Tacoma maturing well as a bicycle-friendly community

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Tacoma’s Transportation Master Plan calls for a comprehensive continuous network of crosstown corridors to benefit and accommodate bicyclists of all ages and abilities. Photo courtesy of City of Tacoma

Temperatures rising into the 70s and 80s and more sunny days in the forecast creates an ideal opportunity for bicycling in Tacoma, but cyclists may want to consider just how friendly and accommodating the city streets are to the average rider.

Today, there are nearly 65 miles of dedicated bikeways for bicyclists. Tacoma is a bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community awarded by the League of American Bicyclists. Meredith Soniat, active transportation coordinator for City of Tacoma, said this represents a good basis of infrastructure but that there is still a way to go. By 2040, the City has a goal to reach 105 miles of dedicated bikeways in order to attain gold level status.

The bicycle element in the City’s Transportation Master Plan calls for a comprehensive continuous network of crosstown corridors to facilitate comfortable and safe bicycle travel for people of all ages and abilities.

Funding from Proposition 3 and Proposition A, which voters passed in 2015 as the Tacoma Streets Initiative, matches with federal and state grants to fund planned bicycle path projects.

A highly anticipated Tacoma Streets Initiative capital project set for construction in 2019 is the East 64th Street Improvements, which will include protected bike lanes — a first for Tacoma. The project will comprise three phases. Phase I will extend from Pacific Avenue to McKinley Avenue and open by November 2019. Eventually the street improvements and protected bike lane will extend past Portland Avenue and as far as the eastern city limits, eventually connecting up with the Pipeline Trail and ultimately to downtown Tacoma, resulting in an overall modal network across the city.

“East 64th will serve as a pilot project in how it functions in context of the neighborhood,” Soniat said. “There will be things we learn from this before we implement (similar projects) across the city.”

Outside of increasing bikeway capacity, Soniat said the City is also constantly applying for grants to expand the city’s trail network for cyclists and pedestrians, which equates to just over 15 miles.

Jenn Halverson Kuehn, the co-chair of the Bicycle Pedestrian Technical Advisory Group, which meets monthly and provides feedback to the City citing potential concerns from a user perspective, said the City does a good job of proactively applying for and winning grants and striving to make every street a complete street – meaning a street open to all motorized and non-motorized users.

“The City puts in bike infrastructure every time they do a major or minor remodel to a road,” Halverson Kuehn said. “Bike lanes are what drives the route that bikers take and ensures a safe journey. The City is good at receiving feedback and is incredibly responsive. It is great to have city (staff) listening and being proactive. We have very transit-friendly elected officials.”

Halverson Kuehn encourages residents to submit questions about bike projects to TacomaFIRST 311 via the mobile app on Apple and Android devices, visiting a BPTAG meeting the fourth Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in Tacoma city hall, or visiting bike253.com, to learn about all bicycle-related news and events in Tacoma. BPTAG will be meeting not at its regularly scheduled time in May but at the Bike to a Better Tacoma event at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16 at 7 Seas Brewing, where city staff will be sharing information with residents about upcoming bike and trail projects in the city.

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