When it comes to planning for bikes, Colorado Springs City Council decided last week that bigger is better.
An update of the City's Bicycle and Urban Trails Plan is well underway, but Council decided that plan should be tacked onto the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments' much larger Regional Non-motorized Transportation System Plan, which is for pedestrians and bikes. The city will also coordinate with Woodland Park.
In a conversation with the Independent, Councilor and avid cyclist Tim Leigh says there was "no reason not to connect all these trails and do it regionally. I mean, it's something we should have done a long time ago."
The city announced last September its pursuit of a new master bicycle plan. Its current one, created in 1996, is severely outdated, especially when it comes to planning for bike lanes — though traffic engineering manager Kathleen Krager says the city has been moving forward on bike infrastructure nonetheless.
"We have been working very hard, using our money as wisely as possible," she says, "by putting in on-street bike lanes whenever we're doing pavement overlay on a street."
But that, she says, has led to the city having lots of short bike lanes. The city wants to connect those lanes, and has a strong opportunity to do so. An excise tax on bike sales is producing about $100,000 a year for bike infrastructure improvements, and the new Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority projects list, which will be tackled starting in 2014, includes work on bike lanes and trails.
The new master plan fits nicely into this equation because it will use public input to identify future bike lanes, trails, bike parking and other infrastructure. It's also expected to attract partner agencies that could help get even more projects off the ground.
As of now, the city is home to more than 100 miles of on-street bike lanes — about 75 of them added in the past eight years — and about 220 miles of off-street multi-use trails, like the Pikes Peak Greenway. Recently the Greenway, which cuts the city north-to-south along Monument and Fountain creeks, has been undergoing improvements, with more planned for this year.
Elsewhere, grants are filling in sidewalks and bike lanes in the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs area. And Krager says she plans to schedule a meeting with neighbors soon to discuss the possibility of adding bike lanes on Costilla Street from Memorial Park to downtown.
The city has also identified a number of priority areas that need improvement. City senior traffic engineer Kristin Bennett says they include connecting the Rock Island trail to the Pikes Peak Greenway; connecting Shooks Run trail to the Greenway; filling in the bike lane gap on Dublin Boulevard between Academy and Union boulevards; and adding bike lanes on Airport Road east of Chelton Road.
It's hoped that the master plan will point out ways to get projects like those done. And, since it's working with the PPACG, the city can also plan projects that extend past city boundaries — many of which have long been a priority for residents.
"We get complaints that we can't quite reach Fort Carson, but we don't own the roads," Bennett notes. "... The regional plan allows us to have that conversation."
The bike master plan is being funded with a $15,000 grant from REI and $70,000 of the Bike Excise Tax. The regional plan is due to wrap up in about a year.