I recently began biking to work using the King Street cycle track. Riding into work has helped me stay active and allowed me to avoid the frustrations of sitting in traffic. Although I’ve been commuting by bike for a few months, I still consider myself a novice rider. Truth be told, the learning curve of understanding how to ride on the road and use the cycle track properly intimidated me. It took a few trial runs to understand how to ride safely. I bet there are many Honolulu residents in the same boat as me when I first wanted to start commuting by bike. Like me, these folk have heard about the cycle track, are curious about using it, but may not know how to cycle safely. The King Street cycle track provides many benefits to O‘ahu residents and it’s important that we know how to use it.
In honor of National Bike to Work Month, I’ve pulled together some tips for bikers, pedestrians, and drivers about using the cycle track safely. I’ve also outlined a brief history of how the cycle track developed and how it’s designed to keep cyclists safe.
A Brief History of the Cycle Track
The National Association of Transportation Officials (NACTO) defines a cycle track as, “an exclusive bike facility that combines the user experience of a separated path with the on-street infrastructure of a conventional bike lane.” Cycle tracks, or protected bike lanes as they are also known, are distinct from the sidewalk and physically separated from vehicular traffic. The additional separation and security of a cycle track has been proven to reduce the number of bikes riding on adjacent sidewalks and can make riding more attractive to residents who may be uncomfortable riding in traffic. While cities in Europe, and around the world, have been utilizing cycle tracks with great success for centuries, they have only started to take hold in the US in the past 5 to 10 years. However, cities around the country are now embracing the benefits that cycle tracks can offer for all road users. Since 2009, the number of cycle tracks in the US has doubled every two years.
In Honolulu, the King Street Cycle Track was installed in December 2014 and initially traveled in one direction toward Diamond Head. You might be wondering why the cycle track sits on the mauka side of King Street. Interestingly, the cycle track was installed there to avoid conflicts with buses stopping at stops sited on the makai side of the street. On-street parking in the area now occupied by the cycle track was shifted one lane to the right. The cycle track was later converted to a two-way facility in 2015, allowing the lane to accommodate ewa-bound riders.
The King Street cycle track was designed with features to keep cyclists safe. For example, a three-foot buffer was installed between the cycle track and parking lanes makai of the track to separate vehicles and cyclists. Users will notice asphalt curbing and bollards within the buffer zone that further clarify this separation. Green paint marks all areas where there may be potential conflicts between cyclists and vehicular traffic (i.e. driveways and intersections), and yield to cyclist signs have been installed at all intersections. New users, may not notice subtle design elements that also separate bikes and cars. If you look closely you’ll see that street lines showing cars where to stop were pushed back at major intersections where cars might cross the track so drivers can easily see cyclists waiting.
The City and County is currently constructing the South Street Cycle Track, and other cycle tracks are being proposed to provide a network of safe biking options for our city. Since some of you might be using the existing cycle track to commute this month, I’ve developed the following list of safety tips for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians.