On Feb. 7, men and women across the age spectrum filed into Bellingham City Council chambers, some wearing glowing yellow jackets and carrying panniers and helmets. They quietly filled what became a standing-room-only chamber.
“Boy there sure are a lot of cyclists in Bellingham,” resident Dan Remsen said during the public comment period.
The crowd, accompanied by three councilmen, put on shiny safety helmets and responded with the kind of loud cheering normally heard at concerts featuring mellow, yet talented and funny, singer songwriters. Yes, the cyclists rocked the chamber.
The cyclists attended the meeting en masse for three reasons. Firstly, they thanked the council, via two spokesmen, for the recent installation of bike lanes on Cornwall Avenue. Secondly, they showed support for spending a third of the money from the newly-established transportation benefit district fund on pedestrian and bicycle improvements.
“Third, I want to address bike lanes on Northwest, Elm and Dupont. For that, hats off to Councilman Jack Weiss for getting the ball rolling on that effort,” Remsen said.
At that, the crowd pulled helmets off and held them high in a unified cyclist solute.
The project Remsen referred to is in the city’s comprehensive plan, but hadn’t moved forward until recently, when council directed staff to hold a public meeting on the subject.
As outlined in the comprehensive plan, the bike lanes would run north from the Fountain District along Elm Street, then along Northwest Avenue out to Interstate 5.
Remsen mentioned continuing the lanes further south, past the point where Elm turns into Dupont Street.
Cyclists feel safer when there are bike lanes, Remsen said, and would be more inclined to frequent businesses along Dupont, Elm and Northwest if there were bike lanes on those roads.
Still, the Elm Street bike lanes have already proven to be a point of contention. Some residents with houses adjoining Elm spoke against proposed bike lanes on that street when council was considering the Fountain District Urban Village.
A public meeting will be held to discuss the changes March 23 at Shuksan Middle School. The city will use information collected at the meeting in deciding if and how the project should move forward.