This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Bike lanes are key element in ‘Complete Streets’
Some drivers were not amused when a short stretch of North 21st Street in Tacoma recently went from two lanes to one to accommodate new bike lanes.
Chances are, many of the critics use the North 21st arterial to quickly get from one end of town to the other and resent "calming" strategies that add a little time to their commute. But those strategies are the very things the people who actually live in the neighborhood tend to like because they slow down traffic and make it safer to walk or bicycle.
Building bike lanes, curb extensions, medians, sidewalks or wide paved shoulders are part of the "Complete Streets" program that Tacoma leaders have bought into, which means that more city roads will be reconfigured in coming years to enhance access to pedestrians, cyclists and transit users as well as motorists.
For instance, within the next several weeks, bike lanes will be added to South 12th Street between Sprague and Union avenues. To accommodate the change, the eastbound two lanes will go down to one lane.
Critics of such changes often ask why capacity should be taken from motorized users and given to bike lanes when there aren’t that many bicyclists. One reason is that cyclists may be avoiding a particular street because it’s so dangerous. Build bike lanes and more people likely will be willing to venture out and use them, perhaps even switching from cars to bikes for at least some of their transportation needs.
From a quality-of-life perspective, making that choice available is important. Fewer cars means less pollution. More people riding bikes means healthier residents. Little wonder that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is a key supporter of the Complete Streets concept.
Traffic-calming measures like adding bike lanes may mean that motorists have to drive a little slower than they’ve been accustomed to. If making city streets safer means adding a little time to the daily commute, that is a price drivers should be willing to pay.