A quick look at 23rd Street can scare the Gatorade right out of a novice Lawrence bicyclist.
But city officials now have created a city map aimed at showing cyclists that there are many nonintimidating routes to get around the community.
“I think it does a good job of showing that we have some really comfortable routes around town,” said Eric Struckhoff, chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee.
Well, the map is not magic. It doesn’t show you a hill-free route to campus or anything like that. But the map does provide difficulty ratings for dozens of city streets and trails.
A green rating shows routes with low to moderate traffic that are suitable for even beginning riders. A yellow route is best for more experienced riders because it normally has higher traffic volumes. A red route is best for pretty confident riders because of consistently high traffic volumes or difficult intersections. Red routes include parts of 31st Street, Louisiana, Bob Billings Parkway and Sixth Street.
Some major streets aren’t rated. Those streets are ones that bicyclists of all abilities may want to avoid if a reasonable alternative exists, said Jessica Mortinger, a transportation planner with the city. Included in that list is 23rd Street, Kentucky, Tennessee and Massachusetts between Sixth and 11th streets. Instead, bicyclists are encouraged to use New Hampshire and Vermont streets.
“There are just a lot of conflicting vehicle movements, a lot of stop-and-go and a lot of vehicles pulling out of parking spaces on that stretch of Massachusetts,” Mortinger said.
The map also shows troublesome intersections, public transit stops, and has a special section that shows public bicycle parking in downtown. It also includes tips that remind bicyclists that they are subject to the same rules of the road as motorists.
The route ratings were developed by members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, who cycled the routes over the course of a year and then discussed as a group how to rate them.
Struckhoff said a ridership map is particularly important in a community like Lawrence because of the influx of new students each year. He said the idea for the map came in early 2009 when he was presenting a planning map to a Kansas University class. The map showed streets with bicycle lanes, lane-sharing markings and plans for future improvements.
“But they looked at that map and said what they really wanted to know was the best way to get from here to there,” Struckhoff said.
Mortinger said other groups also had started asking for a map.
“With the change in the school busing situation, we’ve had several parents call wanting to know good routes for the children to bike to school,” Mortinger said.
Currently, the map is available only online. It can be accessed at www.lawrenceks.org/bikemap. The city is pursuing grant funding to print the map for distribution.