Thursday, November 15, 2007

Urbana's plans to encourage bicycling

Urbana’s plans to encourage bicycling

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There are some people who just don’t bicycle, either because they are unable or unwilling to. For them, modifications to roads or changes in the behavior of drivers are immaterial.

There are other people who are so enthusiastic about bicycling that they’re now preparing for winter by making sure the studded snow tires for their bikes are ready to go. They will continue to bike with or without better accommodations for bicyclists on city streets.

Then there’s a third group of people. These are folks who would like to bicycle sometimes--either to work, or to run errands, or for recreation--but who don’t because they don’t feel secure navigating in traffic with cars.

It is with this third group in mind that Urbana’s City Council commissioned the development of a bicycle master plan this year. Working with suggestions generated at a large public meeting back in May, as well as an analysis of existing plans for bicycle facilities, the City’s consultant, the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, has recently completed a draft of the Bicycle Master Plan.

When the plan is fully implemented the casual adult cyclist should be able to travel from High Cross Road on the eastern fringe of town to Goodwin Avenue at the heart of the U of I campus by means of an easily accessed, continuous system.

Plan developers note that for the most part neighborhood streets in Urbana already allow bicyclists and other vehicle traffic to share the road comfortably, but that such streets are often not useful for travel between important destinations. They emphasize that the bicycle plan is more about facilitating travel by means of routes that have few stop signs, and that cross major arteries at traffic lights.

On streets where space allows but cars seldom park, the draft plan calls for a single white stripe that would separate a shared parking and bike lane on the right from travel lanes in the center. On streets with higher volumes of car traffic and more parking, a separate, 5-foot wide bike lane would provide bicyclists with a dedicated road space. (You can already see an example of such bike lanes on Illinois Street between Lincoln Avenue and Goodwin.)

On busier roads with higher speed limits and few crossings, such as Windsor and High Cross roads, the proposed bicycle plan calls for side paths separate from, but parallel to the main road, along with safety improvements at major intersections. The bicycle network would also incorporate existing trails, such as those at Meadowbrook Park, as well as rails-to-trails efforts in the future.

If you are interested in bicycling in Urbana you are encouraged to review the draft bicycle plan, which is available on the web through the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, and provide feedback on it.

A public meeting to discuss proposed revisions is scheduled for Thursday, December 6th from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Urbana Middle School.

I should add that planning for improved bicycling facilities is also underway on the U of I campus and in the City of Champaign. I’ll report back on those plans as they develop.