Talk about a bump in the road.
Although a first reading of Spokane Valley’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Program had been set for Aug. 9, members of the City Council hit the brakes and recommended more study be done before any adoption is considered.
The next time the council is scheduled to discuss the plan is a study session on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 6 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall.
Although the city’s Planning Commission gave its unanimous approval after a recent public hearing, some council members said at the July 19 meeting that the plan is too ambitious and “over the top.”
Council Member Arne Woodard was the first to throw barbs at the plan, citing provided information that only 1 percent of the population would make use of the bicycle lanes included in the suggested improvements, which also feature trails and sidewalks.
“The pedestrian (aspect) is a much higher priority to me,” Woodard said after a presentation by Mike Basinger, senior planner, who has headed up the effort to craft the bike/pedestrian plan. “I know there’s more than 1 percent of the population that uses sidewalks.”
Woodard suggested, instead, the city concentrate on improving the quality of its roads, which in turn will make them safer and more usable for bicyclists.
Basinger countered that the improvements “would not be strapping anybody” with expensive projects that would take away from road improvements. Rather, bike lanes would be added to “bicycle boulevards” where right-of-way already exists and federal grants could be secured for the improvements.
“We’re not competing for road-improvement dollars,” he said. “Absolutely not.”
Under the plan, bicyclists could be directed to specially designated bike boulevards that have fewer than 3,000 cars a day and typically have speed limits under 25 mph. City staff members said that the idea is to emphasize certain roads – on the city’s Web site and promotional materials -- that are best for bike travel.
“It sounds big and fancy,” said City Manager Mike Jackson, who added that nothing in the plan is a mandate – rather it’s a “general direction” that could be worked out over a number of years.
Council Member Chuck Hafner said that he, too, would like to see the emphasis placed on sidewalks, especially around schools.
“That’s my priority,” he said.
But the most pointed criticism came from Council Member Brenda Grassel, who likened the plan to something that would come out of Portland, Ore.
“I just find this plan way over the top,” she said. “I’m concerned about the wording in here. To me, it’s extreme.”
Grassel said that language in the plan – which Basinger said is already in city regulations -- that requires businesses to provide racks to park bicycles is not something the city should be taking on.
“I think this is an example of setting goals and policies without the influence and input of the City Council,” she said. “Maybe some of this could have been nipped in the bud to begin with.”
Grassel said she needed more time to “digest the plan” before she would consider a motion for approval, and other council members agreed they could use more time.
Council Member Bill Gothmann said, however, that the city should take advantage of grant money for these types of projects – which can fund up to 80 percent of the cost – when they become available.
“Are we going to refuse these grants?” he asked. “I don’t think we should.”
Development of the plan was funded through an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the Federal Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
A copy of the plan can be found at www.spokanevalley.org under the Long Range Planning section of the Community Development Department heading.