Early next month, a city task force will roll out a 10-year plan to benefit biking in Wichita.
On Feb. 5, a steering committee will make recommendations to the Wichita City Council on a 10-year, $12.5 million plan to enhance and connect bike paths around the city.
The recommendation includes key priority projects to be financed by $500,000 in city capital improvements money every two years, or $2.5 million, with federal grant money picking up the rest of the tab.
The projects essentially connect several city biking paths, City Manager Robert Layton said.
They have a pretty-well-thought-out list of priorities and how we should start building biking segments, he said.
The groups priority projects include:
• Extending the First and Second Street bike lanes from I-135 to the Arkansas River
• Installing bike lanes on Second Street from the Arkansas River to Hoover
• Installing a bicycle boulevard, a low-speed automobile street targeted for biking, from Douglas to K-96 on Armour
• Installing bike lane markings on Douglas from St. Paul to Edgemoor
• Pending more study, installing a side path connection under I-235 and across the Big Ditch for an interstate crossing at Central or Maple
• Installing bike lanes from 21st to Mt. Vernon on Market and Topeka
• Installing bike lanes from Broadway to Woodlawn on Mt. Vernon
• Installing a signal to cross Ridge Road and Westport to reach Sedgwick County Park, and adding a bicycle boulevard starting at Ridge running west to Glenhurst, then south along Holland Lane, Country Acres and Woodchuck to University
• Installing a bicycle boulevard starting at 13th and Perry, running north to 21st Street, and installing shared lane markings on 17th and then 19th from I-135 to Perry
• Installing a bicycle boulevard at Douglas and Sycamore, running south and west to Glenn
• Constructing a path on former railroad right-of-way between Koch Industries and Bradley Fair from Oliver across Rock Road to K-96
Its part of an overall transportation improvement strategy in the city, Layton said. Were looking really hard at what we have to do with our street system, but a segment of the community is talking about the need for a meaningful bike system. With our climate, its impractical for part of the year, but its also an excellent piece the rest of the time that speaks to the quality of life in Wichita.
Two veteran bikers who participated in the steering committee and a Wichita bike shop owner said the proposal is a good start.
One of the things we heard in all of our town hall meetings was theres not enough bike path connectivity, said Charlie Claycomb. Two trails here, four trails here and then you have to ride on the streets with no signage telling you how to get from point A to point B.
If the city will do all the different trails weve come up with, the boulevards, the bike lanes, wed have a great network.
Wichitan Barry Carroll, who bikes between 3,000 and 5,000 miles a year, hopes the projects in the plan will encourage more Wichitans to ride.
What I think this will do is create a safer place for the average bicycle rider to ride, Carroll said. With more signage, more bike lanes and infrastructure, we can create a safer place for Wichitans to ride.
The committees work shows that 60 percent of Wichitans would ride more if they felt safer on the streets.
So by putting the infrastructure in place lanes, signs, good crosswalks for cyclists and pedestrians both I am really optimistic that the average person will feel more comfortable about coming out and riding, Carroll said.
Byron Fick, owner of Heartland Bicycle bike shop downtown, praised the plan.
Its not Portland, where theyve invested $100 million in bike paths, but its a great start. Im glad theyre thinking along these lines, Fick said.
While living in the Des Moines area, Layton saw his suburb of Urbandale connected to five other cities by bicycle paths.
It was almost all centered around recreation and quality of life, Layton said. I dont know that youd ever see it reducing congestion or demands on traffic infrastructure like it can on the West Coast. Youd be talking about a major culture change for all of that to happen. Im sure some people would take advantage of this system if we can do it for a work commute, but I dont see it big enough to reduce traffic congestion.
The proposed bike system growth is part of a $2.4 billion, 10-year capital improvements program approved last summer by the council. Included are several big-ticket items like the new Mid-Continent Airport terminal, a new downtown library and the East Kellogg extension.
It does become a matter of balance, and we do have significant CIP needs, the city manager said. Its not realistic here to see $100 million spent on bike paths like in Portland.
We have to recognize our priorities, but at the same time this cannot take a back seat, either.