HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It opened to mixed reviews in December, but public opinion about the King Street bike lane appears to be shifting gears.
As it turns out, 53% of the O'ahu residents who participated in the Hawai'i Poll approve of the bike lane.
"It's a pilot project. We did it that way because we really want to find out what people think -- we want to see, do they ride it? And also what improvements can we make, so if it works we can make better as we build out this protected bike lane grid," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
The City and County of Honolulu spent $100,000 on the dedicated bike lane, which runs from Alapai to Isenberg Street, all in an effort to keep cicylists safer and encourage folks to leave their cars at home and consider a commute that could cut down on Oahu's traffic woes.
Mayor Caldwell admits he was surprised to learn a majority of those who were polled supported the bike lane, and he wasn't alone.
"That's surprising to me because usually we get yelled at for either being on the road -- or I've even been yelled at for being in the bike lane a few times, I think because it's a relatively new bike lane. I've almost been hit a few times because nobody yields to the bikers even though there's a sign that says yield to the bikers," said Tony Perez, who commutes on his bike every day.
It appears drivers will be eventually grow more aware -- especially since 66% of respondents say they approve of the city's efforts to encourage bicycle commuting by adding more bike lanes.
"Gotta share the road -- that's why they've got the bike lane now, for share the road," explained Koa Napuelua, who drives to work every day.
Napuelua says even though he supports expanding the bike lane program, he hopes officials will choose those areas carefully.
"In town I don't think we should have bike lanes because we have more cars than bikes," Napuelua said gesturing toward the traffic on King Street. "This could be used for another lane and then it wouldn't be so clogged up."
Despite the approval for protected bike lanes, a vast majority of those polled -- 78% -- say they don't plan to use them, but advocates say that's not necessarily bad news.
"21% are willing to use the bike lane or cycle track -- that's super. It's awesome. Right now, we have 2.4% commuting regularly in Honolulu and even at 2.4%, which is small, we're the 11th highest city in the country doing it. Even the best cities in the U.S. are 4-6% -- and compare that to Copenhagen, Amsterdam where you have 30-50% -- that's where we really want to get to and I think the people of Honolulu are really going to enjoy it when we get there," said Chad Taniguchi of the Hawai'i Bicycling League.
Mayor Caldwell agrees. "Once you build a system and people actually see how they can use it, they'll use it more," he said.
Ward Research interviewed 403 O'ahu residents from January 13 to 23 for the Hawai'i Poll. The poll's margin of error is 4.9%.