Monday, February 17, 2020
Feb. 17, 2020

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Bike lanes go green for safety

Some in Vancouver get eye-catching paint job

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
2 Photos
A cyclist traveling on state Highway 501 travels in a green bike lane near St. Francis Lane in Vancouver. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
A cyclist traveling on state Highway 501 travels in a green bike lane near St. Francis Lane in Vancouver. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

In an ironic twist of fate, a spokesman for the Washington Department of Transportation almost got hit by a car while biking through an intersection that had recently been painted to be safer for cyclists.

In November, about a week after the department added some eye-catching green paint to the bike lanes, WSDOT spokesman Bart Treece and the city of Vancouver’s principal transportation planner, Patrick Sweeney, were shooting the “after” part of a “before and after” video to demonstrate how well the green bike lanes stood out.

Treece was pedaling along state Highway 501 when a car quickly zoomed up to him. As Treece approached an intersection, a dark BMW came alongside him and began to merge left into the turn lane. Just when it looked like the two were going to collide, the driver pulled to the right and stopped in the middle of the bike lane, only a few feet away from Treece.

“I like to think they helped,” Treece said. “Whether it was me or the paint … he stopped.”

WSDOT added green paint to the bike lanes on state Highway 501 at West Fourth Plain Boulevard and St. Francis Lane in west Vancouver as a pilot project to better study bicycle safety. In theory, the work will alert drivers to how bikes move through traffic. The paint itself will give cyclists extra grip.

The plan was developed in partnership with the city of Vancouver, which maintains the highway through the city limits. WSDOT will be responsible for the upkeep of the paint. If the pilot proves successful, the department could mark other busy intersections in the future.

“We have to see what we get back from the pilot program,” Treece said. “Part of it is testing out materials; the other part is how we work with partner agencies and finding out where they may see a benefit for adding green paint.”

Painting bike lanes is not the only way to highlight cyclists in congested areas but it’s fairly common practice in cities like Bellingham, Seattle and Tacoma. The work on state Highway 501 is the first ever done by WSDOT. Clark County installed the only other local green bike lanes on Northeast Andresen Road south of Northeast 88th Street. The city of Vancouver hasn’t created any, but Sweeney said he likes the idea.

“I think the green bike lanes help make the biking facility safer for the people who bike, and it increases awareness for cyclists and for the people who drive,” he said.

Sweeney also said the city will re-examine the local bicycle network when the city updates its transportation plan. The latest draft was released in 2004 and the city government plans to release the next draft in 2017.

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