Archive for Saturday, October 11, 2003

City may require bicycle lanes

October 11, 2003


Whenever possible, Richard Heckler skips driving and gets on his bicycle.

The Lawrence resident figures he rides between 15 and 20 miles a week. But he bypasses some of the city's busier streets, not wanting to compete with cars, trucks and SUVs.

His cycling opportunities should multiply soon. On Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission is expected to pass an ordinance requiring builders to install bicycle lanes on many new city streets. But builders say the requirement will add to the cost of housing in town.

"While bike paths are nice amenities, I think the community needs to recognize this is one more contributor to the lack of affordable housing in the community," said Bobbie Flory, executive director of the Lawrence Home Builders Assn.

The ordinance would require developers of projects along collector streets -- busy city streets that carry traffic from neighborhoods to "arterial" streets such as Iowa Street -- to provide land for bicycle lanes when those streets are being built or renovated. The lanes, an extra 2.5 feet on each side of the street, would be clearly marked off for bicycle traffic.

Mayor David Dunfield said the aim of the ordinance was to make bicycles an integral part of the city's transportation system. Developers already pay the cost of building collector streets for new neighborhoods.

"If we're asking developments to pay for streets for automobiles, it seems only reasonable they should also pay for another important element of the transportation system, which in this case is bike lanes," Dunfield said.

City officials have long encouraged the construction of bicycle lanes for new streets. The ordinance will make the lanes a requirement. And that concerns developers.

"In our community, I think there needs to be a real commitment to priorities," Flory said. "Those priorities may be amenities like bike paths -- or affordable housing."

"Can it be both?" she said. "We don't have affordable housing right now."

Terese Gorman, the city engineer, said the requirement would add costs to new projects, but the new cost would be minimal, about $9 per linear foot of asphalt.

"I can't imagine it's significant," she said. "Is it a few thousand dollars more? Absolutely."

Dunfield said the new lanes would encourage greater bicycle ridership -- and safety for cyclists.

"I think it's a combination," he said. "I think if you make it safer and more convenient to use bicycles, people will do so. But I certainly see more bikes being used around town for transportation than I did during the past decade."

The commission meets at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

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