Spirit Lake considering bike boulevard

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Future bike travel through Spirit Lake may soon become a little easier.

Dickinson County Trails Board member Yvonne Taylor is promoting the concept of a bike boulevard in the city.

Taylor has been a member of the Dickinson County Trails Board for 18 years and has focused a majority of her efforts on improving Spirit Lake.

"A bike boulevard is an idea using secondary roadways, roads that already exist, for primary bike traffic," Taylor said. "It gets the bike traffic off of the main roadway, and it saves a lot of money on infrastructure."

The general concept is to create designated pathways for bicyclists on already established roads. There would be a series of "bike" lanes, roughly eight feet wide in the center along side streets in Spirit Lake.

A bike boulevard discourages bike traffic along heavily traveled streets, such as the highway, Hill Avenue or 15th Street Spirit Lake, essentially improving the overall saftey of the city. It also has a central starting point clearly marked by specific signage directing bicyclists.

Multiple bike "roadways" would be interconnected allowing easy access to every important feature of Spirit Lake, including the downtown area, the local grocery stores, Spirit Lake's many parks, the fish hatchery, the library, the post office and the the Lakes.

"The idea is to get people to come into your town and stay," Taylor said. "They can navigate the city and see what the town has to offer -- all on bike."

Motor vehicles would still be allowed to travel along the bike boulevard, but bikers would be the primary focus, and would have the right of way at all intersections.

Taylor worked in concert with Public Works Director Dwight Dohlman to establish a potential route.

"Bicycles in state of Iowa are allowed on all roadways and that is why we try to build bike trails because it is optimal to get them off the roadway, but it is harder to do that," Taylor said. "This will invite residents and visitors to stay off the major roadways."

Taylor said her idea is another way to help Spirit Lake become a Blue Zones Community as well. A Blue Zones community is one that shows the initiative to improve the quality of life throughout the many facets of a city. Spirit Lake was designated as a Blue Zones demonstration site in early 2013.

"We are trying to create a multi-user community," Taylor said. "We want to elevate the quality of life and show that you don't always need to use your vehicle to get somewhere. We want the bicycle to be thought of as a mode of transportation. We want you to be able to bike to church, to work, to the park."

Construction costs are limited to sign and kiosk placement. Crews will need markings on designated roadways as well.

"I think we have a very solid plan," Taylor said. "It's a new idea to us (Spirit Lake) and the council was fairly acceptive. It's such a positive way of adding a whole another component to the city, I think it will really make us stand out as a town."

As the city compiles its walkability and bike-ability plan for their Blue Zones certification, they evaluate the area sidewalks and bike paths and how accessible they are to the general public and make any necessary enhancements. Taylor expects city officials to incorporate the bike boulevard into the plan that is already in motion.

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