Few things elicit more fervor, both positive and negative, than discussion of cyclists on city streets.
Lincoln’s aggressive vision for adding 144 miles to its roughly 140-mile network of bike lanes, bike routes and sidepaths has generated plenty of emotion from proponents and opponents alike. With the sprawling size of the proposal and the price tag, such a response is warranted.
With comments on the plan again wanted, we’ll offer ours for the 164-point plan: The pros far outweigh its cons.
Though commuting on a bicycle won’t pass cars anytime soon, with a city survey placing the estimate around 1.6 percent, it’s been on the rise in Lincoln. The resulting decreases in emissions and increases in safety on city streets are worth the investment in infrastructure.
At first, the dollar figures caught our eyes. For instance, how could new bike routes, which consist of intermittent signs and street markings, run the city a forecast $19,000 per mile?
A closer look at the report itself indicates the estimate for each of the features contains a built-in 20 percent contingency, though, not to mention forecasts for installation, traffic control and engineering that are tied to fixed percentages of the costs for each type of improvement. A handful of projects would be completed in conjunction with adjacent repairs by Public Works.
Plus, city officials know the price tags attached this plan will require decades before all 144 miles become a reality. Budgets have been tight at City Hall for several years, and the justifiable desire for better options for cyclists must be balanced with other needs, with public safety at the forefront.
Once the sticker shock wears off, though, the broader benefits of increased bike traffic become evident.
Obviously, bikes produce zero emissions and frequently used by people seeking more exercise – both of which are noble goals. Those two traits alone have increased the number of cyclists on Lincoln’s streets and trails.
Accordingly, expanding the number of streets on which cars and bikes can share the road should spread cyclists out more and ease confusion, especially downtown. Improved safety mechanisms, whether at intersections or along an arterial street, provide a bonus for everyone involved.
To that end, the Journal Star editorial board would like to see more resources dedicated to bike trails, which offer the same advantages to cyclists who prefer a safer, but less direct, alternative to riding with traffic. Those are instead built and maintained by the Parks and Recreation Department. Wider sidewalks proposed across the city would serve a similar but more limited purpose.
Still, the end result of the city’s proposal – which is open for public comment – offers a vision for a Lincoln that’s better, healthier and safer tomorrow than today.