Week-long bike lane study on Waialae Avenue begins

Traffic sign on Waialae Avenue.
Traffic sign on Waialae Avenue.
Sacred Hearts Academy students waiting to cross the street.
Sacred Hearts Academy students waiting to cross the street.
Waialae Avenue
Waialae Avenue

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - This week, drivers along Kaimuki's Waialae Avenue are literally being put to the test.

Starting today, May 14 thru Friday, May 18th between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. drivers along Waialae Avenue won't be able to turn left into Sacred Heart's Academy nor turn left onto 5th Avenue to head up to the H-1 freeway.

The City Department of Transportation Services is collecting supplemental data to see what alternate routes drivers are likely to take when they can't turn left at those sites at that peak morning commute hour.

It's all part of additional information needed in a feasibility study to look at putting bike lanes along Waialae Avenue from 11th Avenue to St. Louis Heights Drive. Engineers are looking to find the best and safest way to link up bike lanes along Kalanianaole Highway in East Honolulu, thru Kaimuki toward the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

While many bicyclists support the plan, not all of them agree.

"I ride a bike almost everyday, I'm just not for putting them along Waialae Avenue because of the safety factor," said Lee Libby, an avid bicyclist and crossing guard at the corner of Waialae and 5th Avenues.

Libby said, he'd rather the City consider turning the parallel Harding Avenue into a one-way town bound, and use the other lane for bikes and then one lane Pahoa Road headed in the opposite Kokohead direction.

But DTS Director, Wayne Yoshioka said data shows residents really need two-way traffic along Harding and that Waialae Avenue is the best route under consideration right now, not only because of the size of the road but its current popularity with cyclists who also live, shop and work in the busy area. He said, it's safer for bicyclists to be in dedicated bike lanes, then traveling on the street with cars, or on the sidewalks with pedestrians.

Yoshioka also clarified that this week's test is not a "full traffic study" and that's why engineers are able to do the test while U.H. Manoa and Chaminade University students are out of session for the summer.

Sacred Hearts Academy Principal Betty White said this morning that the school is anticipating the possibility that some students may be tardy this week as parents sit in traffic and reroute themselves to get to school.  One unidentified school worker noted that about 8 students of the 700 plus students were tardy this morning.

"It's by no means the definitive study on the project," said Yoshioka. "And we'll continue to share the results with the community for feedback on the project."

Yoshioka said, the department also continues to conduct follow-up interviews with residents who raise important questions or points regarding the project.

It's also possible, said Yoshioka, that at some point this year, if the community agrees, they could set up temporary bike lanes for a "trial period" to test out the proposed Waialae bike route.

Yoshioka said his department has already alerted the Department of Design & Construction to hold off on laying down the permanent "thermo-plastic" lane striping that would normally be put in place whenever they repave Waialae Avenue sometime this Summer. He said it is much more cost effective to remove temporary paint than that kind of permanent road striping.

He estimates that if the Waialae bike lane project is fully implemented along Waialae Avenue, it would take about 2-3 months to complete and cost about $200,000.

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