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Bridge work making biking ‘up hill’ battle

HOOD CANAL BRIDGE — Regardless of whether they are coming from Jefferson or Kitsap County, the Hood Canal Bridge is a popular route with bicyclists.

But with the ongoing construction, many are finding it difficult to get across without fearing for their lives. Cyclists are allowed to ride across the bridge but, due to work there, must now travel with traffic in lanes that have been recently narrowed for construction purposes.

“Some people are riding it still but it’s incredibly dicey,” said Jeff Groman, who owns Classic Cycle in Kingston and on Bainbridge.

While officials with the Washington State Department of Transportation have said they realize that the work is creating a dangerous situation for cyclists, they also didn’t want to prohibit riders from using the bridge.

“Sometimes we have to do things that are uncomfortable,” said Lloyd Brown, the WSDOT communications manager for the Olympic region. “In this case, we have to narrow lanes. With a floating bridge, there is not a lot you can do to accommodate bikes.”

He did note that one thing WSDOT could have been done better was notify the biking community about the closures earlier in the season.

“We got word out three weeks ahead of time but we could have done a better job,” Brown said.

Primarily, those who ride the bridge are just day or touring cyclists.

“They are either loaded down and touring down (State Route) 101 or they are just for a long ride coming from Port Townsend or going (from) here to Port Townsend,” said Tim Todd, manager of Classic Cycle in Kingston.

However, most cyclists aren’t even riding across anymore.

“They are driving across, parking on the other side,” Todd said. “It’s too nuts.”

WSDOT officials are encouraging cyclists to utilize Jefferson Transit. The bus agency has added bike-friendly bus stops on the east and west sides of the bridge and bikers can ride for free.

“That’s nice but most people who are touring are just so loaded down,” Todd noted. “With all kinds of gear, it’s hard to throw that on the bus. It’s just easier to ride.”

The route times available are limited and the bus traveling from Poulsbo to Port Townsend crosses Hood Canal Bridge five times a day on weekdays and just twice a day on the weekends.

“You’re chance of hitting that is pretty small,” Todd said. “Most people are riding during the weekend and there are only two routes on the weekend.”

Go to www.jeffersontransit.com/7.html to view the bus schedule.

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