Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Yakima Ave: Bikable!

I made my semi-monthly bike trek out to Comic Book Ink this evening, and made a pleasant discovery on my way home: brand new bike lanes!

I joined Yakima Ave at S 64th St, and enjoyed a shiny white bike lane next to a full parking lane all the way out to where it shifts over to Thompson at around 48th. From there, the white line parking lane continues to 38th. The excessive width here leads me to believe that there will be a bike lane, and they didn't finish yet because either a) they ran out of time in the day, or b) they need to get the cars parked there to move so they can draw the other line.

I wanted to allow for the fact that I had just gone mad and these had always been there, so I looked at the Tacoma segment of the Pierce County Bike Map, and sure enough, this stretch is marked as "Bike Lane (Scheduled)", meaning that it was in the works but not in existence when the latest map was published a couple months ago. What's more, the map says it extends South all the way to 99th, where Yakima wiggles its way over to Park. I didn't look South, so I couldn't tell you how far they've gotten in that direction, but either way it is a great new step in making Tacoma bikable.

It seems to me that this could really get extended. Thompson/Yakima continues to have that unusually wide right lane on both sides until it crosses I-5. This lane is generally used for parking, except in the direction of most traffic during commuting hours when parking is disallowed (Northbound 7-9 A.M., Southbound 4-6 P.M.) I honestly kind of doubt that too much more throughput is gained from this use as a traffic lane, and that stretch could easily get the same treatment. The bridge across I-5 already has a marked shoulder of nearly bike-lane width, and the stretch that continues over South Tacoma Way has enough room to add a bike lane without disrupting any lanes of traffic. Finish that off, and suddenly you've got uninterrupted bike-friendly traffic from Downtown Tacoma all the way out to nearly Parkland (actually further... after a couple blocks of wide shoulder that could again be marked if they choose, you can cut over to Pacific, which the map says has a bike lane, and ride uninhibited all the way to the Roy Y).

Furthermore, once you cross South Tacoma Way, you are at 27th. Bump up the hill via 27th and J, turn West on 25th, and you are a few easy (wide lanes, minimal traffic) blocks from the Scott Pierson Trailhead. So now, with a few blocks of merging intermittent, there is a virtually uninterrupted bike path from the heart of Gig Harbor (via the Cushman Powerline Trail) to the Roy Y. Approximately 21.4 miles as a straight shot.

I don't know about you, but I am pretty excited about this. A bike trail on pretty much the biggest channel through Tacoma (Highway 7, the South Tacoma stretch of I-5, and the whole Tacoma stretch of Highway 16).

The next chunk I am excited about is the stretch of 12th from Ainsworth to Orchard, another notoriously bike-unfriendly chunk of road which is marked on the map as soon-to-be-bikable.

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