IOWA CITY

Iowa City cranking up bike-friendly projects

New Clinton Street bike lanes are among other efforts

A cyclist pedals last Friday in a new bicycle lane along Clinton Street at the intersection with Washington Street in Iowa City. The new lanes on Clinton Street are among other efforts the city is undertaking to make it more bike-friendly. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A cyclist pedals last Friday in a new bicycle lane along Clinton Street at the intersection with Washington Street in Iowa City. The new lanes on Clinton Street are among other efforts the city is undertaking to make it more bike-friendly. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — They took a little longer than anticipated thanks to persistent rain, but bike lanes have come to busy Clinton Street — and more improvements are on the way as the city moves to become more bike-friendly.

Clinton Street, which runs past the University of Iowa’s Pentacrest and the heart of downtown, has been re-striped from four lanes to three between Jefferson and Court streets. With that extra space, the city created a center turn lane and bike lanes.

“We’re turning into more multimodal by adding bike lanes the entire length,” said Jason Reichart, a city civil engineer.

The work is part of the Burlington-Clinton streets intersection improvements project, which also included a new water main, traffic signals and a right turn lanes on Clinton Street.

With those changes in place and Clinton Street identified as a “preferred corridor” for cyclists according to the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, Reichart said it made sense to make the bike lane additions as the rest of the work was being done.

Sara Walz, an assistant transportation planner with the city, said the Clinton Street bike lanes work is one of several bike-friendly projects completed so far this year or in the works for the coming months.

The city has added a buffered bike lane on Governor Street — a one-way street running north — between Burlington and Brown streets. That route currently is obstructed somewhat by a bridge project between Iowa Avenue and Jefferson Street, but not for long, Walz said.

“In the fall, when the bridge opens, the full route will be open,” Walz said.

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Cyclists traveling north on Governor soon will be greeted with signage indicating a “bike boulevard,” which will allow riders to circumvent a narrow section of Governor and take a less-traveled route on Dewey and N. Summit streets that will reconnect with northbound traffic on N. Dodge Street.

Heading in the opposite direction, Walz said, Dodge Street — a complementary one-way street to Governor that runs south — is due to get surface repairs before a buffer bike lane is added between Summit and Burlington streets.

“Then we’ll have that pair” of Governor and Dodge streets, Walz said.

On the west side of Iowa City, Mormon Trek Boulevard is undergoing a “road diet” from four to three lanes, with the addition of a bike lane.

The Highway 1 trail also is in the process of being extended from Sunset Street to Mormon Trek Boulevard. In the coming years, the Highway 6 trail will extended from Fairmeadows Boulevard to Heinz Road. Both highway trails serve an important role in getting people to work or school, Walz said.

“I think they’re sort of unappreciated for what they do,” she said. “They’re not the scenic trails, but they do get a lot of use for people making practical trips.”

Elsewhere, the city is also planning a bike boulevard that will allow cyclists to get up Benton Street, but avoiding the busy intersection with Riverside Drive. That bike boulevard would take cyclists up Myrtle Avenue and on Greenwood Drive before reconnecting with Benton.

Walz said Benton Street is expected to get dedicated bike lanes in the next few years.

Next year, bike lanes will be accessible on both the McCollister Boulevard and Foster Road extensions, Walz said.

All of the bicycle improvements are guided by the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, adopted in 2017.

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“What we’re trying to do is make bicycling a safe and preferred alternative for anyone who wants to bicycle,” she said.

The plan also focuses on education and outreach efforts, such as offering information to cyclists on safe practices and also offering an educational program to city workers on how to share the road with riders. Walz hopes that program eventually will be offered to private organizations.

Bob Oppliger, the safety, education and advocacy director for Bicyclists of Iowa City, praised the improvements for cyclists.

“What can I say? It’s great,” Oppliger said. “Some of us have been working on this going back to the middle of the last decade.”

Oppliger said Iowa City has a large population of people who commute by bicycle. By making the city more bike-friendly, more people will opt to drive less and bike or walk more often, he said. He also said that when people bike — not drive — to commercial areas, they tend to spend more.

“Everybody benefits,” he said.

Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicyclists Coalition, said improved bike facilities improve traffic safety overall. They also are instrumental in just getting more people out on their bikes, he said.

“We can do projects and education and encouragement events,” he said. “But when there’s a safe place to ride, that’s what brings people out on bicycles around town.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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