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City Council candidates discuss bike-friendly measures

BY MARY KATE KNORR | OCTOBER 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa City City Council candidates all agree that maintaining a safe environment for bicyclists is crucial to the reputation of the community.

The Think Bicyclists Coalition — a collection of Iowa City bike-related businesses and nonprofits — held a candidate forum Wednesday night to allow council hopefuls to share their thoughts on the city's growing population of cyclists.

Suggestions during the forum included more bicycle trails, lanes, or sharrows.

"I'd be very interested in seeing Gilbert Street go to two lanes and have more bicycle lanes on that street," said Raj Patel, a former UI student and current at-large candidate. "I'd be very eager to see what plans Iowa City comes back with as far as plans for that."

City officials have held lengthy discussions on how to make Iowa City a more bike friendly place, said re-election candidate and current Mayor Matt Hayek.

"We're looking at returning Washington Street to two-way," Hayek said. "That would help create a better east to west route through downtown."

District A candidate Steve Soboroff also offered some solutions.

"We could alleviate a lot of problems if we … make some of the one-ways two-ways again," Soboroff said. "Let's slow things down … we will make things safer for our bicyclists and pedestrians."

District C candidate Jim Throgmorton said he's been an avid cyclist for years. For six years, the 66-year-old didn't own a car.

"If we really want to encourage bicycle use as a major mode of transportation, we'd have a carbon fee," he said. "Is the public ready for that? No. Are some people? Yes."

Though Throgmorton did not say the city should necessarily implement the fee, he said placing a tax on gasoline in Iowa City would encourage residents to ride bikes instead of driving cars.

At the forum, several candidates addressed the seeming lack of law-enforcement officials monitoring Iowa City roadways.

"We need to relax using our police as revenue makers and … make sure that they are enforcing the rules of the road for both cars and bicyclists and pedestrians," Soboroff said. "If we had a concerted effort in doing that, over a year's period of time, it'd be a safer, better community."

Soboroff also opposed red-light cameras, which he says are a source of revenue rather than an efficient form of protection for roadway users.

Hayek noted a primary demographic of Iowa City residents finds the area's bicycle friendly qualities a huge attraction.

"It is important to economic development to have that aspect of our community as a marketing tool, that we are a bicycle-friendly community," said Michelle Payne, an at-large candidate.


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