The Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) got some expert advice on the kinds of improvements, big and small, that would make roads friendlier for non-motorized transportation.
“Complete streets are places that are safe and comfortable for users of all modes,” Ellen Barton told committee members at their June 5 meeting. Barton works with the Whatcom Council of Governments.
Barton told the committee that there was a national trend toward improving non-motorized transportation. “People are voting this way,” she said, adding 66 percent of Americans say they want more transportation options. She said communities with higher “walk scores” have higher home values. “The economic benefits can be surprising,” she said.
Barton has decades of experience helping communities design facilities for transportation other than automobiles. She introduced the committee to the Complete Streets program, which facilitates creating policies that encourage non-motorized transportation, and planning projects around them.
“It would be nice to create a list of projects and prioritize them,” Barton said.
Committee members brought up several potential projects, including improving shoulders on Benson and Johnson roads, which committee chair Arthur Reber said ran up against apparent permitting problems with the county.
“If the engineering department didn’t have it on their list already they could come up with a lot of reasons it can’t be done,” Barton said. “They have a list that regulates what they can do – the TIP, or transportation improvement plan approved by county council. You need to be on that list. If you work hard enough and long enough as a community group you can get it on the list.”
Barton said engineers tended to focus on the cars using roads and other modes were secondary. Arthur Reber said that county engineers had discouraged putting a crosswalk connecting Lighthouse Marine Park and the campground, on the grounds it would give pedestrians a false sense of security. “Well, stop signs give motorists a false sense of security but that doesn’t mean we take them down,” she said. “There can be safety in crosswalks if they’re well designed.”
Committee member Dwayne Hunt said, “Roads with very little traffic would be better for walkers and bicycles to use.” He suggested bikes heading for Gulf Road be directed along McKenzie Way, Churchill Drive, Winston Drive, Roosevelt Road and Marine Drive as an alternative to heading down Tyee Drive. “If it’s a matter of marking roads, that would be an easy solution, Reber said. Barton showed the committee examples of a shared roadway symbol in use by other communities.
Committee member Robert Dean suggested a lot of the Point’s border woes could be addressed by having a shuttle bus going up and down Tyee Drive. “Let the Canadians park at the border and cut down on the line up,” he said.
Dean pointed out that the chip seal road surface was a less than ideal surface for bikes, strollers and roller blades. Roosevelt Drive would attract more non-motorized users if part of the roadway was improved and perhaps separated from cars, he said.
“I do feel there could be some design changes to Roosevelt Drive, especially as a pilot project,” Barton said. “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could use planters to separate a smooth part? A lot of places use planters to see if something will work before making permanent changes.”
Other suggestions included a bike locker at the border operated by Pedal Pushers, the Point’s bike rental business. Barton added there was technical assistance from the National Parks Service available to help communities create walking plans to connect their local parks.