Spokane Valley’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Program finally got its tires pumped by the City Council last Tuesday – albeit halfway.
The council agreed 4-2 – Council Member Brenda Grassel was not present – to move the ordinance on to a second reading on Oct. 25. Council Members Arne Woodard and Chuck Hafner, however, kept their kickstands firmly in the “down” position.
Woodard, in particular, stated he did not want to see the bike/pedestrian plan, which has been tweaked several times by the council since being first presented earlier in the summer, become “codified into law” in the city’s comprehensive plan and wants a greater emphasis placed on the “pedestrian” part of the plan.
“My priority is still sidewalks,” Woodard said. “My apologies that I’m such a bear on this.”
“Why should it be in the comp plan?” he asked.
Mike Basinger, the city’s senior planner who has guided the bike/pedestrian plan along a bumpy trail since it was passed by the Planning Commission, said that it should be integrated with the comprehensive plan because it’s a convenient spot for the public to find it. Also, when applying for grants for safety improvements such as bike lanes or sidewalks, the city scores higher if the program is part of the comprehensive plan.
“We like to be able to check that off,” Basinger said, adding that there is an element of “transparency” by having the bicycle/pedestrian element as part of the comprehensive plan.
Woodard first raised concerns about the bike/pedestrian master program in July over declarative language and was supported by the majority of the council over changing words like “shall” to “encourage.” He also wanted a greater emphasis placed on street improvements for safer roads.
Under the program, bicyclists could be directed to specially designated “bike boulevards” that typically see less than 3,000 cars a day and have speed limits under 25 mph. Certain roadways could be pointed out as safer for bike travel on the city’s Web site.
At the time, the most critical comments came from Grassel, who called the plan “way over the top.”
“To me, it’s extreme,” she said.
Council Member Bill Gothmann said that, as a plan itself, it makes sense to put the bicycle/pedestrian master program with the comprehensive plan as it standardizes markings, suggests bike routes, and sets goals for the completion of sidewalks and the routes. Rather than be seen as a mandated “law,” a “plan is a plan.”
“To me, this is a big difference,” Gothmann said.
Woodard countered that since the council is passing an ordinance, “it’s a law.”
Council Member Dean Grafos said he saw no problem in passing the bike/pedestrian master program.
“I look at this a little differently,” he said, adding that such a plan encourages growth and development.
“I really believe it should be in the comp plan,” he said.
In other news, the council approved a first reading of an ordinance to set property taxes at a rate of $1.52 per $1,000 in assessed valuation for 2012. This is the same rate as in 2011. A second reading will be held on Oct. 25.