October 22nd, 2012
When I was in college, I remember biking everywhere - mostly to get to class, but also to meet up with friends at the coffee shop, to get around campus, and to shop at farmer's markets.
It was a great way to get around, without the hassle of parking (just the risk of someone stealing your bike if you didn't lock it up right). It was probably the best shape I ever was in my life, too.
Unfortunately, my bike (which I still have from college) is now neglected, sitting in the garage, with a new coat of rust.
My greatest fear of riding a bike around Honolulu is the risk of getting hit by a car — by drivers who just aren't used to sharing the road with bicyclists, someone gabbing away or texting on their cellphone (still see plenty of people do it despite Honolulu's new law) and just plain carelessness.
And working for a newspaper, I've seen every breaking news item on bicyclists hit, injured and killed by a car — from Nimitz to the North Shore.
The other day, I pulled out the rusty bike, pumped up the tires again and went for a spin. I love that feeling you get when you're on two wheels – the freedom, the wind in your hair, the mobility.
If we had more dedicated bike lanes, bike paths and a more bicycle friendly city, I think more people would get out and ride (and maybe it would ease up some of the traffic). And if there were bike-friendly routes that lead from residential neighborhoods to downtown Honolulu, it would be a viable way to commute other than sitting in stop-and-go traffic.
If Kaimuki put in bike lanes on Waialae Ave., I think it would ease the parking situation there. It's the perfect neighborhood for bikers, with plenty of restaurants and shops.
I loved riding around on campus and along bike paths open only to joggers and bikers in California's Marin County (north of San Francisco), where you can ride for miles and miles along scenic routes. Or along the coastline of Half Moon Bay. Or along water canals.
Wish we had bike paths like that here.
Honolulu did not make the cut for America's "Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities" by Bicycling magazine earlier this year. "To make our Top 50," said the magazine, "a city must also support a vibrant and diverse bike culture, and it must have smart, savvy bike shops."
I think we do have a bike culture and cool shops (and some cool bicycle racks in downtown Honolulu), but that we're definitely lagging compared to a lot of other cities out there. Apparently, it wasn't due to our geographical isolation since Anchorage, Alaska, made the cut.
But we have so much potential. Instead of building the city around cars, we should be building it around pedestrian pathways and bikes and public transit. We don't want to become another Los Angeles, with snarled traffic as its signature characteristic.
How about if we look to cities like Portland, San Francisco, Copenhagen and Amsterdam? If Honolulu could put its master bike plan into action, how awesome that would be.