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Iowa City forum to focus on bike facilities in new street projects

Ecopolis hopes more bike use reduces energy consumption

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IOWA CITY — An environmentally-minded group is pushing to accelerate the incorporation of bike facilities in street designs, as Iowa City prepares to tackle a wave of projects.

The group is called Ecopolis Iowa City, and has a stated mission of becoming the first regenerative city in the Midwest. Boosting bike resources, and biproxy bike use, will help reduce energy use, which is the end goal of Ecopolis, said Rockne Cole, a local attorney and early supporter of the group.

“We want to accelerate streets designed for improving bike access,” said Cole, who is also running for city council.

Ecopolis is organizing a community forum called Bike Here: Iowa City Street Planning, Design and Bike Safety at 7 p.m., Thursday at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, meeting room B. The event is free.

Iowa City has earned a silver designation as a bike friendly community from the League of American Cyclists, but it’s not where it needs to be, Cole said. He said Iowa City should strive toward the amenities in cities such as Madison or Portland where cyclists can safely navigate just about anywhere by bike lanes or trails.

Jennifer Selby, a civil engineer with Foth Engineering Alliance who helped build Urbana, Ill. into a bike friendly community, will be one of the speakers at the event.

“Streets can have a basic level of service for all modes of transportation,” said Selby, who also serves on the Iowa City Blue Zones community policy committee.

Selby’s most recent work has been reviewing street redesign, reconstruct and rehabilitate projects in Cedar Rapids under the Paving for Progress campaign. Her job is to help ensure streets can accommodate bikes, pedestrians, public transit, and cars.

Narrower lanes are one of her recommendations, she said.

Geoff Fruin, Iowa City assistant city manager, said he plans to discuss how Iowa City’s Complete Streets policy, which was updated in March, will be followed in work on Mormon Trek Boulevard, Sycamore Street, and First Avenue.

He also said he plans to address projects still in the conceptual stage, including adding bike facilities to Gilbert Street, Clinton Street and Madison Street.

“It’s a chance to talk about what we are doing now and what we are planning for the future,” Fruin said of the forum. “We can layout plans and get feedback in a positive setting.”

Brian Loring, a cycling advocate with Think Bicycles, said he plans to discuss Think Bicycles’ new advisory role in reviewing street designs to help ensure they follow Iowa City’s Complete Streets policy.

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