Cedar Falls, Iowa is a city striving to be bicycle friendly. Two years the city council approved and adopted a bike plan, but things haven’t gone according to plan.
Local news reports said that some city council members, along with citizens in Cedar Falls, didn’t think bikes belonged on busier roads, or even in bike lanes. One city councilman came out against the plan, and with that the city council voted down the lanes, or so it was reported.
Council at large, David A. Wieland, who has served on the bicycle task force, helped shed some light on this confusing issue. “They [the bike lanes] were not voted down,” Wieland told BikeRadar. “We have adopted the recommendations from the bike task force and to date have placed some form of bike friendly on the streets recommended by the task force. The bike task force is a recommending body for the council to act upon.”
This issue grew out of bike lanes and marked lanes for one major artery, where the recommendation from the bike task force, which was to use marked bike lanes, was changed to using sharrows (shared lane markings) and share the road signs.
“The reason,” says Wieland, “was the cost to widen the road to allow for marked bike lanes. This was a compromise based on cost, but we have the benefit that now bikes will need to share the road and cars are more aware of bikes on the road. The data the bike taskforce has gathered clearly demonstrated that this type of action reduces accidents that make the road safer for bike riders.”
Wieland also explained to BikeRadar that this bicycle task force started by having more than 120 people meeting to provide and offer input on what routes they wanted, where were the danger points on those routes and to address other cycling issues. The result that came out of all this was a map showing where people wanted to ride on the public streets.
“These routes are what I call Unitarian or routes to work and home, routes to shopping areas, routes from the University to down town, etc.,” adds Wieland. “From this the task force identified routes and whether they should be marked lanes or sharrows and share the road signs. Suggestions were also made to take four lane streets and make them three lane with a center turn lane, and marked bike lanes on each side of the street. Many cities have done successfully done this.”
More importantly he says that the Cedar Falls Task Force also had five committees addressing the so-called five “Es” of good biking: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation. “Engineering: Increase bike lanes on city streets,” said Wieland. “Education: Continue to expand public education campaigns to promote share the road message; Encouragement: bike month, Mayor Encouragement of bike lanes; Enforcement: bikes follow the same rules as cars [i.e. stop at stop signs]; Evaluation: How well is the plan working.”
While Wieland admits it might be too early to address the last point, how well is the plan working, it seems that Cedar Falls is at least back on the right track.