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City Council supports biking

BY ALLIE BISCUPSKI | JULY 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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Just days after RAGBRAI riders finished their seven-day journey across the state, Iowa City officials wheeled in new plans to make Iowa City safer and more accessible for cyclists.

On Monday, the Iowa City City Council voted to help fund a bike-sharing grant with the University of Iowa, authorized the creation of dedicated bike lanes to parts of First Avenue and Mormon Trek Boulevard, as well as changes to the city’s biking ordinance.

Last year, the UI and Iowa City submitted an application to the Iowa Department of Transportation for a $135,300 grant to help fund a bike-sharing program, which they then received.

The bike-sharing program would install three bike stations across campus and 30 bicycles for local residents.

As part of the local funding match, the city counselors voted Monday to contribute $13,700 to the program.

Other organizations contributing include the UI Staff Council ($4,000), the UI Student Government ($4,000), and the UI Parking and Transportation Department ($20,000).

“[It’s] important to do everything we can to make roads safe as possible for our bicyclists,” Councilor Michelle Payne said.

Willy Tan, a bike intern at UI Sustainability Office and creator of the bike-sharing business plan, said the city is looking into specific docking stations that will be easiest for residents to use.

“It’s a kiosk-based system that we’re looking at,” he said. “We’re looking for a dock-based style where we can take a bike, ride it to another place, then put it in a dock at another station. It’ll be easier to use for people because they don’t have to figure out complicated locking pads. It’s just unlock and go.”

In addition to the bike-sharing program, the council also voted to place Mormon Trek Boulevard and First Avenue on what is known as a “road diet” to better help bikers.

Currently, each street has four lanes of traffic, but they will soon be reduced to three: Two through lanes, a shared center turn lane, and dedicated bike lanes along each curb.

The conversion of First Avenue will include the sections between Bradford Drive and Highway 6, and the section of Mormon Trek between Melrose Avenue and Highway 1.

The conversions are in part funded by two $500,000 grants the city received earlier this year from the Iowa DOT.

The council also altered parts of the city’s bike ordinance.

Currently, the city requires bicyclists ride single file and as far to the right of the street as possible. However, bicyclists will now be able to ride two abreast to increase visibility. According to city documents, this move is based on the laws of the surrounding counties and the best practices advocated by bicycle groups.

The council also voted to allow broken and inoperable bicycles attached to bike racks to be removed without having to wait the seven days the current law requires. They also changed the city’s definition of bicycle to include recumbent and upright bicycles.

Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig said she believes these changes to make Iowa City more bike-friendly will greatly benefit the students.

“As large as the community is here, with a lot of people who are moving around like students,” she said.

She also said the dedicated bike lane will promote cycling in areas not accessible to bikes right now.

“I think having more dedicated bike lanes will make more people comfortable riding on our streets,” she said. “As it is now, you have to be kind of strong-willed to do it. Once there’s a dedicated bike lane, you’ll see a lot more people using it that will feel safer.”

Andrew Hirst, UI sustainability intern and co-president of the Recreational Bike Club, said the changes the City Council makes will foster a safer, more inclusive cycling community.

“I’m hoping this gives more attention to biking and that we develop more biking infrastructure, starting with Iowa City and around the University of Iowa campus,” he said.


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