Honolulu has problems managing money for bicycle lane projects, according to a recent audit that found some federal funding has been lost and more might be jeopardized by the city’s failure to complete all of its bike projects in a timely fashion.
Making Honolulu more bike-friendly has been one of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s priorities since he took office two years ago. The city recently completed the King Street Cycle track, and started other “Complete Streets” projects that aim to make roads safer for the mix of motor vehicles, pedestrians and bikes.
But the audit reported that some city agencies haven’t been keeping track of the costs to build some bike lanes. Meanwhile, the city has allowed funding for some projects to lapse, which means some of the money could be taken back by the federal government.
An average of 33 percent of bike project funding has lapsed since January 2013, according to the audit. Before that, the city allowed an average of 39 percent of funding to lapse. That totals up to about $3.6 million in lapsed bike funds since 2006.
Funding lapses when it isn’t used within the time frame specified in a grant or other conditions for funding, said City Auditor Edwin Young. And when federal funding lapses, the federal government can take money back, although that’s happened to Honolulu only rarely.
Money Actually Lost
Mike Formby, director of the city Department of Transportation Services, told Civil Beat that $59,382 in federal funds were lost prior to 2013. Since
If you’re working downtown and have a meeting a mile away, how would you get there?
You could walk for free, but that would take about 20 minutes and you’d probably be a sweaty mess. There’s TheBus, but that’s a 45-minute ordeal. You could take a taxi, but you’d have to find one first, and you’re starting to push $10 and 30 minutes.
You could be hip and use Uber, which might be faster (current wait for pickup at Aloha Tower: eight minutes) but has a minimum fare of $5 or more, and gets a bad rap for surge pricing and questionable business practices.
Or, you could step outside your office, hop on a bike, and pedal down the street for just a few bucks. That’s the vision of Bikeshare Hawaii, which is supported by the State of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu, Ulupono Initiative, Hawaii Pacific University, and a number of private organizations, and whose mission is to reduce our reliance on cars.
“Our objective is to offer the cheapest and most convenient means of travel, next to walking,” said Lori McCarney, executive director of Bikeshare Hawaii, former banking executive, and avid cyclist and triathlete.
Bike-sharing has become a popular, if financially challenging, trend over the past few years with cities big and small, from New York to DC and Pittsburgh to Portland, having some
Even the most car-centric among us are looking at the new protected bike lane on King Street with curiosity.
It’s wide, it’s set apart from cars with white, concrete buffers, and it stretches all the way from downtown to the University area, which means a quick ride between the Honolulu Museum of Art and Pint and Jigger is both safe and pleasant.
With its bright green caution areas and shiny white barriers, biking down one of Oahu’s main thoroughfares seems like an attractive option.
And that’s the point.
Protected bike lanes are well established nationally and while their biggest proponents are current riders looking for increased safety measures, their biggest success is in attracting new riders. In a study of five major U.S. cities, the installation of protected bike lanes caused an increase in ridership anywhere from 21 percent to 171 percent, with about 10 percent of new riders drawn from other modes of transportation.
That’s not an insignificant uptick in new riders, and one that Honolulu desperately needs. If the city is ever going to deliver on its promise of “Complete Streets,” it needs to capitalize on the King Street momentum and keep delivering more protected bike lanes in a timely manner.
According to Tim Blumenthal, president of PeopleForBikes and the Green Lane Project, “Bike issues need to be framed in the context of what they mean to the city, not just what they mean
Living car free comes with stigmas. In addition to a few people thinking you don’t have any money or are otherwise underemployed. In a few situations I was accused of not being a committed Hawaii resident, as if I was planning on moving.
If you’re not bothered by this and if you spend the time to learn how to get around without a car, you can save a lot of money and, as some studies show, be happier too.
Thankfully, living car-free is becoming easier and the perceptions about living without owning a car are changing.
That Was Then…
I’ve lived without a car since 2010. I use TheBus and my bike to get around. I choose to make a tradeoff. By avoiding the costs of a car, auto insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, parking and the occasional ticket, I can afford a nicer place in town and still have some left over to take an occasional taxi or fill a friend’s gas tank if I ever need to borrow a car.
My transportation lifestyle hasn’t been easy. I eventually got into the habit of planning trips well in advance to buy groceries or visit places TheBus doesn’t go.
I started shopping online more, even if the product was available at a local supermarket. I started researching different ways to get from point A to point B on my bike that didn’t involve streets I felt unsafe on. I learned more
Not a whole lot, but we do better than the national average.
According to data-happy crunchers at Hawaii DBEDT, just 1 percent of us — 6,332 people — dared to ride a bike to work from 2008 to 2012.
That’s up from 4,900 cyclists, however, in 2000. So, there’s progress.
The highest percentages were in Laie and the housing area at the Hickam base.
Civil Beat marks Earth Day with Civil Cafe, and a discussion on the future of bicycling in Honolulu.
Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to bring city’s bike culture into the 21st century.
Nearly 60 percent of Waldorf’s student body biked, walked, scootered or skateboarded to school on May 15.
Mixed reaction from residents and businesses as city closes lane on Kaimuki’s main avenue.
State and city have dropped the ball on bicycle improvements.
It’s amazing how the discussion picks up when we’re writing about topics where most everyone can speak from personal experience: bicycling in Hawaii and how to make the state a better place.
Fact Checks might seem to be about simple statements by candidates, but they teach about government, politics and the election. Next week, Civil Beat will add another layer to our government coverage by posting the salaries of 1000s of state workers, showing Hawaii residents where their tax dollars are going.
Honolulu has a long way to go to become a great city for bicycles despite its climate, terrain and friendly bus system. There aren’t enough bike lanes, the roads are rough and riders aren’t treated with respect by motorists. Safety is the No. 1 issue, the city’s bicycling coordinator says.