They arrived by foot, by bicycle and, yes, even by car, to chime in on an effort to establish multi-modal transportation as a priority in the city of Spokane Valley.
Around 50 people gathered at City Hall last week for a public hearing hosted by the Spokane Valley Planning Commission on the Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, a blueprint for bike boulevards, shared use paths and other facilities over the next 20 years. By the time the Planning Commission had heard public testimony and the summations of city staff like Mike Basinger, the program manager for the plan, the vote came in at 6-0 in support of the document.
Shared bike/pedestrian paths like this one in Liberty Lake are part of Spokane Valley’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, scheduled for a first and second reading by City Council next month. The city’s Planning Commission held a public hearing on the document last week. Photo by: Craig Howard
“I think this is a vision that represents the community,” said Basinger, who works in the Spokane Valley’s community development department. “This plan prioritizes where we’d like to see improvements and I believe will make us very competitive for future funding.”
The unanimous vote at the July 7 meeting precedes a review of the plan by City Council over the next several weeks. Basinger will provide a summary during the council’s administrative report on July 19 while first and second readings of the document are scheduled for Aug. 9 and Aug. 23, respectively.
As with other gatherings hosted by the city to discuss the plan, last week’s meeting featured a healthy representation from the local cycling community, including Spokane Valley resident Marc Mims who, last year, organized an event called “Pedaling with Politicians” a wheeled tour of municipal bike facilities.
Mims said the prioritization of bike paths within the city will help to improve safety conditions for cyclists.
“The biggest problem I see is the mindset of motorists,” Mims said. “We need to let them know that bicyclists belong there. If we get these improvements and get this signage, it will greatly encourage more cyclists to get on the roads.”
Basinger noted that the plan, if completely implemented, would add 18 additional miles of municipal bike/pedestrian facilities, many of which would involve new designations of “bike boulevards” on residential streets where the speed limit is 25 mph or lower and traffic is minimal when compared to major arterials like Sullivan Road.
If approved by City Council in August, the BPMP would be included as a chapter in Spokane Valley’s comprehensive plan, an outline for future development within the city. In responding to the commission’s questions about financing improvements, Basinger made it clear that any proposed project would be included in City Council’s annual review of the Transportation Improvement Program, a six-year roadmap for capital- facility upgrades.
Former City Council Member Dick Denenny was one local cyclist who applauded the city for its work in addressing citizen concerns as work continues on the BPMP. He echoed others at the meeting in calling attention to the lack of north/south bike routes and connectivity to the Centennial Trail.
“I think this answers some of the problems people have for recreation and commuting,” Denenny said.
Representatives of the Spokane Transit Authority and Spokane Regional Health District also voiced support of the city’s work in expanding its network of trails. Karl Otterstrom of STA pointed out that while bus service “extends the range of pedestrians,” additional bike and walking paths will serve as another positive layer.
“People walk more when the things to walk to are within walking distance,” he said.
Helene Dewey of SRHD read a letter from Chief Medical Officer Joel McCullough that advocated for infrastructure that promotes exercise and a transition from a sedentary routine. McCullough referred to research showing 64 percent of adults living in the city of Spokane Valley are considered obese and at risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers.
Scott Paulus, a bike commuter who moved to Spokane Valley from the South Hill three years ago, said it would be important to “keep traffic in mind” when working on the implementation of routes. Basinger has noted that the plan could involve the reconfiguration of certain intersections along bike boulevards to improve safety and connectivity.
When Planning Commissioner Steven Neill brought up questions surrounding implied timelines and mandates connected to the BPMP, Basinger reiterated that while there is no concrete schedule for the recommendations to shift into gear, having the document approved and ready would put the city in a better place for potential grant funding.
“I think it makes us very competitive for getting sidewalk improvements and bike facility improvements,” he said.