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Backlash against bike lanes brewing in Bellingham

One opponent likens the city's proposal to a classic 1980s videogame.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Ken Mann isn't the type of guy you'd expect to be building a backlash against bike lanes.

"I'm having an identity crisis," he said. "I'm a cyclist. I've advocated for bike lanes in the past, but only the ones that make sense."

Mann lives along Eldridge Avenue. It's one of five sections of the city where the City of Bellingham wants to take away parking and add bike lanes.

Mann believes eliminating parking on both sides of Eldridge will only encourage people to drive faster.

"People already speed down this street all the time," Mann said. "If you remove the parking you remove the only visual cues you have to even think about slowing down."

Mann likens the traffic situation to the classic 1980s videogame "Frogger," except in this version it would be everyone from pedestrians to delivery truck drivers hopping for safety.

"If parking is taken away, they would have to park across the street and play Frogger across those four lanes of moving vehicles and bicycles traveling at high speeds," Mann said. "It's navigating all these cars and the bikes going way too fast. It's dangerous for everybody."

The five sections being targeted by the city are:

  • West Illinois Street from Sunset to Lynn
  • Meridian between East Victor and West Illinois
  • Girard Street from Broadway to Young
  • Cornwall from Laurel to Pine and Eldridge between Broadway and Nequalicum.

The plan prioritizes cyclists and pedestrians because they are Bellingham's most vulnerable commuters, according to city planners. According to Public Works Director Eric Johnston, Bellingham has added more than 40 miles of bicycle lanes since 2014.

The new proposal seeks to help connect them, Johnston said.

"These types of improvements have a beneficial safety effect for all users," Johnston said. "The traffic calming that comes inherently with these types of proposed changes also helps improve safety for people in vehicles."

New sidewalks and enhanced crosswalks would also be installed, according to Johnston.

"Our community is rethinking how we use our existing roads to allow everyone to feel safe when moving around the town, including people walking, biking, rolling, riding transit and driving vehicles," Johnston said. "Bellingham is a leader in making these types of changes."

Mann simply hopes the changes won't mean "game over" for safety in his neighborhood.

"The city really has been making decisions that prioritize commuters coming from out of the city into town instead of those who live here," he said. "That doesn't feel great."

The Bellingham City Council held a public hearing on the recommended parking removal on October 3 and will consider the issue at their October 24 meeting.

Watch: Seattle mayor wants millions to improve traffic safety on busiest roadways 

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