A Rough Ride

Cyclists push for improved paths.

Illustration:  IStock

Faced with soaring gas prices and traffic gridlock, some people are turning to bicycles. But cyclists have their own problems­—bike paths are crumbling and often don’t connect, grounds for a dangerous ride.

For example, the Pearl Harbor Bike Path needs improvement, says Chris Blumenstetter, the program manager for Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange. “It’s away from the city streets, but there are problems with roots growing and cracking the path.”

Worse yet is the Kamehameha Highway bike lane, he adds. Right around the Arizona Memorial, the 3-foot lane narrows to 1 foot, then ends completely.

Patricia Dunn, a commuter cyclist and member of the Hawaii Bicycling League, says the Kalanianaole Highway is a popular bike path for cyclists, but even that route has problems. “Going west as you approach Kahala, the bike path simply runs out at Aina Koa Avenue, putting riders back into traffic.”  

Cyclists also complain about disconnects in Waikiki, along the Ala Wai, and also along University Avenue.

So what are the city and the state doing to make Hawaii more bicycle-friendly? Constructing bicycle path and lanes alongside new streets, such as the Fort Shafter Road widening project and the North South Road in Ewa and Kapolei.

Traditionally, government has focused more on building and improving streets, not adequate bicycle lanes and paths, says Chris Dacus, chair of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Bicycling. But that is changing, albeit rather slowly. 

The city’s Department of Transportation Services created the Honolulu Bicycle Master Plan in 1999, focusing on the urban center of Honolulu, says Rachel Roper, the state Department of Transportation bicycle coordinator. Through this year’s expansion, the new plan now includes the entire island. City and state government both have bike plans, but oversight of the recent updates falls to the city.

Michael Nakagawa, the executive director of Hawaii Bicycling League, a nonprofit established in 1975, hopes the updated plan will result in bike paths better connecting with one another. “We’re dealing with limited space and previously built infrastructure so trying to figure out where to put [bike paths and lanes] is a challenge,” he says.

Cyclists hope the government breaks the status quo by providing safe and active choices in how people get around. “Bicycling is the perfect answer,” says Nakagawa. “And we have the perfect environment weather wise.”

The city and state prioritize the bicycle projects on a scale of one to four, with priority one projects being completed in less than 10 years and priority two projects being completed in less than 20 years.

“We live in a city that never anticipated high bicycle use,” says Blumenstetter. “People look at bicycles as a toy more than anything and didn’t think adults would use them as transportation.”