The Mercer Island City Council last night chose not to make dramatic changes in how cyclists, drivers and walkers share the island's narrow...
The Mercer Island City Council last night chose not to make dramatic changes in how cyclists, drivers and walkers share the island’s narrow, twisty roads.
Instead, the city opted to educate the groups how to better coexist, enforce existing rules and improve roadsides to ease tension and improve safety.
The council will review the effort in six months. In the meantime, Mayor Alan Merkle encouraged island drivers and cyclists to police one another when they try to pass unsafely, fail to pull aside when they hold up five or more vehicles, or ride more than two abreast.
“We are a small community, and peer pressure works,” Merkle said.
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Mercer Island’s stunning views, challenging terrain and few stoplights have made it a cycling favorite. While police say the majority of road users get along just fine, some drivers complain they are unable to pass cyclists on the island’s many blind corners; cyclists say drivers don’t know how or don’t care to share the road.
How to improve relations is a familiar debate, although city reports show the number of accidents involving the three types of users has remained stable over the years.
Earlier this year, the council proposed stringent new rules for cyclists that would have required bikers to ride single file, register large groups with City Hall and slow down or stay off the Interstate 90 trail across the island.
City staffers discouraged such changes, however, suggesting in a report that the proposals could create more problems. Single-file riding would double the length of cycling groups that motorists would have to pass, for example.
At last night’s council meeting, several cyclists said it’s unsafe for them to pull over along many of the island’s roads to let traffic pass. They suggested the city replace raised bumps along the road’s edge with a white line and sweep shoulders for debris more often to remove obstacles.
Public Safety Director Ron Elsoe said the staffers will experiment with the suggestions over the summer and meet with bike-racing groups to share safety concerns. The city already is widening sections of East Mercer, West Mercer and North Mercer Way to create shoulders where cyclists can pull over and walkers can stroll safely.
Councilman El Jahncke continued to push for riders to ride single-file when cars approach. He asked the city staff to look into requiring cyclists to ride in groups of six or fewer to prevent congestion along winding roads and to set ground rules for use of the I-90 trail.
Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or firstname.lastname@example.org