Staff photo/Tate Thomson Cyclists disembark on the ferry to San Juan Island.

Staff photo/Tate Thomson Cyclists disembark on the ferry to San Juan Island.

San Juan County to consider cyclists, hikers in street designs

Walkers, cyclists and drivers are all critical to San Juan County road planners.

County council unanimously approved an ordinance on Nov. 27 that requires public works to offer solutions for every method of transportation along with standard road improvements when designing a roadway in the county. The increased considerations of all users of a roadway are part of a statewide initiative called Complete Streets.

Complete Streets is a program developed by the Washington state Department of Transportation to encourage road planners to assess the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders on roads throughout the state. It requires a municipality to agree to draft street-design plans that accommodate all modes of transportation. However, it does not stipulate that the final design must include those details, nor that any predetermined set standards be applied.

“Every time we do something for a road it needs to have a solution that provides pedestrian and bicycle pathways,” Councilmember Rick Hughes said.

Several roads in the county do not have accommodations for pedestrians or bicyclists. San Juan Island resident Julie Weaver applauded the project, in the transportation improvement plan approved by council on Oct. 23, to build a new road and trail to allow direct access from the town of Friday Harbor to Jackson Beach.

“Our streets are really unsafe for pedestrians,” Weaver pleaded during the public hearing before the council vote. “If we want to make our living by tourism, then we need to help them out.”

Concerned county residents brought the concept of Complete Streets to Huntermer earlier this year, who then drafted an ordinance to present to council in mid-October. One of those originators was Dave Zeretske.

“Completes Streets is a means to an end; it’s not the end. There’s just no model for a complete street,” Zeretske said during the Oct. 15 county council meeting. “There’s no such thing as a complete street. There’s only neighborhoods with different needs and different circumstances.”

For Hughes, an admitted big proponent for trails across the island communities, the ordinance may be too overreaching – not every county road requires consideration of pedestrian and cyclist traffic. Councilman Jamie Stephens countered that this ordinance adoption allows the county to gain access to more state funding for road projects while not requiring a commitment to make the suggested changes, only to consider them in the planning process.

“I think this opens a whole new avenue on funding and whether we do something on roads such as Crow Valley [Road, on Orcas,] or not; at least it makes us aware of it and makes us take it under consideration,” Stephens said. “And if there is a better way of doing it, then we can identify that better way of doing it and more forward from there.”