Politics & Government

Wichita plans more bike-lane routes

Peter Hiesterman makes his way down one of the bike lanes on Second Street in downtown Wichita. (Oct. 28, 2015)
Peter Hiesterman makes his way down one of the bike lanes on Second Street in downtown Wichita. (Oct. 28, 2015) File photo

Bicyclists say they enjoy the new lanes the city of Wichita has created for them on streets over the past two years.

They’re about to get a few more.

A west-side route, called the Woodchuck Bikeway, will run from Sedgwick County Park to University Avenue.

In central Wichita, the Green Street Bikeway will stretch from Central to or near Wichita State University. There are plans to extend existing lanes on Topeka and Market south beyond Kellogg.

They are expected to be done this year, said Scott Wadle, senior planner with the city.

That sounds good to area cyclists, who say they’re using the lanes and the city’s off-street bike paths in ways that wouldn’t have been possible – or at least not as safe – just a few years ago.

Marty Johnson, a west-side resident and avid cyclist, gave this example: When he wants to get to the city’s east side, he takes the Arkansas River bike path south to First Street, then heads east on its marked lane. If he wants to go south, he can turn from First onto a bike path that runs along the Canal Route, connecting with others all the way to Chapin Park. When it’s time to go home, he backtracks to Second Street, where there’s a westbound marked lane running back to the river.

“We’ll take the bike paths down to Chapin Park, then come back, stop by Reverie Coffee and go back to the west side of town,” said Johnson, an owner of Johnson’s Garden Center. “Now that the bike lanes go clear to the river, I find myself using the First and Second Street (lanes) more than any of the others.”

But Johnson says he’s ridden on all of the city’s marked bike lanes at one time or another. To him, the key to increasing ridership on them is to make sure they connect to bike-friendly destinations.

Shared use

The Woodchuck and Green Street bikeways will be slightly different than the marked lanes on First, Second, Topeka and Market, which are designated for bicycle use only.

Those bikeways will be designated for shared use by bicyclists and motor vehicles. But because they will be clearly marked and run along fairly quiet residential streets, city officials think they will function much like marked bike lanes. They’ll look like existing shared lanes on Sycamore and Armour.

The 4.5-mile Woodchuck Bikeway should give thousands of west-side residents easy access by two wheels to miles of bike trails and paths in Sedgwick County Park, which in turn connects to the Arkansas River bike path system.

“It provides a connection and extension of bikeways into a part of town that just doesn’t have many,” Wadle said.

The 2.7-mile Green Street bikeway will connect the midtown area to WSU and intersect the Redbud bike trail, which runs in a northeast diagonal from the Canal Route to 17th and Oliver.

The Topeka and Market extensions will reach Mount Vernon, adding a total of about 3 miles of marked bike lanes to those streets.

More options now

Jack Brown, a cyclist who sits on the city’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory board, says the increased bicycling facilities seem to have been accepted by motorists as well.

“Anecdotally, it just seems like motorists are more aware of cycles now than they have ever been. Marking the lanes makes that even better. My experience is that motorists are much more courteous than they were in the past, but there’s still room for improvement by motorists and bicyclists, too.”

Brown said he thinks he’s ridden on just about every bike path, marked lane and shared lane in the city.

“There are just all sorts of options now,” he said.

GoPro footage from an Eagle (amateur) bicyclist testing out the new bike lanes in downtown Wichita, Oct. 31, 2015. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle)