BI votes against experts to feel safer

Green Light Garage wanted it, as did nearby residents and the bicycle group Squeaky Wheels.

It would have been more cost-effective and done less damage to wetlands. And it would have been better for all ages and abilities with wider lanes.

But the Bainbridge Island City Council Tuesday night voted 4-3 against using bi-directional lanes on the Eagle Harbor-Wyatt Way nonmotorized improvement project.

The majority felt the other option was safer.

Mayor Brenda Fantroy-Johnson, for one, didn’t understand the vote. “We get expert opinion then don’t listen to it. We do that a lot.”

The council decided on Alternative D, which uses narrow lanes on both sides of the roads. City staff and the expert consultants thought Alternative E, a bi-directional lane on one side with wider lanes, was the better option.

Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki gave his opinion on experts. “The engineers signed off on the Titanic.”

Fantroy-Johnson said either option was better than the current situation, which is “terrifying. It will never be 100 percent safe.”

The mayor said she sided with the people who live and work there. Councilmember Joe Deets agreed because “those most affected by it” want bi-directional, and it’s more efficient.

Councilmember Leslie Schneider, who is a cyclist, along with Deets, sided with the minority. She said just like with a road if the path gets busy, “Everyone will just need to slow down.” She said serious cyclists wouldn’t use either infrastructure. “Just because there’s a (bike) lane over there, I’m entitled to use this lane,” she said of riding with vehicle traffic. “If we choose D we won’t make anyone happy.”

But the others said even though the experts said both alternatives are safe, they wanted Alternative D.

Deputy mayor Kirsten Hystopoulos said she doesn’t feel like Alternative E is as safe. Of the idea that experienced cyclists would continue to ride on the road because of slower users on the bike path, she said there could be a lot “of angry drivers on the island” if that happens.

Councilmember Jon Quitslund said safety is of the utmost importance, and most people think Alternative D is safer. He and Councilmember Michael Pollock agreed, and said that the city needs to do a good job on this first part of the connecting centers plan to show the community it’s ready to move forward.

“It’s a good idea, but is this the best location?” Pollock asked of bi-directional lanes. He said they need to make the best decision because the goal is to lower carbon emissions and get people on bikes and out of their cars. As for the divided council and community, he said, “If two people agree on everything one of them is not needed.”

The presentation

In introducing the topic, city Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki said in a presentation that in response to public feedback, staff had: added a bicycling climbing lane on Wyatt; extended the northbound bike lane on Eagle Harbor; widened the bi-directional lanes; added traffic-calming devices; and extended the bi-directional alternative up Bucklin Hill to Hyla.

In order to address public concerns about bi-directional lanes, BI staff talked with officials in Seattle, Portland and elsewhere. Their responses said more families actually use those lanes, and there have been few problems. The routes encourage more everyday riding for going to school or doing errands, BI’s memo says. Bi-directional lanes would be wider to encourage all ages and abilities at a lower cost. They also would attract cycling tourists to BI, reducing vehicles coming here. Addressing other concerns, the path widens to 11 feet on some curves and slopes, and there is a 4-foot-wide shoulder for experienced cyclists to use when climbing a hill.

Advantages of Alternative D are costs are less overall, and it retains more of a grant the city received.

Both alternatives include an idea for 2025 for a boardwalk to help shift traffic away from Green Light Garage. The final design will receive public comment this fall with construction will start late summer 2024.

Added at the last minute was the desire to have mountable curbs so bicyclists can move in and out of the bike path easily. Schneider didn’t like that idea because it didn’t provide the same amount of protection for path users.

Public comments

Alternative D

Lisa Macchio said she’s been cycling the area for 29 years and separating the trails on both sides of the road would be safest. She mentioned while commuting she is “huffing and puffing super slow” going uphill, while on the other side cyclists are zipping down at 30 mph. “I don’t want them next to me and then have cars” too, she said. “It’s so much safer to keep those different speeds separated.”

Kent Scott said he has walked and cycled the head of the bay, and, “It’s one of the most dangerous on the island.” He said users now are the same ones who will use it in the future because it’s four miles from Lynwood to Winslow so there will be few walkers. He said it’s not safe to combine cyclists and walkers. He said this alternative is the safest, would encourage the most commuters, and traffic calming is needed, along with the elimination of the curb.

Christy Carr said the right facility needs to be in the right place, comparing it to planting an orange tree in your yard because you saw one in California.

Kimberly McCormick Osmond agreed with Carr that bi-directional is a “great design but not in the right place.” She worries cyclists coming at each other will have nowhere to go and crash.

Alternative E

Mick Allen, an owner of the Green Light Garage, said he favored this option because the path would be on the other side of the street, making it safer for his business and customers. He asked the council to construct a boardwalk earlier rather than later. Not only would that improve safety quicker, it also would lessen construction interrupting his business. “Option E could create something special for the community and city to be very proud of.”

Paula Holmes of Squeaky Wheels said the wider lanes would make it possible for bicycles to pass each other without any trouble. With the other route, bikes will need to go out on the street to pass. She said it’s also the better decision because it infringes less on wetlands. And, there is more value for the money.

Martha Devereaux said Green Light Garage should be able to conduct its business in a safe manner. She said the boardwalk needs to be done earlier to reduce encroachment on that property.

Judith McClendon said any project that impinges on a small business, “I find is not acceptable.” But she said whatever decision is made, “I hope there is no repeat of the shockingly disappointing performance” of the previous improvements at Eagle Harbor Drive.


Mark Hoffman said neither project makes sense because the head of Eagle Harbor will be underwater in 30 years due to climate change. He suggested only widening shoulders.

Peter Harris said Eagle Harbor Drive doesn’t even have minimal safety standards, but few on BI do. He said nonmotorized transportation projects in Winslow have safety features that encourage use and help the climate, but this project does not.

Bi-directional lanes on one side of the road.

Bi-directional lanes on one side of the road.