Kirkland is already starting to prepare for the new year by polling the public on two issues the City Council will explore in 2019: a bike share pilot program and off-leash dog areas.
The city held a community conversation on Dec. 6, spending an hour on each topic, and is also hosting online surveys on its website to gauge public opinion. Movement on either issue will mean the city will have to address safety and capacity concerns.
For several years, the Kirkland City Council has been trying to figure out how it can create safe and predictable places for people and dogs. The city built Jasper’s Dog Park 2012, and renovated Edith Moulton Park, including multiple dog runs, in 2018.
Kirkland has more than 10,000 registered dogs, and all of them need a place to run and play. Recreational trends and previous community input, along with the high utilization of Jasper’s, indicate a future need for additional off-leash areas, according to the city. One of the survey questions asks: “What are your thoughts on designating off-leash dog areas in some of Kirkland’s larger parks, such as Heritage, Juanita Beach, or Crestwoods?”
Some of Kirkland’s dog owners are already taking their dogs off-leash in Kirkland’s public parks or along the Cross Kirkland Corridor. Roughly one half of Washington residents walk with a dog, according to the 2015 Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan, but dogs that run free in areas not specifically designated “off-leash” are violating Kirkland’s municipal code.
The city’s current enforcement approach has three steps. First, violators are educated about what they’re doing wrong. Second, they are given a warning and third, they are given a ticket (the first offense is $25, the second is $50 and it doubles from there).
Expanding off-leash dog areas has a number of benefits, including improved health of both pets and owners, as they provide opportunities for exercise and socialization. But some challenges have been noted: they can be dangerous, they may increase parking, traffic and noise and they can be harmful to the natural habitat, as well as take away park space.
Residents were asked if they want increased enforcement for off-leash dogs, expanded options or both. Those who haven’t weighed in yet can take the survey at www.research.net/r/kirklandoffleashdogs.
The city is also residents asking how Kirkland should respond to the introduction of bike sharing on the Eastside. Bike share programs have started in some neighboring cities, including Seattle, Bothell and Bellevue, meaning that the green, yellow and orange bicycles that can be unlocked via smartphone application are already showing up in Kirkland.
When council discussed bike share in July, a majority was excited at the prospect of the bikes being used as a first/last mile connection to transit, or as a recreation opportunity on the Cross Kirkland Corridor. Some challenges were noted, including with the county’s helmet law and the “clutter” of the bikes in the city right-of-way.
The council is considering a one-year pilot to determine if and how this emerging idea can be integrated into the city’s transportation network. The technology is being applied to scooters as well. One of the bike share survey questions asks residents to share their thoughts on permitting a bike share company to eventually include scooters in Kirkland.
Because of the inventory coming from other cities, bike share will impact the Kirkland community whether the council decides to do a pilot or not. But having a formal program will enable the city to work with bike share providers to create regulations and provide incentives. Take the survey at www.research.net/r/kirklandbikeshare.
A report of community feedback will be presented to the Kirkland City Council in early 2019. The council will use the community feedback as it considers options on how to respond to these topics.