Monday, December 12, 2011


Safe bike lanes easily and quickly accomplished in Chicago—why not Honolulu?

In his campaign for mayor, Rahm Emanuel pledged to make Chicago a more bike-friendly city. And in office, he set his sights high, aiming to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes in his first term.

by Larry Geller

Yesterday’s article, Hawaii does not have to be a pedestrian deathtrap—let’s demand changes at the top (12/11/2011) is part of what I’ll probably call something like my “Hawaii Fail” series. As I examine one state department (and some city also) I find very troubling failures which result in avoidable human deaths. I kid you not. It’s not just that jobs are not being performed correctly, nor are these failures related to the economic downturn.

This is hard to take. What got me started on this? I was shocked in March last year to hear testimony under oath from a leader in Hawaii’s mental health sector describing how cuts have resulted in a 36% increase in deaths, one year over the previous. And the report resulted in nothing more than a few moments of uncomfortable silence from legislators in attendance… and then back to sausage making as usual. I headlined the article Hawaii’s deadly cuts in mental health services demand state response (3/18/2010). There was no state response.

That session was a turning point for me. I began to see how decisions made by our government directly affect the health and even lives of Hawaii’s citizens.

What gives me hope is that there is now a vibrant Occupy movement in the land. Maybe after they deal with the banksters they might Occupy city hall and get us some bike lanes. Or Occupy our Department of “Health.” So it’s time for me to take more pictures and hope that this might somehow result in some change.

The carnage on our roads and streets is just one area that, given attention, could both save lives and greatly increase our enjoyment of life in Hawaii. Imagine kids safely biking to school. Imagine riding safe and dedicated bike lanes to work. No Rail needed. (Will that ugly train carry bikes, by the way? I haven’t checked.) Keep the car for Costco expeditions.

Cross the street safely on your way to granny’s house. Or be sure that granny can come visit you without being afraid.

Actually, I could have gone on yesterday with more examples of missing paint, dangerous sections of highway, and more. I could have asked what has been done about the dangerous crossing where the HPU student was killed. But at some point one has to push the “Publish” button.

The other side of the blogging coin might be to demonstrate that other states or cities easily provide safety for their citizens. Yesterday I cited an initiative from Maryland that reduced avoidable deaths. The pullquote above is yet another example of a city that can. (Yeah, as opposed to Honolulu…).

Here’s just one video of many that one might find on the Web showing how cities installed bike lanes. It’s from Chicago.  Without much ado, they provided safe bike lanes.  Imagine that. Why not Honolulu, with great weather year-round? What’s wrong with us? Check out the video and the website that posted it. (click the thingy at the bottom right for full screen)

Video by Elizabeth Press. Creative Commons license 3.0. Originally posted to

In his campaign for mayor, Rahm Emanuel pledged to make Chicago a more bike-friendly city. And in office, he set his sights high, aiming to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes in his first term.

His team wasted no time. Chicago DOT installed the city's first protected bike lane on Kinzie Street before Emanuel's first 30 days in office were over. Leading Emanuel's DOT is former Washington, DC DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, who clearly understands the connection between safe streets and the health of a city.

[, Kinzie Street: The First of Many Protected Bike Lanes for Chicago, 12/1/2011]

See… it can be done. And what does not having safe streets say about the health of Honolulu?

(thanks to commenter Claire (@catskittyns) over at, and thanks to Ian for his link back to my article posted yesterday)

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Great article Larry, thanks for posting. Hawaii needs to do more in promoting/implementing alternative transportation modes that also provide environment/health/wellness benefits.

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