Opinion

Good going on Ericksen

So we were walking down Ericksen Avenue the other day, and something about the experience seemed weird and unfamiliar.

Dazed and disoriented, we found ourselves not wandering in and out of traffic, nor stumbling along the precipitous edge of a drainage ditch or trespassing across the frontages of private lawns, and not once diving out of the path of speeding vehicles heading toward the ferry. As we came to realize, our very

safety was the source of our confusion; all the usual perilous hallmarks of the Ericksen pedestrian experience had been swept away.

All by a simple sidewalk.

Not that a sidewalk is ever simple on Bainbridge Island, as the pedestrian safety team from our local Senior Center found when they began lobbying for the project nearly four years ago. Upon their vigorous endorsement, there ensued rigorous disagreements amongst islanders – many of whom lived miles away – over desirable amenities and right-of-way widths, and concerns over the cost of utility improvements and underground power lines. Would changes damage the character of the historically (although not recently) sleepy byway? Should the project be held in abeyance as a broader (but since abandoned) Winslow planning “roundtable” took place? Was it linked to formalization of the popular vehicle thru-way disguised as a bank parking lot? One-way traffic or two? (And if one, which direction?)

Glaciers moved, new planets were born, councils reached consensus; landscaped planter strips came and went, as did elevated, traffic-calming “speed tables”; a sidewalk on the east side of the street was sacrificed on the altar of neighborhood pique.

No, even in the sidewalk’s simplicity it was not a simple

sidewalk. But the project has made sense for years, ever since islanders at large signed off on a Comprehensive Plan designed to funnel more people into our urban core; the results, now open for the treading, are as close to perfection

as a community can likely achieve.

Ericksen Avenue has finally caught up with the times.

So if you haven’t taken a saunter through that corner of town lately, by all means do so, even as work crews put the finishing touches on utilities and connections with private drives. Amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists, underground power, familiar trees still standing tall – Ericksen Avenue has everything these days.

All it’s missing is a connection to Hildebrand Lane.

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