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Friday, July 7, 2017

DO BICYCLES MAKE SENSE FOR THE CITY OF HONOLULU?


One of my best friends when I was young was a bike.  Mine was handed down to me by my older brother.  I re-painted this gift and took good care of my buddy.  Took me everywhere, quickly.  I never got into an accident, which, as I think about it now, must have been a minor miracle.

I am now old, and still think fondly of bicycles.  However, Honolulu has developed in a way that makes it unfriendly to bikes.  I suspect most cities have this business zone problem.

Bicycles were invented just about 600 years ago in Italy.  Seventy five years later Leonardo da Vinci was said to make this sketch.  Turned out not to be true.

Exactly 300 years ago Karl Drais of Germany came up with the running machine.  Even back then this device was forbidden because it interfered with people walking on sidewalks.

In 1887, here were the options in Germany:


In 1884, Thomas Stevens, an American, began a two-year ride around the world on on bike.  Bicycle playing cards appeared in 1885, and are today the #1 seller.  Mass production of bikes began in the Gay '90's, when Schwinn bikes appeared.  There  is a lot more history, but I'll skip them until 1970 when Earth Day generated a new spurt in the growth of bicycle sales, which influenced the spirit of today.
But here is the problem.  Bikes never quite gained political support for road or sidewalk space.  They are too slow compared to cars and far too dangerous in pedestrian traffic, especially when you have baby carriages, dog walkers and old people walking around.

When a new community is designed, of course, bike paths should be a must.  It's essentially too late for the center of Honolulu.  Here and there bike lanes are possible, but not continuously from the center of Honolulu to Waikiki.

But there is a City and County of Honolulu Bicycle Program, and, to quote:

The City and County of Honolulu is dedicated to making O'ahu a bicycle-friendly place.  In 2012, DTS published the O'ahu Bike Plan, an update to the 1999 Honolulu Bicycle Master Plan. The new plan will guide future planning to better integrate bicycling into the island's transportation system.  Currently, Oahu has 2 miles of protected bike lanes, 46 miles of bike paths, 59 miles of bike lanes, and 40 miles of bike routes.  Also, all of the City's transit buses are equipped with bike racks.  For more information on our bicycle program, or if you have a suggestion, please contact the City Bicycle Coordinator.

Maybe over the next decade or century the city of Honolulu can became a model bike location.  The transition will be difficult and dangerous.  I would argue against even trying.  Every time I drive down Kapahulu Avenue, two or more bikes:
  • slow traffic
  • cause cars to recklessly swerve to prevent hitting them
  • increase my stress level, and that of other drivers, too
Most of those on bikes pay taxes and feel they deserve to use a lane, or a part of one, putting their lives at risk and too often get involved in accidents that will hurt them and, financially/mentally, the "innocent" car driver.  Are you aware that bike riders have a fatality rate more than ten times that of car drivers per mile?  87% were males in 2015.  Good exercise and cheaper, but treacherous.  But there is room for improvement, as, why is the American bike death rate/mile three times higher than Germany and six time higher than the Netherlands?

I have not even mentioned those idiotic green bike lanes on King Street, which are abominations.  Sure, that street is wide enough, but left turns become just another opportunity to kill someone on a bike.  Hope this pilot project ends.

Okay, there are bikes, and more are on the way.  Just to make sure, bikeriders, are you aware of:

Anyone under the age of 16 needs to wear a helmet. About three-fourths of fatal crashes involved a head injury, so everyone shold wear one.  Rated #1?  Giro Savant Road Bike Helmet.  This you won't believe, but Amazon.com sells variations of this cap from $70 to $1000.  According to the ad, you get wind tunnel ventilation and super fit engineering.

What about riding a bike on sidewalks, where they now compete with pedestrians?  In Honolulu, not in downtown or Waikiki, but just about anywhere else appears to be okay, unless there are prohibitive signs.  But this is complicated.  In Japan, I've been close to death a few times, especially in Sendai, where they move at top speed.

On average, 20 golfers die on a course/year.  Bikers have 35 times the incidence of death.  This seems hard to believe, too, but the last shark attack death in the USA was in 2012 in Hawaii.  I think there was another Hawaii shark death in 2015.  No kidding, but cows cause an average of 22 deaths/year in the U.S.

But back to bikes, biki, run by non-profit Bike Share Hawaii (CEO Lori McCarney) is now operating in Honolulu.  Bike sharing has been around for half a century, mostly Europe, but now found in 50 countries.  I think this a good concept, if the roads allow for it.  Not so in Honolulu.  While it doesn't snow in Honolulu, it does rain, a lot.  Finally, I have a feeling that the cost might be higher here compared to other locations:
  • $3.50/30 minutes.  (I think they should have charged a buck for half an hour the first few months to get people started.)  However, even a few seconds over 30 minutes, and the cost immediately jumps to $7.
  • Free Spirit Pass:  $20 for a total of 300 minutes, to be used in any increment.
  • There are two monthly plans:  $15/month for an unlimited number of trips up to 30 minutes in length, and $25/month for the same up to an hour. 

Most bike share programs in the nation depend on public funding.  But, then, buses and mass transit systems are usually run by local governments.  Bike sharing is now operating in 60 U.S. cities.   Early attempts in D.C. and Montreal failed.  Also, too, do not compare with Uber, which is a real company.

During week one, biki did well in Honolulu, with 800 sign-ups and 10,600 rides.  Whatever you do, don't lose a Biki, for you will be charged $1200.  I fear this is one of those feel-good initiatives that will have a tough time getting established in the inner city of Honolulu. 

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