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Bicycle commuters say work needs to be done on city's bike lanes

The Avalanche Journal: Bicycle commuters say work needs to be done on city’s bike lanes, routes

By Steven Schwartz | FOR THE AVALANCHE-JOURNAL
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Story last updated at 12/16/2009 - 12:11 am

Wade Wolfenbarger lives in Lubbock and doesn’t own a car.

Wolfenbarger, a bicycle mechanic at Broadway Bikes, said his main transportation has always been a bicycle.

He first began cycling in 2002, when he started competing in junior-level races. He graduated from high school in Colleyville in 2005 and from Texas Tech in 2008 and races professionally for the Cinelli Down Under team, a primarily Australian team based in Belgium.

Wolfenbarger said the cycling scene in Lubbock, as a form of transportation, is not as widespread as it could be.

"The cycling scene in Lubbock is very soft," Wolfenbarger said. "There are not a lot of commuters, but students bring that number up."

Concerns

Wolfenbarger said people in Lubbock seem to be afraid to ride their bicycles on the road, perhaps because the city has narrow bike lanes that don’t cover the entire city.

Curt Howell, the assistant director of the Outdoor Pursuits Center at Texas Tech, is a longtime bicycle commuter. Howell said while cycling is growing in Lubbock and at Tech, there is still a lot of work to be done. Routes in the city are often disjointed and inconsistent, he said, which can lead to an inconvenient commute, as well as some safety issues.

Another major issue with cyclists on the road is many motorists do not know how to drive in the same area as a cyclist, he said.

"Everyone has to be conscious of different modes of transportation, giving everybody equal respect," Howell said.
However, Wolfenbarger believes Lubbock has a great deal of potential as a cycling community.

"I think Lubbock has the potential to be an excellent cycling community because it’s flat, so there are not really any places that you can’t go," he said.

Improvements

Darrell Westmoreland, the transportation planner for the Lubbock Metropolitan Planning Organization, said his department is involved with planning and maintaining the bicycle lanes and roadways in Lubbock.

"We put together the long-range plan for the bicycling community in the Lubbock metropolitan area," Westmoreland said.

He said the cycling scene in Lubbock has been vastly improved since a comprehension plan was put together by the city in 2000, then with more updates made in 2007.

The original plan involved the city painting bicycling lanes around the city, mainly in the area surrounding Tech.

Westmoreland said the major update made in 2007 was the bridges the city built across the Marsha Sharp Freeway. These bridges made it possible for cyclists to ride safely over the freeway, gaining quick access to the Tech campus.

"We updated in 2007," Westmoreland said. "We cleaned up, and if we had roads that were impassable, we added to the existing plan."

Westmoreland said he believes the city of Lubbock has done a good job in recent years of improving the roadways for cyclists.

"Well I’d say, speaking as a cyclist myself, Lubbock is pretty good as far as the rest of Texas is concerned," Westmoreland said. "There are some cities where it’s pretty dangerous to ride a bicycle."

However, Westmoreland explained that it is often difficult to receive funding from the city for cycling improvements, due to the high competition his department has from other areas of transportation.

"The cycling community is competing with all of the city’s other transportation interests," Westmoreland said.

He said the city of Lubbock plans to add more bike routes to the city in order for cyclists to be as safe as possible. However, Westmoreland said the city has not made any specific plans for the future, and only ideas have been mentioned from his department.

"The Texas Department of Transportation has said in the past that bicyclists are another form of vehicle, and it is the job of metropolitan planning organizations to carry out the improvements to make their facilities safer for bicyclists," Westmoreland said.

Bikes on campus

Craig Cotton, the transportation demand management supervisor at Tech, said his position was created solely for the rising usage of bicycles in and around campus.

Cotton said his department is working on putting more bicycle racks and parking on campus, as well as moving the racks to more strategic locations.

"My job is to make it more accommodating for people who do ride their bikes on campus," Cotton said.

He said the increase in bicycles on campus has also led to more available parking spaces.

According to Cotton, plans for a new parking garage at the corner of 15th Street and University Avenue are under way. A proposal for the new garage would not only include bicycle parking and rentals, but also a bicycle repair shop.

Cotton said his department recently added more bicycle parking around various buildings on campus. However, no other plans have been set in motion involving the parking garage, bicycle rentals or bicycle repairs. He said several ideas have been mentioned, but due to numerous circumstances, no action has been taken.

"We’ll make it easier for you to ride to campus," Cotton said. "There is no need to buy a parking permit, no need to start your car in the morning - just jump on your bike and ride to campus."

(Steven Schwartz is a reporting student in the College of Mass Communications at Texas Tech.)

LUBBOCK/Bicycle commuters say cycling not as widespread as it could be, work needs to be done on city’s bike lanes, routes