Allen

A particularly dangerous section of Eagle Harbor Drive will soon be made safer for bikers. That is the promise of the $925,000 plan unanimously approved by the Bainbridge City Council at its June 23 meeting.

Under the plan, on the one-mile section going west from McDonald Road toward the shoreline, there will be a protected lane for bikers on the south side (uphill) of the road, separated by a vegetated buffer; but on the north side there will only be a 5 foot wide path with no physical buffer.

The approved project was a revision of a plan the Public Works Department had submitted to the Council on June 9. Under that plan on each side of the road there was to be a 5 foot-wide lane “visually separated” from the road by 2 feet of striped pavement. At the urging of members of the community including several from Bainbridge GreenWays, the Council asked the Department to determine whether there could be physically separated pathways on both sides of the road, as required to meet the “all ages and abilities” criteria for bikers and walkers.

While the Council unanimously approved new plan, some members expressed disappointment that there would not be a separated pathway on the north side of the road. Councilmember Christy Carr noted that we are in a transition period, in which we cannot always get what we really want. Public Works Director Chris Wierzbicki, noted that we are living with the legacy of plans made in the past. Several council members complimented Wierzbicki for the work the department had done to come up with a safer design.

The council was under pressure to approve the project. Funding for the project depends on a $700,000 federal government grant for which approved designs must be submitted by July 15. The project’s remaining $225,000 will come from the city. Construction is planned for the fall.

Issues related to biking and walking infrastructure have gained new importance as Bainbridge sets ambitious targets for reducing its greenhouse gases under its draft Climate Action Plan. To meet its proposed targets, Bainbridge will need to greatly expand the number of people who bike, walk, or use public transportation.

Research shows that only about 7 percent of the population feels comfortable biking on the shoulders of busy roads. But another 60 percent are interested in biking if they feel it is safe. To attract that larger population, physically separated pathways on busy streets will be essential. Councilmembers indicated their desire to plan ahead better in the future to put in place the infrastructure that best meets the “all ages and abilities” criteria.