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Bellingham’s new bike plan could make it the most bike-friendly city in the state

From the most recent draft of Bellingham's bike plan. See the full plan here.
From the most recent draft of Bellingham’s bike plan. Click map for larger image of check out the full plan here.

We don’t often cover Bellingham news, since it’s just a bit outside our traditional coverage zone, but this is awesome. City leaders appear poised to approve a Bicycle Master Plan with a clear goal: Become the most bike-friendly city in Washington.

But on another level, leaders want to stay ahead of Seattle in biking levels, and they are going to rely heavily on cost-effective projects like 42 miles of painted bike lanes and 52 miles of bicycle boulevards to get there. From The Bellingham Herald:

“Bellingham already has one of the highest bicycling and walking rates in the entire state,” consultant Peter Lagerwey told the council on Monday, Aug. 11. “So when you implement this plan, you’re just going to blow everybody off the charts and be No. 1.”

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The majority of the network improvements will be bicycle boulevards on residential streets (similar to Seattle’s neighborhood greenways) and more painted bike lanes, though there will be some buffered bike lanes and very few cycle tracks (AKA protected bike lanes).

A Bellingham Herald politics reporter tweeted the details from a recent briefing to the council:

Because Bellingham is a smaller city and will rely heavily on these lower cost measures, their entire plan comes in around $20 million. By comparison, Seattle’s updated Bike Master Plan includes many miles of protected bike lanes and has a price tag in the neighborhood of $450 million.

Seattle is more dense and busy, and investing in protected bike lanes is needed to attract the big numbers of residents who do not feel safe biking in many of the city’s paint-only bike lanes. Bellingham is focused on creating a network of bike routes that will be comfortable for people of all ages and abilities mostly through the all-new bicycle boulevards.

The Herald makes the claim that Bellingham is already more bike-friendly than Seattle, but they are really essentially tied at about 3–4 percent according to (flawed) Census commute data. Due to the Census survey’s margin of error, Seattle is ahead of Bellingham in the one and three-year estimates, but Bellingham is ahead in the five-year estimate.

In fact, if Bellingham wants to be the top bicycling city in Washington, they should forget about Seattle and try to catch Port Townsend (5 percent) and Ellensburg (8 percent). If the city passes and invests in their bike plan, they could very well get there.

And in addition to bragging rights, they will have a healthier, safer and more livable city.

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9 responses to “Bellingham’s new bike plan could make it the most bike-friendly city in the state”

  1. Bellingham has an overwhelming advantage over Seattle called Western Washington State University.

    1. Steve Campbell

      Yes, too bad there are no universities located in Seattle.

    2. Gary

      Well Western U has way better bicycle racks than any other place I’ve seen so far. (for open air coverage.)

      Also Bellingham due to it’s lower employement/less congested downtown has way less traffic. Should be easy to beat Seattle at this game.

  2. Andres Salomon

    From Chapter 4, Pg 61 of Bellingham’s BMP:

    “A bicycle boulevard may also be developed as a parallel, alternative to a busier street within the same district, but should generally not be provided in lieu of facilities on the busier street if that street is a more direct route to important destinations.”


  3. HaHaNO

    Bike-friendly = Car-unfriendly.

  4. Hamster

    Good plan overall, but they forgot to include bike lanes or facilities on Guide Meridian in front of Bellis Fair. This stretch does not even have sidewalks in some areas. It is the most direct, relatively level route to shopping and many other Bham destinations. People ride there bikes on it daily despite all the truck traffic and lost Canadian shoppers looking for the I-5 on ramps.

    Official bureaucratic Hamsters, please consider some sort of bike lane on Guide Meridian. Cordata and other connections are out of the way, hilly, and not intuitive to anyone. It is so scary to ride to the mall on Meridian or anywhere on Meridian.

    As an added bonus, you could daylight Squalicum Creek, which is just a ditch on the side of Meridian filled with Bellis Fair mall abandoned shopping carts and garbage.

  5. […] Bham pride: Bellingham has a plan to create the best bicycling system in the state. […]

  6. Bob Hall

    “The Herald makes the claim that Bellingham is already more bike-friendly than Seattle, but they are really essentially tied at about 3–4 percent according to (flawed) Census commute data.”

    Bellingham IS more bike-friendly than Seattle. I’ve biked a ton in both towns and I can say Bham hands down beats Seattle, just from virtue of being a smaller, more mellow town.

    So why is biking there only 3-4 percent? We need to start wrapping our heads around the idea that humans tend to take the path of least resistance: Yes, Bham is nicer than Seattle to ride a bike but it’s also easier to drive there. Parking and traffic aren’t that bad, so there is less to gain by biking. Depending on where you are in Seattle, often there is tons of time and frustration to be saved by biking.

    Why do people in Copenhagen bike so much? Because it’s fun? Because it’s Green? No, it’s because it’s the quickest, easiest way to get there.

  7. […] all students start out confident on a bicycle, Coulter said — even in Bellingham, one of the bicycle-friendliest cities in the […]

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