Sharrows got their share of attention Monday night as the Bowling Green City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee and the Bicycle Safety Commission discussed possibilities for future complete streets improvements.
“We have been working on developing a bike infrastructure for a few years in Bowling Green,” said committee chair John Zanfardino. “I think we’re making good, steady progress.”
The transportation and safety committee and the commission have held meetings together previously to discuss bicycle infrastructure issues. The two bodies last met jointly in September.
Complete streets — the concept that roadways in a community should be made safe and navigable for all users — has been a focus of some discussion and action on the part of council since at least 2014. In early 2017, council approved inaugural complete streets treatments along Conneaut and Fairview avenues, including sharrows — pavement icons reminding drivers that bicyclists will also be using the roadway — and widened sidewalks.
Further conceptualizing has also included the potential for more ambitious efforts, including applying for grants that would further the possibility of designated bike lanes on Court Street. Something that’s played an significant part in deliberations has been the 2017 Bicycle Rideability Map prepared by the commission, which rates the rideability of streets in Bowling Green from Green (“Good”) to Red (“Poor”).
On Monday, Zanfardino said that at its last meeting, the commission was asked to come up with recommendations regarding infrastructure. A report that they produced was distributed at the meeting and served to drive discussion. Zanfardino said that, in mid-January, he met with Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, Sustainability Coordinator Amanda Gamby, and Council President Michael Aspacher to discuss the report.
Commission Chair Steve Langendorfer said that a major focus of the group has been education, one of the six tenets furthered by Columbus-based bicycle advocacy group Yay Bikes, which has consulted on bike infrastructure matters in the city.
The commission’s report recommended adding sharrows over the next decade to a series of 16 streets, eight of which run north-south (including Wintergarden Road, Prospect Street, Maple Street and Church Street), and eight of which run east-west (including Newton Road, West Wooster Street, Clough Street and Pearl Street).
This list of streets, Langendorfer said, was chosen because they tend to be relatively narrow, have speed limits around 25 mph, and have relatively low traffic density.
The report also recommended exploring bike lanes on a series of streets, which included, among others, Brim Road, portions of North and South Main streets, portions of West and East Wooster streets, a portion of West and East Poe roads, and a portion of Gypsy Lane Road.
This list, Langendorfer said, tended to be streets where the traffic density is much higher.
“The speed limits tend to be higher, and they also tend to have a width that might support bicycle lanes,” he said. “In a city the size of Bowling Green, the number of bike lanes that would be possible, both physically and fiscally, are fairly limited because of the nature of the existing streets.”
The report also asked that a suggestion in the Community Action Plan for a pedestrian/bicycle trail on the east side also continue to be explored.
“As a person that’s been on council for a while and encouraging this direction,” Zanfardino said, “one of my hopes was that we would have, eventually, an interconnected series of sharrows, or bike lanes, whatever, that is fiscally possible.”
Looking at the commission’s list, he said, “there are some streets that build on what exists. So I think one of our missions in the near future going forward will be, do we do more sharrows, where do we do them?”
He added that he would like to see some infrastructure on the east side.
“I think that, perhaps, the majority of the bike-riding population is (here),” Zanfardino said. “I think our mission as the committee and the commission is going to be to select some of the many roads that have been suggested and then argue for those and suggest those to the administration as the roads we would like to see treated next.”
Tretter praised the quality of the commission’s report and also said she appreciated the members’ understanding of “the challenges we are all facing together,” for bike infrastructure both financially and in physical terms.
One thread of discussion during the meeting was what kind of sharrow would be best — currently, the sharrows are a treatment made of thermoplastic which is applied to the roadway.
However, Public Works Director Brian Craft said that they adhere best to the oils in newer pavement. Sharrows applied to Conneaut and Fairview in town have been damaged by snow plows and it was asked whether stencils might be better, since the thermoplastic sharrows cost hundreds of dollars each.
Craft said that the thermoplastic sharrows can last eight years, but stencils would have to be repainted each year.
“I think you’d be further ahead to do the more expensive and get your eight years out of it,” he said. “They last longer and the reflectivity at night will be better.”
Zanfardino also mentioned the possibility of considering making some streets one-way to better accommodate bike lanes. Langendorfer said that would likely prove very controversial, and that it’s not supported by data, according to Yay Bikes.
“I think that we should discuss it, obviously,” he said. “But I think that the sharrow concept would work fairly well.”
Committee member Greg Robinette recommended that the commission, in the short term, make a prioritized list of the streets in the report.
During the following city council meeting, members met in executive session to discuss a real estate matter. No action was expected.