Ashley Mott, Monroe News Star Published 11:29 a.m. CT May 24, 2019
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The CEO of Trek Bicycle Corp. sits down with USA TODAY to discuss the benefits of biking, the nation’s rise in electric bikes sales and the company’s newest Super Commuter+ 8S. Josmar Taveras, USA TODAY
New bicycle lanes rolling out in West Monroe have led to an increased focus on pedaling safely.
As more bicyclists start to use dedicated paths on Ridge Avenue, Olympic Drive and Tulane Avenue, the West Monroe Police Department anticipates dedicating additional resources to ensure the rules of the road are followed by all.
Courtney Hornsby, Chief of Staff for Mayor Staci Mitchell, said there are risks associated with designed bike paths where the road is shared with motorists.
“We have to do better education for us as motorists,” Hornsby said. “We don’t know the etiquette. We don’t know how to treat our bicyclists.”
Sgt. C.J. Beck with the WMPD said bicyclists must observe the same traffic laws as vehicles in the bike lane, and bikes have the right-of-way in the lane. Vehicles are not to park in a designated bike lane.
Bicyclists are to ride with the flow of traffic and use headlights and taillights when riding at night. Helmets and gloves are recommended for safety.
Beck advised the WMPD will be stepping up traffic enforcement in areas with bicycle lanes and said that grants funds may become available to provide for increased patrols in these locations.
“We want to really create an environment in which people feel safe to travel,” Hornsby said, “and where they feel like they can get around easily to different parts of the community, but they also can get out and enjoy and have that recreational opportunity. … You don’t realize how many bicycle enthusiasts you have in the community until you start doing this.”
West Monroe developed a plan for bike lanes several years ago, and Hornsby said it will be possible to interconnect the city with a combination of cycling-friendly paths. Some will take the form of dedicated lanes while others, such as less-trafficked roadways in parks, are already accessible for bicyclists.
For the new paths, previously planned street striping efforts made it possible to start improving access immediately.
“We already had projects available where adding bike lanes was a natural fit, and we could begin the longer plan of, in the future, how can we incorporate more bike paths into different projects?” Hornsby said. “It just happened that we were doing striping on several streets in West Monroe and the streets were wide enough. The engineer’s believed they could make it work. They call it a road diet, and you actually shrink the road down in terms of the lane size.”
For example, Ridge Avenue passes by the West Monroe Convention Center and City Hall and had two lanes traveling in each direction for a total of four lanes. The new configuration has two travel lanes, bike lanes on either side of the road and a turn lane.
Major street improvements starting soon on Montogmery and Coleman will make it possible to add lanes on those streets.
Hornsby said adding additional lanes across the city will not be as easy. Safety must come first.
“We are really trying now to put together a comprehensive plan and that will also take funding,” Hornsby said. “You’ve got to have funding to be able to do it in some of these areas where you do not have a built-in opportunity. We are going to be putting a plan together because we’ve got some key areas that we would like to connect.”
Long-term plans include connecting to downtown and, potentially, utilizing improvements brought about by the Arkansas Road expansion project to connect to Kiroli Park.
While the paths help improve the quality of life for existing residents, they could also serve as an attraction for people contemplating a move to the area and looking for a pedestrian and cycling-friendly community.
“The mayor says it all the time: ‘This is is community development, but community development is the base of what you need for economic development,'” Hornsby said. “We have many wonderful groups here who offer incentives, who have the expertise and who are out recruiting for economic development, and our job as a municipality is to make our community ready for that economic development —That means public safety, good infrastructure and putting in quality-of-life initiatives that make people want to live here.”
Bicycle safety tips from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration:
- Drive with the flow, in the same direction as traffic
- Obey street signs, signals and road markings
- Assume the other person doesn’t see you
- Look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall
- No texting, listening to music or using anything that distracts you
- Check your law to make sure sidewalk riding is legal
- Watch for pedestrians
- Pass pedestrians with care by announcing “passing on your left” or use a bell
- Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed.
- In parking lots, at stop signs, when packing up or when parking, check for other vehicles, including bicycles.
- Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear.
- Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
- Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle — when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane.
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