Editorial: Boulevards for bicycles

It makes sense for city officials to increase safe options for cyclists in Lawrence.

The city’s Transportation Commission is recommending the creation of the city’s first bicycle boulevards. The boulevards would be on a stretch of 21st Street from Iowa Street to Massachusetts Street and Lawrence Avenue from Harvard Road to Bob Billings Parkway. Cost for the entire project is just $350,000.

In selecting a bike boulevard, city officials start by identifying a street that already has low traffic volume. Once a street is chosen, other tools — traffic diverters, lower speed limits and speed bumps — are used to give cyclists priority on the roadway. The measures are meant to discourage vehicle traffic from cutting through on the boulevards.

There are eight design elements used to create bike boulevards, including management of speed, volume and crossings, as well as the addition of signs and pavement markings, according to the National Association of Transportation Officials. Bicycle boulevards have maximum speeds of 25 mph and often use medians or other devices to limit through traffic.

“Unless you live on that street, you’re probably not going to drive down it,” Transportation Commission Chair Erin Paden said. “You’re not going to want to use it as a cut-through.”

The proposed bike boulevard for 21st Street is 1.3 miles long, running from Iowa Street to Massachusetts Street. The estimated cost for the 21st Street boulevard is $247,000. The proposed Lawrence Avenue bike boulevard is half a mile, running from Harvard Road to Bob Billings Parkway. The estimated cost for Lawrence Avenue is $103,000.

The $350,000 for the bike boulevards would be paid for with money budgeted in 2017 and 2018 for pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

In addition to the bike boulevards, the Transportation Commission is recommending the addition of new sidewalk ramps, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to fill various sidewalk gaps. The Transportation Commission used a new prioritization policy to help make its recommendations, which takes into account factors such as safety, housing density and proximity to priority destinations such as schools, grocery stores and transit stops.

Encouraging cycling in areas of low traffic makes sense. It is a smart way to limit conflicts between motorists and cyclists. The city should approve the recommended boulevards as well as other recommendations from the Transportation Commission.