Columns / Discourse / November 8, 2017

Bike Nice: Let’s take and make the best bike routes around Knox

I have biked in Galesburg since the 1970s—house to work, house to store, once even moving from one house to another partly by bicycle.

My experience, however, does not make me an expert on bike routes. It reveals more about my willingness than my expertise. I am willing to ride in traffic or alone, rain or snow, heat or cold, day or night.

I will risk some recommendations and reflections.

I favor lower-traffic streets on either side of a main drag. Mulberry and North are east-west alternatives to Main Street. From Knox to Hy-Vee, instead of Main, I take Mulberry.

From Knox to Walmart, I use Main or parallel, to Chambers or parallel, to Willard or parallel, then around the Hawthorne Center.

The biggest problem with brick streets is not the bumps, it’s the slippery when wet. Keep the bike slow and directly under you.

I ignore Galesburg’s new marked—but unprotected—“bike lanes” on Fremont and Seminary. They create as many problems as they solve—turning safety, litter, incompleteness. I still prefer my old favorite “frontage” streets. Sometimes, on far north Henderson and far north Seminary, I’ll use the protected—but unmarked—bike lane, a.k.a., the sidewalk.

I know that lots of people swear by bike lanes and view them as the “gold standard” for making a bikeable community. A text snippet from Seattle Bike Blog (edited by Knox grad Tom Fucoloro) offers typical praise:

“Cycling infrastructure—especially protected bike lanes and separated paths—has been shown to improve community health, reduce pollution and create other benefits that far outweigh the initial investment…”

Is this what Galesburg needs? “Protected bike lanes”?

No. They’re unaffordable: that’s a reality. A complete separated/protected system may be affordable for Seattle, but not for Galesburg. And unnecessary: that’s my opinion.

What this town needs, and could afford, are lower speed limits. Reduce speed limits from 30 mph down to 25 mph on most streets and down to 20 mph on selected neighborhood and “school zone” streets. And while we’re at it (making town more bikeable), also remove stop signs.

North, Mulberry, plus other streets—I’m looking at you, South and West streets next to the Knox campus—should be converted to 20 mph walkable, playable, bikeable streets. If we reduce speeds, we can all share and enjoy the streets.

Now that’s a route that Knox folks could take. It leads to a destination of making our streets more people-friendly.

 

Peter Bailley

Tags:  bike nice bike routes Galesburg

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