The City of Abilene may soon become more bicycle-friendly.
Abilene’s Metropolitan Planning Organization drafted a plan for the creation of bike lanes and paths throughout the city. The committee is fielding questions and comments on the plan before submitting its draft to the City Planning and Zoning Department March 16. They hope to present it to the City Council at meetings April 9 and 23.
Dr. Kerri Hart, associate director of the Money Student Recreation and Wellness Center, is part of the committee and said she believes the bicycle plan will have a positive impact on Abilene as a whole.
“What we hope to do is to make it to where more people are out on bicycles for environmental purposes as well as health purposes,” Hart said.
The plan involves creating bicycle routes, lanes and trails as well as educating cyclists and drivers regarding bicycle safety, especially on streets.
“I think Abilene wants to be a bike-friendly city,” Hart said. “And that takes educating not only the bicycle riders but the drivers in the city of Abilene.”
The routes would involve specified bike lanes on streets as well as bike paths and trails away from the roads.
Hart said she wishes the push would be more for bike trails and paths away from city streets rather than bike lanes, due to safety issues. One of the primary bike trails would exist along Cedar Creek once the waterway is developed.
Dr. Jim Cooke, professor of environmental science, said bike lanes would be a welcome sight.
“My experience is the streets in Abilene are not bike-friendly at all,” Cooke said. “Being a bicycle rider myself and realizing how dangerous it is on the Abilene streets to ride a bicycle and how important it is for health and recreation, it’s something I’d like to have.”
Abilene’s only designated bike lane exists on Ambler Avenue below the Interstate 20 overpass.
E’Lisa Smetana, executive director of the Abilene MPO, said the plan is to develop these lanes out to city limits.
“ACU students will be able to utilize this to access shopping and restaurants in a travel lane designed for bicycles before many others in Abilene get to experience that,” Smetana said.
She said hopes students will take advantage of the bike lanes and provide feedback on the committee’s plan.
Hart also stressed the importance of students getting on board and making their ideas known. She encourages students to go to the public city meetings in April to show their support.
“If they see the universities in the city getting behind that, because we support a lot of the economy, they’ll be more (willing) in passing the bonds needed to do those things,” Hart said.
Jon James, director of development services for the City of Abilene, said the purpose is to improve the average citizen’s access to easy transportation.
“The primary goal of the plan is to better accommodate bicyclists in the city’s transportation network in order to make bicycling a viable and safe transportation alternative,” James said.
As far as a timeline is concerned, Smetana said the plan is still fluid and will be ongoing.
“It will be implemented as money becomes available, when selected streets are reconstructed or as development occurs within the range of the plan,” she said. “We look at this plan as a continual project.”
The Abilene Bicycle Plan goes hand-in-hand with the Cedar Creek Waterway initiative. Together, these two projects could provide Abilene a significant facelift and better reputation as a family-friendly city.
“This is a very progressive move for Abilene, to look toward the future and to do things that are positive and will be good for citizens that are relatively inexpensive but very important,” Cooke said.