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Commissioners oppose Lander bike lanes

Apr 20, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

Both Fremont County commissioners who represent Lander - Jennifer McCarty and Ray Price - said they oppose the city's idea to permanently add designated bike lanes on Main Street.

McCarty said Tuesday she plans to directly voice her opposition to Mayor Del McOmie.

County commission chairman Travis Becker said it would be inappropriate for the county board to take an official position on the proposal, suggesting the board "strongly refrain from ... overstepping our jurisdictional authority."

"We tend to let the municipalities take care of their things on their own," he said.

Test run

A test run of the new system is scheduled to be implemented from Memorial Day to late September between First and Fifth streets in Lander.

A final proposal is expected to be presented to the Lander City Council in December.

If the city moves forward with the change on a permanent basis, the designated bike lanes would remove 24 available parking spaces through four blocks of traffic. At a public forum last Thursday, Lonnie Adams, despite describing himself as an "avid cyclist," said he was "worried about losing so many parking spaces for our businesses." Other suggested that the high level of traffic on Main Street made it inappropriate to promote the street as a primary cycling route.

However, Sean Francis, who commutes by bicycle to his Main Street business, believes it "is a good alternative, and our community can adjust."

Under the plan, Main Street's center lane would be eliminated from Wyoming Highway 789 to Fifth Street. In addition, the width of the vehicle lanes would be reduced from 11 feet to 10 feet, drawing concern from drivers of commercial vehicles and buses, since Main Street is also the designated route for U.S. Highway 287 through town.

The plan would also require changes to the city's method of snow removal -- and possibly winter parking -- since all snow is currently pushed to the center lane on Main Street.

Assistant mayor RaJean Strube Fossen said it would still be possible to "pile up in the center anyways, and people will naturally adjust."

Fremont County deputy fire chief Dan Oakley said he was concerned about the plan because the center lane is often used by emergency vehicles.

Strube Fossen noted that the Lander Police Department has been part of the planning because "they're the ones that have to enforce anything we come up with."

Under the new plan, turning lanes would still exist, pushing the two vehicular lanes toward the curb at intersections. This "accordion structure," coupled with narrower lanes, is meant to get drivers to slow down.

Strube Fossen said the city began considering the change because of a "high speed and high volume of vehicular traffic on Main Street (that) makes vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists feel uncomfortable with the shared use of the system."

"These comments have been coming in to us for years. This is nothing new," she said, adding that she hoped the changes might make Lander more inviting so visitors want to stay longer.

Safety

Strube Fossen acknowledged the plans developed are aimed at improving the "perception" of safety, and there hasn't necessarily been empirical data developed to show that safety will be improved.

That frustrated some at a public meeting held Thursday, like Marcel Lopez, who panned it as a "feel-good change."

Lopez said he doesn't remember a single traffic-related fatality to a cyclist in his 40 years of living in Lander. He said most incidents involving vehicles and bicycles result from the violation of a traffic law by a cyclist.

In his view, the city is looking to spend thousands of dollars to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

"I don't think that's good planning or good physical management," he said. "I don't see the benefit as a whole."

Others agreed that conflicts between cyclists and drivers were rare, but cyclist Lindsey French offered a different explanation for the lack of problems.

"A lot of cyclists don't ride on Main Street because we don't feel safe," she said.

During a previous public meeting the city held in September, residents commented on the developed design. Since then, Strube Fossen said the city has assessed those comments while taking into account the design criteria provided by the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Regardless of whether the city moves forward on the plan, Strube Fossen said there are a number of improvements in the works, including the refurbishment of "no bike riding on sidewalks" signs that have faded.

"It's not new, we're just refurbishing the signs to make it easier for enforcement," she said.

The city began moving forward with developing plans for the bike lanes after receiving a grant last year and conducting a survey in which two out of 10 respondents said they felt Main Street was unsafe.

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