South Whidbey bike loop to encourage fitness, tourism

Island County is wrapping up plans for a South Whidbey bike route that will circle through scenic areas between Clinton to Bayview Corner to Langley and back again. “The idea is that people on the mainland can bring their bikes over on the ferry and see South Whidbey,” Transportation Planner Doug Cox said. “It will be one of those things we think will go a long way.”

A commuter bicycles north on Highway 20 on Central Whidbey. Island County is working on a plan for a roughly 20-mile bike loop on South Whidbey

Island County is wrapping up plans for a South Whidbey bike route that will circle through scenic areas between Clinton to Bayview Corner to Langley and back again.

“The idea is that people on the mainland can bring their bikes over on the ferry and see South Whidbey,” Transportation Planner Doug Cox said. “It will be one of those things we think will go a long way.”

Cox said the $100,000 project will use existing roads but add signage to make it more cyclist-friendly. The project will also widen shoulders in key locations. The goal, Cox said, is to improve bicycle facilities to encourage more residents to ride bicycles for daily transportation and to promote bicycle tourism.

The route has been in the works for a while, but this part of the project marks the final phase to complete the loop, according to Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.

“I’m excited to have it completed,” Price Johnson said. “It will make it easier for locals and visitors to use non-motorized transportation and add mobility and well-being.”

The commissioner said she believed the bike loop will not only be an asset for locals, but will help the South Whidbey economy through tourism.

The project will be initiated in two phases.

The Transportation Alternatives Program will provide $20,000 this year for preliminary engineering. Once right of way has been certified and a contract advertised and awarded, construction is expected to begin mid-next year with an early 2016 completion date. The county will be awarded an additional $80,000 to complete the project. The loop covers roughly 20 miles, Cox said.

The loop’s Bayview Corner stop off on Highway 525 provides access for cyclists to explore the rest of the island as well. Coupeville is roughly 20 miles north of that spot, and Oak Harbor just another 10 miles after that.

Clinton business leaders are hoping that the loop will assist in making Clinton more of a destination and less of a pass-through community, according to Bob Craven, chairman of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce.

“We have a lot to offer: wineries, B & Bs, alpaca farms… but a lot of them are on the back roads,” Craven said. “My hope is that the bike trail will be a real plus for us with more exploration on the back roads. Bicyclists like to get off the main drag. I’m very heartened by this development.”

Craven added bicycle tourism is environmentally friendly and allows people quick access to the island without having to wait in line in their cars.

He said he would like to see a company offer bicycle rentals near the Clinton Ferry Terminal to give bike access to those who may not own one, or don’t want to pack one onto the ferry.

The South Whidbey bike loop will join the island’s existing bike tours throughout the island including those around Deception Pass, Fort Casey and Possession Point State Park.

This route is different, according to Langley Mayor Fred McCarthy, because it’s a circle complete with beautiful scenic locations along the way.

“It’s pretty exciting,” McCarthy said. “It’s a really neat loop. The improvements will make it safer.”

McCarthy said he’s read studies that report people like to bike fairly level areas, but can see a lot of scenery. The route runs along Lone and Deer lakes, as well as Saratoga Pass and Admiralty Inlet.

“That’s the kind of route that appeals to bicyclists,” McCarthy said. “It’s an amazing route for a whole lot of reasons.”

For more information on the island’s bike routes, www.islandcounty.net/publicworks/biketours

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