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Forum editorial board, Published August 08 2012

Editorial Keep bike project in the lane

The 4-1 Fargo City Commission vote to proceed with the city’s bicycle lane project is a reasonable reflection of the way Fargo residents feel about bicycles on busy city streets. With Mayor Dennis Walaker the lone dissenter, commissioners approved plans to add bike lanes on several downtown and near-downtown roadways. The Monday vote ended the formal debate but does not end the talk – for and against – among Fargo residents.

Despite Walaker’s concern that “moving forward on this seems a bit hasty,” the majority commissioners did the right thing. The loud voices that object to bicycle lanes tend to make more noise and get more attention than the majority of Fargoans (bicyclists or not) who support a modern, safe urban bicycle lane/path system. The mayor seems to be responding to the noisiest.

No doubt the mayor is sincere. But commissioners surely remember that one of the reasons Commissioner Dave Piepkorn was defeated for re-election just a few weeks ago was his strident opposition to bike lane recommendations and the verbal abuse he heaped on a city employee who was charged with planning the system.

Moreover, objections to cycling lanes on major thoroughfares are based on anecdotal evidence, not on sound research. Studies officials are using to help make Fargo bicycle-friendly are unequivocal in their findings: Well-designed streets with bike lanes are safer for bicyclists and motorists than streets without designated bike lanes. Other cities have had excellent results.

Fargo is not the same city is was 20 years ago. It’s the youngest city in the region. It’s a college student town. It’s a major regional health center where healthy lifestyles are increasingly important to the population. It’s a city that has continually upgraded streets and avenues in the older parts of town, and incorporated 21st-century street design, including walkways and bicycle lanes, in new neighborhoods and commercial districts.

The mayor’s caution is not without merit, as long as caution does not deteriorate into the obstructionism that characterized early debate on the bike path project.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.