Hamakua Drive bike lane raises concerns from residents

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A new bike lane in Kailua meant to protect riders and slow traffic, is also creating confusion.

Many residents are unsure how the new Hamakua Drive bike lane works and they’re worried their cars will get hit if they park them in the new marked parking stalls, away from the curb.

Daniel Alexander, advocacy director for the Hawaii Bicycling League said the changes were made to make the road safer for everyone.

“This is what’s called a parking protected bike lane,” Alexander said standing on the sidewalk of Hamakua Drive gesturing toward the white striped lines marking the newly painted bike lane. “We have a protected bike lane on King Street and South Street.  This one does not have any bollards, but it does have boxes outside of the bike lane for people to park in…So basically it’s sidewalk, bike lane, buffer, then parking then the general travel lanes.”

The changes are intended to make things safer and encourage more people to ride bikes.

“It’s part of a trend where we are trying to add protection more separation between the motor vehicles and the bicyclist,” Alexander said.

Residents said their main concern is near Firestone Tires traveling on Hamakua Drive from Kailua Road to Keolu Drive where the bike path shifts and the parking spaces are marked away from the curb. They said they’re afraid their cars will get hit by oncoming traffic. 

“We all count on drivers to drive safe out there. It is pretty clear that the travel lane is over,” Alexander said as he gestured to the cars driving beyond the protected bike lane, just beyond a truck parked in one of the marked stalls away from the curb.

During the day it is easy to see. But at night, it’s not as clear and there are many more cars parked in what looks like, the middle of the road.

There are other issues residents are dealing with due to the new configuration in front of their homes.

Ian Birnie has lived on Hamakua Drive for over nine years. He, like many of his neighbors, is not fond of the changes.”Look at it. You’ve got a bike path between parking space and the curb and it creates problems with garbage pick up. Creates problems for the mail people.  It’s not this way on every street…. I’m bothered that they would take perfectly good four lane road and now we have two lanes and questionable parking to allow the bikes to do their thing.”

A city spokesperson from the Department of Environmental services said the new bike lane has had no impact on residents in relation to trash pick-up.

The Kailua postmaster said that the mail carriers that serve Hamakua Drive have adjusted to the new bike lane without any problems.

Birnie lives less than a block from Keolu Drive, where the bike lane is marked next to the flow of traffic. He said he would have preferred the bike path on Hamakua Drive to be like that one. He was also frustrated that no one consulted with he and his neighbors about the project beforehand.

“I’m kind of bothered by it cause I guess it was a done deal cause we didn’t have any notification it was going to happen until they were already actually started the project…I didn’t have any dialogue with anyone or any written notice until they were ready to start work and said don’t park here after such and such date cause we’re going to start striping.”

Despite concerns, the project is already completed. The hope is in time everyone will adjust.

“This is new. This not something people have seen before this sort of bike plan,” Alexander said. “But, I think it’s a good idea and with time people are really going to see that it is both from a motorist perspective when they realize there’s not as much speeding the road is calmer.”

There are three meetings to discuss the Kailua-wide Complete Streets plan.

Thursday, April 5 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. there will be a Pop-Up at Kailua Town Center, near Pier 1. 

Wednesday, April 11 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. there will be a walking tour at Kailua District Park.

Wednesday, April 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. there will be a community meeting at Kailua District Park. 

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