It’s not easy being green: Drivers, bicyclists introduced to ‘bike boxes’ in street
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Bicyclists approach the new "bike box" at the corner of First and Laurel streets in downtown Port Angeles on Tuesday.

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A downtown street got a splash of color last week after light-green “bike boxes” — a first for Port Angeles — were painted at two intersections.

The boxes, placed June 21 where First Street meets Oak and Laurel streets, are intended to improve safety for bicyclists when passing through crossroads or making a turn by allowing them to get in front of traffic at red lights.

Vehicles are barred from stopping in them even when they are turning right on a red light, which may become an issue when the city adds green bike boxes to the Lincoln Street intersection later this summer.

The city chose to install them on First Street because it’s aiming to make Port Angeles more bike-friendly, said Glenn Cutler, city public works and utilities director.

The timing also seemed right since the city had just finished resurfacing the road and adding bike lanes.

“We just said, ‘Hey, we have an opportunity to start fresh,’” Cutler said.

The same wasn’t done on Front Street downtown, which received bike lanes after being paved last year, because not enough research had been done, Cutler said.

One more bike box will be placed in the next few months at Lincoln and First streets, he said, since the state Department of Transportation recently added bike lanes to a 1.3-mile stretch of the road east of that intersection.

No more bike boxes are planned.

While the bike boxes are new to Port Angeles, Randall McCoy, who founded Alternative Transportation Advocacy of Port Angeles, said he has seen them work elsewhere.

He said he expects them to be a benefit for bicyclists, though they may take some getting used to.

“They provide an opportunity for folks to get in front of traffic so they can be seen better,” McCoy said.

“Drivers have a tendency to overlook bicycles or forget that they are there.”

But McCoy acknowledged that not all bicyclists are in agreement.

He said he has heard one bicyclist voice concern over whether it’s a good idea for bikes to move in front of cars when a light may be about to change.

McCoy said that could be a danger that but it’s up to the bicyclists to be aware of their surroundings.

“There’s a learning curve for the driver and the cyclist,” he said.

Opinions were also mixed downtown Tuesday.

Don Roberts, 37, said he thinks bikes should be given more room, though he noted that the paint has already been stricken by tire marks.

“I think it’s proper,” he said.

Holly Rice, 41, was skeptical that they will make motorists more aware of bicyclists.

“They’re going to hit them anyway,” she said.

“How many [drivers] pay attention when they are at a light already stopped?”

The city aims to add bike lanes whenever it repaves streets.

But whether it continues to add bike boxes will depend on how motorists and bicyclists respond to them on First Street, Cutler said.

So far, he said, he hasn’t heard any complaints.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 28. 2011 10:53PM
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