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Councilmembers bike the streets of MI

City Councilmembers El Jahnke, left, and Dan Grausz, right, ride up S.E. 42nd Street during a city-organized bike ride. Planning Commission member Erik Lachever and Deputy City Manager James Mason ride in the background. - Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter
City Councilmembers El Jahnke, left, and Dan Grausz, right, ride up S.E. 42nd Street during a city-organized bike ride. Planning Commission member Erik Lachever and Deputy City Manager James Mason ride in the background.
— image credit: Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter

Four City Councilmen, two Planning Commission members, the deputy city manager and a cyclist from the Cascade Bicycle Club met at the Mercer Island Park and Ride last Saturday to begin what may be the first-ever City Council bike ride.

The men, clad in everything from professional bike gear to jeans and a polo shirt, toured the North end of Mercer Island on their bikes, from North Mercer Way to West Mercer Way, up S.E. 40th Street to the Mercer Island High School and back.

The ride wasn’t about speed. It was not about form, either. It was, however, about observation. The group of cyclists stopped every so often to discuss improvements that could be made to the “Island loop,” a popular bike route with local riders. This, in fact, was the very purpose of the early morning ride.

“It’s one thing to be in a car and look at the [pedestrian and bicycle facilities (PBF)] plan, but to be on bike and see the changes in pavement, the changes in traffic control — that really gives us a clear idea of what is needed,” said Deputy City Manager James Mason, who initiated the bike ride.

The ride comes days before the city Planning Commission holds a public hearing on its proposed PBF plan on Aug. 19. If adopted, the plan — which focuses on improving Island streets for cyclists and walkers — will become a sub-element of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Transportation Element.

Earlier this summer, Mason proposed that City Councilmembers, whose responsibility it is to approve the updated PBF plan, actually ride part of the Island’s peripheral loop to better understand where improvements are needed. It was an idea that Councilmember Mike Grady had been suggesting for years.

“I was really happy that James [Mason] finally got this going. I’d been pushing to do something like this since I first joined the Council,” Grady said.

Asked how the ride went, the Councilmember said it was informative and advantageous.

“There was general consensus on posts that need improvement; in particular, a couple of curves along West Mercer Way with poor siting,” Grady said, specifying several curves south of the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club.

Another area needy of improvements is the North Mercer Way sidewalk outside the Park and Ride, where cyclists cut through the Town Center.

“You’ve got cyclists, pedestrians, cars and buses all in one spot. It’s not clear where people and bikes are supposed to go. There’s an alternative route in the neighborhood behind the Park and Ride, but nobody takes that because bikers want the shortest route to and from Bellevue,” Grady said, adding that his fellow riders agreed. “We’ll have to talk about adding signage and other ways to improve that area.”

The City Councilmembers will discuss the updated PBF plan sometime in September.

Islanders are welcome to view and comment on the draft PBF plan today, Aug. 19, at a public meeting put on by the Planning Commission. The hearing starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Mercer Island City Hall.

For more information, visit www.mercergov.org/PBF or contact Steve Lancaster at 275-7706.

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