In 1986 Kona Community Safety Lane was formed as a result of a tragic accident involving a bike rider and a motorist. Ron Fennell was a young triathlete who lived and trained in our community was well liked by everyone. His death became a rallying point and for the first time people in the community came together to discuss bike/pedestrian safety.
The first meetings drew large crowds, out of which a small group volunteered to serve as organizers. Our first board of directors consisted of Tina Clothier, Toni Blair, George and Hilda Schumann, Ken Cates, Nick Rott and Kevin Seiter. This board set the foundation and established the hardworking and respected reputation PATH has today. We had our first public meeting with the County of Hawai`i and began to discuss what could be done to make our community safer for bikers, pedestrians and motorists to share the roadways. Our first project was the improvement of the mauka shoulder along Alii Drive to be used as a “Safety Lane.”
In 1992 we launched the Big Island Bike Ed Program. Fourth grade students loved this nationally acclaimed, hands-on program, offered in elementary schools island-wide. For ten years PATH took its fleet of bicycles to elementary schools and set up a “Main Street” course for this fun, 5-day course. Students learned the rights and responsibilities of cyclists that are the same for motor vehicle drivers. The Bike Ed program began again in 2009, servicing West Hawaii Schools. In 2013 the program went island wide.
Building upon the success of the bike ed program, PATH launched the first in the nation, Pedestrian Safety Awareness Program in 1994. PATH’s storyteller-instructor spent four-days teaching first graders in schools around the island pedestrian safety, including: how to behave around streets and intersections, the “danger zone” (blind spots) around buses, bicycle safety, and what to do if a stranger approaches. Ironically these in-school safety programs’ success was their downfall. The death statistics for bicyclist and pedestrian fell from 20 percent of all traffic deaths to 3 percent for this age group and the program’s funders moved their support to more seemingly compelling needs.
It was also in 1994 that tragedy shocked PATH and the entire Kona community with the death of Nick Rott who was hit by a car while riding his bike. While nothing can provide meaning to this death, Nick’s passion for bicycle safety lived on with the creation of the Nick Rott Memorial Bike Fest and the Nick Rott Memorial Bike Helmet Give-Away Program. The bike fest, held on Parker Ranch in Waimea, provided a fun two-day event for the entire family with a bike rodeo, keiki criterium, mountain biking, music and so much more. The helmet give-away program was launched at the fest and continued on into schools in conjunction with the Bike Ed Program. Students in the program were taught the important use of helmets in saving lives and given helmets that met the national safety standards.
In 1995 the board of directors of Kona Community Safety Lane realized we had become involved in projects that were island-wide and decided to change the name of our non-profit organization to PATH – Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii and create the following mission statement to reflect these changes: promoting traffic safety education and a safe environment on roadways and trails for recreation, fitness and alternative modes of transportation. The group also realized that its initiatives had moved beyond the capacity of a strictly volunteer organization to handle and hired Ann Peterson as its first executive director in March, 1996.
After several years in the planning and over 900 volunteer labor hours, PATH held the blessing of Old Walua Road Bike & Pedestrian Scenic Route in 1996. This was the first multi-use pathway on the island of Hawai`i and remains a very popular venue for walkers, runners, bicyclists and folks with baby strollers and dogs. We are currently seeking funds to improve the four trailheads of this pathway.
In 1999, PATH developed the first Safe Routes to School program in the state of Hawai`i and has performed the study in nine (9) schools around the island surveying over 8,000 students finding that a surprising average of 90 percent of students get to school by bus or car.
Results of the Safe Routes to School Programs have included the opening of pedestrian links between neighborhoods and schools, creation of crosswalks at strategic locations, re-striping and re-painting of shoulders and crosswalks, and additional signage along pedestrian routes.
PATH was a vocal advocate for federal support for the Safe Routes to School program and celebrated when this program became a focal point of the new transportation bill SAFE-TEA (Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act). We are currently working to get more off-road links between neighborhoods and schools and improve the physical environment around schools and hope to secure funding from the pocket of funds when the state sends out their RFP this winter.
In 2001, PATH linked local neighborhood groups to organize the first Walk to School Day in the state of Hawai`i; and the blessing of Kealakehe Pathway with over 500 students, volunteers and dignitaries in attendance. The 8-foot wide, paved, one-mile pathway links Kealakehe’s upper elementary and intermediate schools and neighborhoods and lower high school and Villages of La`i`opua with a linear park, providing an alternative to the 8 mile circuitous car route along Palani Rd, Queen Ka`ahumanu, and Kealakehe Parkway.
PATH has continued to hold Walk to Schools Days in schools around the island and launched the first Walking Bus Program in the state at Kahakai Elementary School. The walking bus is similar to a regular bus with a designated route, scheduled stops, and adult supervision, the difference is everyone is walking. In 2014 PATH was contracted as the County of Hawaii’s SRTS Coordinator and offers SRTS workshops and training programs for communities across Hawaii island.
In 2016, PATH partnered with the County of Hawaii, the Rotary clubs of West Hawaii, the Ironman Foundation and Karen Eoff to help create the 3.5k shared use pathway along Ane Keohokalole Highway in North Kona.
That same year, the County of Hawaii Research and Development Department, the Mayor’s Active Living Advisory Council and PATH launched a Bikeshare Pilot Project in Kailua Village, with 3 stations and 32 bikes.
PATH has a vested interest in the future development of Hawai`i Island, and has taken a leadership role in a number of community planning workshops and conferences including: Bike Plan Hawai`i, Solutions: Neighborhoods in Action Seminar/Workshop, Alii Drive Community Action Team (ADCAT), Hawai`i Island MIRA (Managing Information in Rural America), Pedestrian Safety Road Show, OUR KONA ~ Visions for the 21st Century, Public/Private Partnership in Park Management Workshop, Trails for the Islands: Working to Move People Quietly, Bicycle Planning and Facilities Workshop, Community Visioning for Waimea Trails & Greenways. Each year, PATH holds annual meetings with guest speakers that help move its mission forward and serves to inform the general public of its initiatives.
To insure that its mission is heard and objectives realized, PATH representatives serve on the following advisory groups and community organizations: Pu`u Wa`awa`a Advisory Council, Mayor’s Active Living Advisory Council, Kona Traffic Safety Committee, and the State Highway Safety Council. PATH is a member in national bike and pedestrian-focused organization such as League of American Bicyclists, Alliance for Walking and Biking and sends staff and representatives to national conferences such as Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conferences.
Throughout our 31-year history PATH continues be involved in bringing the community quality, family-oriented activities for fun and fitness, along with promoting Hawai`i Island as a major sports center. Some of the events include: PATH’s 5 K/10 K, held every October since 1986, the Lavaman Sunset 5k, and the Run for Hops, both held in the spring.