Bellingham plans to add bike lanes in several areas. But not everyone is happy

J.R. Johnson/Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Bellingham residents will get a chance to comment on a plan to remove parking along several streets to install bike lanes — an effort that’s part of the city’s goal of connecting neighborhoods to jobs, schools and commercial centers in a way that makes travel easier for people who are walking, biking, driving or riding the bus.

Not everyone is happy about that, however, including some people who live on the streets where parking spaces would be lost.

“The city has received numerous comments both in favor of and against the parking removal proposal,” according to a memo from Eric Johnston, director of the Public Works Department.

In recent years, the city has taken similar steps to remove parking and add bike lanes on Chestnut Street through downtown and other locations as part of its “multimodal” approach to transportation and a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint.

A public hearing on the issue is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3.

It will be the City Council’s first in-person meeting since March 2020, when official meetings moved to an online format amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday’s council sessions will be in “hybrid” form, which means that anyone can attend and speak in person, or watch and listen online and comment using a phone or computer.

Directions on how to watch the meeting and how to participate in the hearing are available at the city’s website, with the City Council agenda packet, which also contains a detailed report on the plan to remove parking from:

West Illinois Street from Sunset to Lynn.

Meridian Street from East Victor to West Illinois.

Girard Street from Broadway to Young.

Eldridge Avenue from Broadway to Nequalicum.

Cornwall Avenue from Laurel to Pine.

Each project is part of the Transportation Improvement Program that the Bellingham City Council approved recently for the next six years.

Work is expected to start in summer 2023, Johnston said.

City officials used the Engage Bellingham website to inform residents about the project and collect comments, he said.

Several parking studies from 2017 to 2022, conducted at varying times of day, showed that 4% to 25% of parking spaces in the affected areas were being used, Johnston said in the memo.

A total of 460 responses were received, he said.

Bellingham resident Ken Mann wrote Councilman Skip Williams, objecting to the plan to remove parking in an email that was copied to The Bellingham Herald.

“If you remove the parking, you are creating a dangerous and logistical nightmare — not just for (trash collection) and (bus service), but visitors, delivery vans, tradespeople, and anybody else with a need to be on the water side of Eldridge will be forced to play real-life ‘Frogger’ (video game) in a high-speed, four-lane throughway,” Mann said.

“This proposal will be terrible for those of us who actually live here. Please don’t prioritize the convenience of those passing through over the safety of the residents,” he said.

Eldridge is an arterial street that carries traffic to and from the Birchwood neighborhood, Bellingham Technical College, Bellingham International Airport and other places northwest of downtown.

Its residents are part of the Columbia neighborhood, which recently sought quick action to slow cars on the street, which has a 25 mph speed limit but where speeds average 30 mph to 32 mph from the 5,500 to 7,000 cars it sees daily, according to previous Bellingham Herald reporting.

Protected bike lanes are planned next summer, along with lighted crosswalks, Johnston told The Herald in May.

Other residents urged the city to keep the parking spaces on Eldridge via Engage Bellingham, where names are removed from comments.

“Our house doesn’t have reasonable off-street parking to park daily at our property. We are also farther than a block away from off-street parking and would need to cross Eldridge to get to it,” one resident said.

Parking removal on Girard Street also drew opposition.

“Our primary parking is on Girard street because we do not have a driveway. We attempted to build a garage and driveway but city permits made this pretty much impossible since Girard is a main artery. Most days Girard is the only place we can park because H street is full from other neighbors or visitors. I do love the added bike lanes and ride my bike around Bellingham nearly every single day. However, Halleck street and other less-traveled streets in the neighborhood are great for biking. I do not believe we need to add bike lanes to Girard,” one resident said.