Sharing the road in BG: Council discusses bike infrastructure

What steps could the city of Bowling Green take for its bicycle infrastructure?

During a committee-of-the-whole meeting on Monday, council received an updated bicycle facilities and destinations map with a number of suggestions.

“I would assume that information will lead to action in the future,” said Council President Mark Hollenbaugh, commenting later during that evening’s council meeting.

The new map was presented by Pat Etchie of the Mannik and Smith Group.

“It was a collaborative effort over the last year,” he said. “What we’re presenting tonight is the update of the original bicycle facilities plan that was in the original transportation master plan” in 2007.

Speaking of traffic volumes in the city, Etchie said that the majority of the volumes over 8,000 vehicles per day were found on Main and Wooster streets, and Poe Road. Bicycle-related crashes involving motor vehicles occurring from 2017-21 largely also took place on Main Street, with the majority of those occurring at intersections, he said.

Speed-related crashes also centered largely on Main, Wooster and Poe.

Etchie discussed portions of the City of Bowling Green Community Bike Survey, conducted this year, a collaboration between the city and Bowling Green State University Master’s in Public Administration students.

The survey, he said, stated that the two largest reasons people ride their bikes in the city were for exercise and for fun.

Bicyclists also largely ride their bikes on the Slippery Elm Trail, on streets leading to a particular destination, or on streets in their neighborhood. If bicyclists were riding to a specific destination, according to the survey the two biggest destinations were heading to a store or a restaurant.

“It’s important to have these connections to the retail and the restaurant areas in the communities, because people will ride their bikes… if they feel safe doing it and comfortable doing it,” Etchie said.

He said that in the survey, the streets that really stood out as ones that bicyclists try to avoid are East and West Wooster streets, and North and South Main streets.

However, of the survey’s respondents, 68% agreed to some degree that they felt safe and comfortable riding a bike in the city.

“There’s a lot to build on, there,” Etchie said.

Additionally, 55% said they would bike more if they felt safer and more comfortable doing so; 85% said their preferred choice to make biking easier on a busy road was bike lanes separated from traffic.

Of the survey respondents, 48% said they agreed to some degree that they would support a tax levy to fund bike projects; 31% disagreed to some degree on such a tax levy.

“There might be support for it, but it’s a good question to ask,” Etchie said.

“That’s a fairly significant majority that support it,” Councilman Joel Odorisio said.

“You never know how people really feel until there’s a ballot initiative,” Hollenbaugh said.

Councilman Bill Herald cautioned that respondents to the survey may not be generalizable overall.

“People that use bikes are more likely to respond,” to a bicycling survey, Hollenbaugh said.

Among the suggestions, the updated map showed portions of Poe Road, Wintergarden Road, Napoleon Road, Maple Street, Mitchell Road, Conneaut Avenue and others as a “potential shared road corridor” – meaning those roadways could utilize a mix of sharrows, signs or on-street bike lanes depending on what was determined to be feasible.

Another proposal was potential shared-use paths along portions of Haskins Road, Newton Road, East Wooster Street, East Poe Road, County Home Road and others.

“This is more for those families and not-as-experienced bikers that want to go out and bike, they just don’t want to go out on the road,” Etchie said.

In Etchie’s presentation, it was suggested that, in the Main Street Corridor – with traffic volumes between 12,000 to 25,000 vehicles every day – that the focus of improvements be on those related to intersections “to allow safer crossing of Main Street for bicyclists and pedestrians similar to what has been done along (East Wooster) Street over the past several years.”

He said that crossing lights called “rectangular rapid flashing beacons” were installed on portions of East Wooster and “a lot of the intersection bicycle crashes have reduced out there just because it’s safer to cross the road. That’s the kind of thing I think should be employed on Main Street in the future.”

As to the Wooster Street Corridor, with traffic volumes between 8,500 to 22,000 vehicles per day, the suggestion was for the city and BGSU to “explore widening sidewalks along the north side of Wooster Street from Thurstin Avenue eastward to connect to the recently installed shared use path that starts at Alumni Drive and continues eastward over I-75 to Dunbridge Road.”

Councilman Nick Rubando commented that he bicycles in the city.

“I was fairly surprised at the amount of people who feel safe while bicycling in the city,” he said. “One, I just don’t even know where to go that’s safe and, two, it seems dangerous to me.”

Odorisio, noting that bicyclists avoid Main and Wooster streets, which don’t have bicycle infrastructure, wondered if the issue wasn’t a chicken-and-egg situation.

Etchie said the issue, especially with Main Street, is that in adding a bike lane, it would have to be done either by taking on-street parking spaces or widening the road – with some businesses and residences already close to the street.

“When we looked at everything,” Etchie said, “there’s just not much you can do there. There are other things, I know Maumee has tried stuff up there. … The problem is there’s always an offset.”