Editorial: Campustown should prioritize cars over bikes


Courtesy of City of Ames

City staff proposed more bike lanes on and near Campustown. This picture shows the test run layout for the Lincoln Way proposal. It would replace a driving lane with a bike lane.

Editorial Board

It is no news to students that parking on campus and in Campustown is an issue. It seems that every student with a car on this campus has struggled at some point to find a place to park and avoid getting a parking ticket. With the face of Campustown being remodeled, many incoming businesses are wondering how their prospective customers are going to have access to the building.

Biking is undoubtedly a healthier way to get around, but campus is also much safer for bikers than Lincoln Way. The high level of traffic makes it unsafe for bikers — with or without a bike lane. After all, at some point cars are going to have to turn and when they do, they will be entering the bike lane and making it unsafe for cyclists. But more than just the bikers’ safety is on the line.

City Council has already approved many projects involving the bicycle or pedestrian movement, such as installing bike detection at two Campustown and Lincoln Way intersections, installing way-finding signage to direct motorists to the intermodal facilities and developing an education campaign for the public on the rights and responsibilities of roadway users. More minor actions have also been made, such as adjusting parking fees and coordinating bike parking and the continuity of routes with Iowa State.

City staff made two test project recommendations for City Council, one being the Lincoln Way test and the other being the Welch Avenue test. The Lincoln Way test would take the 8-foot parking lane on the south side of Lincoln Way and turn it into a 5-foot bike lane headed eastbound. The 3 feet of unused bike lane could be used to extend the sidewalk for larger walking areas and sidewalk cafes, according to a handout given out at a public forum June 19.

The second option would be the Welch Avenue test, which would address bicycle safety by reducing the chances of cyclists being hit by parallel-parked cars whose doors are opening. The 100 and 200 blocks of Welch Avenue have a total of 17 parking spaces to be replaced by a northbound bike lane and barriers such as planters or Jersey barriers to allow bikers to ride down the street without the worry of cars. The barriers would also allow for extended sidewalks, sidewalk cafes or parklets, according to the June 19 public forum.

The two test projects would only be a small cost compared to the permanent project and would be reversible after the test period. With the remodeling of Campustown, business owners are going to be concerned with how customers are going to be able to reach their business because driving is still more popular than biking. There are already too few parking spots in the area, but by eliminating parking to make room for bike lanes, even more parking will be taken away from Campustown.

Overall, this seems like it would be a good idea in theory; in reality, having bike lanes replace the already scarce parking would become a nightmare for not only small businesses but for people who depend on cars to get around Campustown and Lincoln Way.

As Iowa State becomes even more “green” and resourceful, having a bike lane may be more beneficial, but in the mean time, while a majority of students on campus are driving, having parking spots seems far more important to the student body than an extra area to safely ride our bikes.