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Ponnada: Practice safe biking

BY SRI PONNADA | SEPTEMBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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City officials want to renew Iowa City’s Bicycle Friendly Community designation this winter, and they are enthusiastically hoping to move up from the town’s current bronze level to a silver-level designation. This would signal Iowa City as a more bicycle-friendly city. However, is Iowa City really that “bicycle-friendly?”

As reported by The Daily Iowan, city planner Kristofer Ackerson notes various improvements in the city’s bicycle substructure, such as the newly implemented two-way traffic system on Washington Street downtown, the addition of bicycle racks around the area, and the elimination of moped parking on these bike racks. He also proudly cites the addition of Dodge Street’s shared-lane arrows.

Fortunately or unfortunately, local bicycle enthusiasts have identified errors in these new implementations.

Michael Chamberlain, the owner of the Broken Spoke and sponsor of Think Bicycles, a Johnson County coalition promoting bicycle culture, told The Daily Iowan in an interview that he was frustrated by the incorrect placement of “sharrows,” or the arrows indicating a shared bike lane, on the street.

“The thing about sharrows,” he said, “they’re supposed to say this is a good route, this is a safe route — but on Dodge, you’re riding in the gutter.”

As mentioned on the report card issued to the state of Iowa by the League of American Bicyclists, Iowa City needs to develop a complete-streets policy to accommodate all users on the road — especially bicyclists. A lot of trips on the university campus and downtown can be made by bike, and with many students along with residents using this form of transportation, the more safety the better.

When more than 50,000 persons in America were injured in bicycle accidents only two years ago, it isn’t such a bright idea to paint the picture in our city’s citizens’ minds that Iowa City is perfect for bicyclists.

There are still many things to be done — the city still does not even have that many proper bike lanes.

Ackerson promises to put our roads on a “diet,” to turn the four-lane roadways into three and designate the extra lanes as bike lanes. That plan, along with the others he has in mind, sounds absolutely great, but until we see these new changes made, Iowa City residents should take care to make sure they are being extra safe when using the city’s roads for biking.


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