Parking, bike lane issues cause conflict in Campustown

Will Fowler

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Campustown parking and bike lane issue will not be brought up at the July 8 City Council meeting and properly explain both Kingland’s stance on the parking issue and role in the project.

A task force was formed in early 2013 after Ames City Council was shown numerous reports of bicycle collisions, responses from seven Campustown businesses and a survey of nearly 500 cyclists. 

The task force was created in conjunction with the Campustown Action Association, consisting of business owners, cyclists and the university.

Kingland Systems, a software company located in Campustown, purchased buildings around Campustown in 2012. Kingland Systems worked with the city, Campustown Action Association, architects and construction companies to plan and create new buildings in the area.

Iowa State will be one of the tenants in the new buildings owned by Kingland Systems.

“Both Kingland and Iowa State are making a significant financial investment to be tenants in a building,” said Warren Madden, senior vice president for business and finance. “Part of the Kingland plan to provide parking for people who come and go is to have street spaces.”

However, parking may be taken away.

The task force recommended 11 projects to improve bicyclists’ safety. One of the projects, not yet approved, would remove all parking for three blocks on Lincoln Way and half the parking on Welch Avenue, replacing it with trial bike lanes and parklets. In total, 36 spaces would be replaced.

“As tenants of the building, we’re not ready to support this pilot project and eliminating parking,” Madden said. “They haven’t developed any alternative solutions to where people will park.”

Corey Mellies, operations manager for the city of Ames, said that people shouldn’t even be riding bikes on Welch Avenue and for two blocks of Lincoln Way on either side of Welch Avenue.

“Once we developed the test projects, we sent [the information] to Kingland, Opus and Gilbane who are developing various complexes,” Mellies said. “[Feedback has been] generally against removing parking from Lincoln Way with the trial, from businesses including Kingland and Iowa State.”

They were against parking removal because it would harm the ability to attract tenants and retailers, Mellies said. These concerns were voiced by Kingland and others at a meeting in late May.

“They gathered opinions from the business owners,” said Paul Doffing, founder of the Ames Bicyclist Coalition. “The conclusion was they were very coherently against taking away parking, in a very vehement manner.

Kingland said it is against reducing parking spaces in Campustown but there is no controversy with the issue.

“That would be a detriment to remove that parking,” said Amanda Weibers, head of corporate marketing for Kingland. “That’s not to say that we don’t believe that there are other viable and potentially better alternatives to dealing with the pedestrian and bike traffic east west through Campustown, but we are definitely opposed to the elimination of the parking spaces on Lincoln Way and Welch Ave.”

Doffing, one of the original proponents of bike safety improvement, feels that the projects suggested by the city are insufficient.

“Putting a bike lane on that road for six months and then taking it off, when there’s people who get used to using it, is an even bigger problem,” Doffing said. “[It] seems like a very incomplete idea.”

Whether there is a problem that needs to be addressed at all isn’t clear either, Madden said. There was no direct evidence provided at the May meeting to support an issue with bike safety besides a general consensus from the surveyed cyclists provided by the Ames Bicyclist Coalition and the Campustown Action Association.

People are currently restricted from biking on sidewalks on Welch Avenue and Lincoln Way in Campustown. Mellies said that the city is trying to prevent accidents before they become a problem.

“A lot of those collisions aren’t being reported like a car on car collision,” Doffing said. “There aren’t insurance claims … if you hit a car, the police are going to come and they’ll file a report.”

Doffing said he believes that the university wants to get the most out of the money they have spent in Campustown.

The university and Kingland have invested between $18 and $20 million in the current land renovation alone and will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to occupy it, Madden said.

The city would spend more than $83,000 to develop temporary bike lanes on Lincoln Way and has already spent $1.5 million on the current renovations. The city has also already moved forward with “noninvasive” projects such as cyclist education. The ultimate decision, however, won’t be made until a final meeting.

The proposal will be brought up at a future City Council meeting.

“We’re going to take all that feedback to [City] Council one more time,” Mellies said. “This will be the opportunity [to choose] if they want the physical or temporary improvements.”