On the right path? Both ways on one side?

Bainbridge Island’s plan for the Eagle Harbor Drive-Wyatt Way Non-Motorized Improvement Project has been criticized because the paths are too narrow.

As a result, it’s not safe for All Ages, All Abilities, which is what’s called for in the Sustainable Transportation Plan. It would only be used by experienced bicyclists.

So the idea of putting lanes in both directions on one side of the road received major support at an Open House at City Hall Jan. 25. That route would save a lot of space and allow the paths to be wider. It also would allow room for a curb or some other safety feature, rather than painted stripes.

Public Works Director Chris Wierzbicki led the discussion on the $6.8 million project. Other design options included raised wedge-style curbs, safety rails and planter boxes.

Green Light Garage owner Nick Allen said his business works on about 80 cars daily and a 6-foot bike lane in front of his place would be dangerous. Some of the space would cut into the front of his road-facing lot, where tow trucks drop off cars and where Allen meets customers.

Eagle Harbor Drive residents Marya Dominik and Rakesh Bharania expressed their concerns about drainage for the paved shoulders for the bike lanes, speeding drivers, and visibility issues at the intersections of Bucklin Road and Eagle Harbor Drive, along with at Finch and Wyatt. They want to see traffic calming and protected bike lanes for cyclists and walkers who face significant risk when attempting to cross those roads.

Dominik identified the people who ride by her property and said: “Right now, you see a lot of solo riders. You don’t see families, you don’t see cargo bikes, you don’t see parents riding with their kids to school, and that’s because of the speeds.”

One group noted that installing a three-way stop at Eagle Harbor Drive NE and Blakely Avenue near Adams Park would slow traffic before the curve around Green Light Garage.

With vehicle speeds exceeding 40 miles per hour residents raised concerns for their children. One mother with two girls who bike to school along Eagle Harbor Drive would like to see separate bike paths. She said regular maintenance to sweep the path is needed to prevent slipping on debris at the bottom of the hill, but the path cannot be swept with current city equipment.

Wierzbicki acknowledged the need and said the city is looking for one. “We have the money to buy a small sweeper, but we haven’t been able to find one yet.”

Other residents mentioned sea level rise and asked about the lifespan of the project, which Wierzbicki said is 75 years. Several attendees advocated for additional lighting at the top of Bucklin Hill.

At the end of the meeting, Dominik was hopeful, “I think we’re in a situation with a chance to do what’s right. To create something that fits the culture of Bainbridge Island, that doesn’t just turn this whole section into a major thoroughfare, that adds to the beauty of it and makes it a really beautiful place to walk….

“There’s all sorts of ways to make this useful, but also something that Bainbridge Island can be proud of.”

Public comment

The issue was also discussed during public comments the night before at the City Council meeting.Some were concerned about so much money being spent without input from experts.

“These are high-cost choices that will impact us for decades,” Susan Loftus said. She suggested, and two who commented later agreed, that putting two-way traffic on one side of the road would be a great idea in an area so narrow. That would require less right of way and the same number of road crossings that there are in the current city plan. She also advised that phasing in the project in three stages would spread out the cost.

Alyse Nelson agreed it needs to be the best it can be so the maximum number of people can use it as it will connect a lot of the island. She said there are great tools out there to help, and options that can be done “without breaking the bank.” Fran Korten agreed it needs to benefit the whole community, not just current bicyclists. She said all ages and abilities won’t feel safe with just a white stripe separating them from traffic. “What is needed is real protection.”

Peter Harris and Richard Potter were more in favor of getting it done. Harris said BI should be more interested in the safety of those who will use the path rather than thinking mostly about the comfort (safety) of those who possibly could use it maybe at some time. Potter said the main thing holding the project back from being better is money, and the city recently had $5 million extra in savings that should be used for the project.