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How Central Kitsap bike commuters roll
The pavement took on a sparkle as Katie Davis glided down the shoulder of State Highway 303 on her way home from work.
It was a rare sunny day last month and the sparkles spread from one end of the Brownsville Highway turnoff to the other.
No mirage, this was broken glass.
“Rocks, glass, screws, I see everything on the road,” Davis, 25, said over the whoosh of her fellow traffic. For her fiancee’s birthday, Davis made a “found object” mobile sculpture of the various and sundry items.
“She loved it,” Davis said with a laugh.
Her single-speed dashed through the sparkles, rivaling the speed of passing cars. It’s the dodgiest part of her nine-mile Central Kitsap commute from Bremerton, the east end of the Warren Avenue Bridge, to her house near Island Lake, just north of Silverdale.
Demand for accommodating bicycles on roads is up. And when the sun makes an appearance during summer months, the number of cyclists joining Davis on the road increases as well.
And as more people want to ride their bikes to work and school, so goes the demand for more paved shoulders and more upkeep.
But Kitsap bike commuters are going to get more than just that.
An effort is underway to refocus the county’s bike and pedestrian plan and draw a map of bike routes to make getting from A to B while burning fat, rather than gas, easier than ever.
There are 45 miles of paved shoulders in Kitsap County — and eight trucks to clean shoulders — said Bill Zupancic, transportation planner for the county Department of Transportation.
Those miles aren’t continuous — and don’t include Central Kitsap’s Clear Creek Trail — and most were built in tandem with other road projects.
It wasn’t the original intent of the 2001 Bicycle Facilities Plan, Zupancic said, which included the wish of residents to develop waterfront routes for bikes. That has proven easier said than done, and the list of cheaper, less controversial improvements — roads with shoulders without utilities or other obstructions — was the default.
Now as the county prepares an update to the bike plan, the focus is shifting.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Zupancic said.
Instead of the patchwork of bicycle and pedestrian accessible routes, which both bike advocates and the county admit is the current system, bikers and planners are pushing for “connectivity.” In other words, providing cyclists with continuous, well-established routes leading to and from cities, schools and major employers.
It’s not a matter of having direct routes, said Lee Derror, president of the West Sound Cycling Club.
“Most people don’t mind cycling extra distance if they know they are on a safe route,” she said.
The club, representing about 100 current members, is working with the county on the inventory of bicycle trails, accessible roads and streets with shoulders.
The plan, ultimately, is to publish a comprehensive bicycle map. In conducting the inventory the group also hopes to make recommendations on how Kitsap can become more bicycle friendly by September. The map won’t be available until next year.
Safety is the biggest concern of members, Derror said, and keep shoulders and bike routes free of crash- and flat-causing debris and branches is part of that.
“Some have good shoulders,” Derror said. “Some are just overgrown, encroachment from the great Northwest growth.”
Although Davis has her concerns about debris, she says Kitsap drivers are mostly courteous and she feels safe on her route.
There are several reasons she prefers to ride — like most cyclists, she has a car and pays taxes when she buys gas — but she particularly enjoys the feeling of interacting with her community, something motorists miss out on.
“It’s hard to feel a sense of community when they are whizzing by you.”