New bike 'stencils' painted onto Mercer Island streets

Cyclists may notice new biking stencils painted onto the pavement at the intersections of S.E. 40th Street and 86th Ave. S.E. and Island Crest Way and S.E. 40th. The city introduced the stencils last month in response to cyclists' complaints that the intersections' light sensors were not detecting their presence at the light, according to Assistant City Engineer Anne Tonella-Howe.

"We've received quite a few phone calls since we put the signal in on 86th and 40th that [cyclists] feel like they're not being detected," Tonella-Howe explained, adding that the stop lights on S.E. 40th Street use "on-demand" sensors and therefore change to green when detecting a car or cyclist's presence. "Part of what we wanted to do was help cyclists get positioned in the right place."

The city engineer explained that the new stencils serve as "hot spots" for cyclists, denoting the area bikers must stop at to trigger the intersection's light sensor.

The city has yet to introduce bike stencils at other Island intersections. This is mostly because WSDOT owns the majority of stop lights on Mercer Island. The city owns the two lights on S.E. 40th, and was therefore able to add the stencil feature without consulting WSDOT.

Tonnella-Howe said that there are plans to speak with WSDOT about adding stencils to other intersections, in particular the traffic lights near the I-90 off- and on-ramps along East Mercer Way and the Mercer Island Park and Ride.

Islanders can comment on this issue, or on any Island transportation topic, online at the city Web site: The city is asking for public comments for its 2011-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

The Mercer Island City Council will hold a public hearing at its May 17 meeting to discuss the preliminary TIP draft. Members of the public are invited to provide input. Written comments must be received by April 16.

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