Thursday, May 13, 2021
May 13, 2021

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City wants to make East McLoughlin Boulevard safer for cyclists, pedestrians

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Luke Youngblood of Camas, left, and Devin Garrett of Washougal, right, make their way down the hill on McLoughlin Boulevard on Friday. “Going uphill sucks,” Youngblood said. “You’re out in the middle of the lane.” The city is proposing to make East McLoughlin safer for cyclists and are discussing the possibility of removing on-street parking to build a double bike lane.
Luke Youngblood of Camas, left, and Devin Garrett of Washougal, right, make their way down the hill on McLoughlin Boulevard on Friday. “Going uphill sucks,” Youngblood said. “You’re out in the middle of the lane.” The city is proposing to make East McLoughlin safer for cyclists and are discussing the possibility of removing on-street parking to build a double bike lane. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The city of Vancouver is proposing to reconfigure part of East McLoughlin Boulevard to make the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Many of the street’s residents say they support most of the proposal plan, but the prospect of losing on-street parking goes too far.

East McLoughlin is a major east-west corridor for cyclists going from central to downtown Vancouver. It doesn’t have designated bike lanes. Cyclists are expected to share the street with traffic. There are limited pedestrian crossings. And cars rarely obey the speed limit.

The city is focusing on East McLoughlin from Reserve Street to Brandt Road. To fix a significant gap in the network, the city is also targeting a section of Brandt Road between McLoughlin Boulevard and Mill Plain Boulevard; and Mill Plain Boulevard between Brandt Road and MacArthur Boulevard.

According to a city report, drivers consistently go 6 to 8 mph faster than the 25 mph speed limit on East McLoughlin and 9 mph faster than the 35 mph limit on a nearby segment of East Mill Plain Boulevard. The report notes that when a vehicle hits a person on foot, the risk of serious injury or death climbs from 10 percent at 20 mph to 40 percent at 30 mph and 80 percent at 40 mph.

Mike Farber, a board member of Bike Clark County, a grass-roots nonprofit bike advocacy group, said East McLoughlin is a commonly-used road for bikes.

“But it’s not entirely safe,” he said. “The current system with sharrows is inadequate for bike safety.”

He argues the only way more people are going to seriously use bikes as a regular form of transportation is if riders of all ages and abilities feel safe doing so.

Jennifer Campos, principal planner for the city of Vancouver, said there’s evidence to back that up.

“Studies have been done around the country looking at the comfort level of riders; one percent are comfortable riding in traffic, six percent comfortable in a bike lane, then 60 percent say they would bike more often if they had facilities that made them feel safe — protected and buffered facilities,” she said. Simply painting a bike lane at the side of the road, as the city has for years, isn’t enough to get those people riding.

To make it safer, the city is proposing a two-way protected bike lane that would run on one side of the road. But in order to do that, the city would have to take away East McLoughlin’s on-street parking.

James Conright, the neighborhood association chair, said the association “overwhelmingly object” to that part of the city’s proposal.

“Everybody supports the cyclists. They’re just not convinced this is the best solution and would like to see what another alternatives there are,” he said. Most of the houses in the neighborhood have driveways and garages built for one car, yet most of the people who live there have two, he said. On top of that, the neighborhood is mixed with older people and young families, who might struggle to find extra parking.

“If people have to park down around the block … they’re going to have to walk further to their door,” he said. “These are what neighbors have voiced to me.”

Campos said a city analysis showed that every house in the corridor has a driveway available for off-street parking. It also collected on-street parking data at three locations in the project corridor in the morning, afternoon and evening Jan. 9, 11 and 13 of this year. They found only 32 to 44 percent of available parking spaces were actually used.

Conright and his neighbors question the validity of the street parking study, saying it should have gone on longer to give an accurate picture of the neighborhood.

Now, in response to neighborhood feedback, the city is going to look at driveway capacity and overlay that with the on-street parking utilization.

On Mill Plain the city is proposing a short-term solution between Brandt and MacArthur of buffering the pre-existing bike lanes that are already in place — work that wouldn’t require any changes to vehicle lanes. For a long-term solution, the city is considering building protected two-way bike lanes on the south side of the road, on the curb and separated from traffic.

Conright said neighbors on East McLoughlin support other elements included in the proposal, such as lowering the speed limit, slowing drivers down with speed tables (speed bumps large enough to be used as crosswalks), restriping the road, and adding signs and possibly signals at busy intersections to improve pedestrian visibility.

The road is due for repaving next year, so the city expects to have the plan finalized by the end of this year. The city plans to continue taking feedback through this month and introducing a final design in September.

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