Published April 18 2012
Bike lane supporters still seeing criticism
Avid bicyclist and Fargo Commissioner Mike Williams said the city is stepping up its efforts to educate motorists and bicyclists on how bike lanes should be used effectively and safely.
“The more we speak about it, the more buy-in we’re going to get,” Williams said Tuesday.
City staff recently conducted public meetings on proposed bike lanes, and Fargo police are filming public service announcements to promote safety, he said.
But efforts to improve public awareness have been met with resistance, and onstreet bike lanes are as polarizing as ever among city leaders.
“We missed a step on public education on biking in this town,” Williams said. “The first bike lane we ever had on a street was two years ago, and we haven’t had ongoing public awareness and safety education – and that’s our fault as a city.”
Fargo Commissioner Dave Piepkorn and other critics continue to condemn proposed bike lanes on Fargo’s major roadways as “outrageous.” They want to halt further action on plans to add any more.
The tiff over on-street bike lanes was sparked two months ago and revived again Monday.
Plans for the 10th Street North reconstruction this summer call for adding designated bike lanes on both 10th Street and North University Drive between 12th and 19th avenues.
City leaders have until construction finishes this fall to decide whether to go forward with the proposed bike lanes.
Installing them involves striping the pavement accordingly.
Proponents say bike lanes on 10th Street and North University Drive would help North Dakota State University students commute more safely between the main campus and downtown facilities.
Because of railroad tracks through downtown, 10th and University are the safest routes for student bicyclists, and “they’re already being used now. It’s very dangerous (without bike lanes),” said North Dakota State University graduate student Aaron Feickert. He bikes at least a few miles a day between NDSU’s main campus and downtown.
Feickert, Williams and NDSU Student Body President Cam Knutson are among those pushing for designated bike lanes downtown. They met Tuesday with The Forum’s editorial board to lobby for their cause.
Feickert said “mountains of evidence” debunk critics’ assumption that bike lanes are more hazardous for motorists and bicyclists.
“It feels like it shouldn’t be safe, but in this case, the gut instinct is wrong,” he said. “A lot of these issues people are afraid of could actually be alleviated by bike lanes – (like) congestion, accidents.”
But Piepkorn and several north Fargo residents passionately disagreed when the topic came before the City Commission again on Monday.
“Bikes don’t belong on our streets to begin with,” property owner Wade Savageau told commissioners.