Cyclists cruise along the Sammamish River Trail in Redmond. Reporter file photo

Cyclists cruise along the Sammamish River Trail in Redmond. Reporter file photo

Redmond contributes to state’s top bike-friendly ranking in the country

Washington state was recently rated as the most bike-friendly state in the country.

The League of American Bicyclists released its annual rating, with Washington coming in first, followed by Minnesota and California.

The least bike-friendly states included North Dakota, Hawaii and Nebraska.

Joe Matthews, president of the Redmond Cycling Club, said he appreciated the state and City of Redmond’s work on creating a safer environment for cyclists.

“We’re fortunate as well to live in Redmond, which has been a supportive and bike-friendly city for decades,” Matthews said in an email. Redmond is known as the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest and has been recognized by the League as a Silver City, according to goredmond.com.

Matthews was concerned with a recent increase in the rate of bicyclists killed per capita and per bike commuter basis noted in the Reporter.

According to the League, there were 3.7 fatalities per 10,000 bike commuters over five years compiled by the National Highway Administration.

A recent notable case of a cyclist dying occurred in Kenmore in 2015 after a 70-year-old man was hit by a cement truck along the Burke-Gilman Trail.

The state has set a goal of eliminating bicycle and pedestrian deaths and serious injury in the state by 2030, and spends around $20 million annually on funding for biking and walking programs.

According to the League ratings, Washington ranked second nationally for infrastructure and funding for bike support, seventh for education and biking encouragement and third for legislation and enforcement measures, which included high marks for laws penalizing distracted driving as well as allowing photo enforcement.

The state Department of Transportation’s creation of the Active Transportation Division also played into the state’s high rating. The report said this shows the state places biking and walking on even footing with other modes of transportation.

The League reported two major areas where Washington could improve.

They include increasing the per capita federal spending for bicycling and walking, even though the state ranks in the top 10 for spending.

Washington additionally does not have a safe passing law that mandates drivers must pass cyclists by at least three feet.

While there is a law stating that drivers have to provide a “safe distance,” that length is not codified except in regards to motorcyclists passing a bicyclist in the same lane.

Barb Chamberlain is the director of the Active Transportation Division. The agency was made to consolidate the biking and walking functions into a single entity.

“What it does is put walking and biking on the same level as other modes of transportation,” Chamberlain said. “This gives us a way of thinking at a statewide level about all modes of transportation.”

The agency was formed this spring and will award grants to municipalities, as well as promote projects that help pedestrians.

One strategy to doing this is filling in gaps in infrastructure, like increasing signage for bikers, keeping them informed on better or alternative routes that could be safer.

Creating dedicated bike lanes is another way to achieve this.

Getting people out of their cars and onto bikes or walking also helps reduce congestion and pollution, Chamberlain said.

Improving conditions for bikers and walkers is also a matter of equity, Chamberlain said, since many people who have the least money are most likely to be using these modes of transportation, as well as public transit.

Environmental concerns are also present.

“They also are often living in the places that are closest to highways and busy streets that are sources of pollution,” she said.

The next steps for the agency include updating the statewide plans for active transportation by working with partners across the state.

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