City Council discusses temporary bike lane project

Greg Zwiers

Editors Note: The article has been edited to reflect that plans to move forward on a bike lane project have not been approved, but that the city council has directed staff to come up with such a project.

Ames City Council approved city staff to come up with details for a possible future temporary closing down of parking on the east side of the 100 and 200 blocks of Welch Avenue to test a bike lane for rider safety at its July 22 meeting.

Concerns were raised to the city because of reported collisions between cars and bicyclists. Cyclists going downhill on the east side of Welch are at risk of running into open doors of parked cars on the narrow road. The earliest that the plan would be put into action is July 2015.

“Safety is a huge priority for [Campustown Action Association] — for Campustown, for pedestrians, bicyclists and cars,” said Kim Hannah, executive director for the Campustown Action Association.

Project details are expected to be brought to Ames City Council in a few months. The council will then have the chance to approve or deny the project.

Between 12 and 13 parking spaces are currently planned after the new Kingland Systems building is completed.

Business owners, Kingland Systems and Iowa State have voiced opposition to the bike lanes because they remove parking spots, which businesses hope for their customers to use.

City Council also approved plans to look into creating signs telling cyclists to dismount at current “Bycyclists Prohibited on Sidewalk Zones” on Lincoln Way and Welch Avenue, develop signs to direct cyclists around the area.

Part of the resolution also included looking into painting a green line on Lincoln Way eastbound and westbound from Franklin Avenue to University Boulevard. Green bike lanes are intended to regulate, warn or guide traffic — both motorists and bicyclists — according to the Federal Highway Administration. Green lanes have been adopted in places such as Chicago, New York City and San Francisco. 

“We’d like to explore the green lane marking, but right now Federal Highway [Administration] has it listed as an experimental treatment,” said Damion Pregitzer, a traffic engineer for Ames Public Works. “So it’s not like yellow and white paint or normal signs that we can just go out and do right now … But I think that people would like to try it.”

City Council did not approve a plan to look into bike lanes on Lincoln Way from Hayward Avenue to Lynn Avenue. This proposal would have removed all parking on Lincoln Way in that area. 

Another major subject discussed at the meeting was the development of land by the old middle school. City Council scheduled a hearing for Aug. 12 on Breckenridge Group’s proposal to rezone land near the old school.

Also, the council voted to waive purchasing policies to let Ames Public Works vet the company Frontline BioEnergy as the city is looking to transfer its power production from coal to natural gas while keeping its waste-to-energy refuse-derived fuel.

Frontline BioEnergy has a formerly operational power plant that is offline that would burn natural gas and refuse-based fuel. That plant can be physically relocated to Ames.

Under current plans, Frontline BioEnergy would lease property from Ames but own the power plant. Ames would sell its waste as part of the fuel and buy energy from Frontline BioEnergy.

The resolution allows Ames Public Works to continue looking into the costs and benefits to working with Frontline BioEnergy.

During its meeting, the council also took the time to honor and thank some first responders in Ames. 

The meeting began with Ames Chief of Police Chuck Cychosz recognizing the police dispatcher, officers and civilians who were first responders when Mayor Ann Campbell had a heart attack April 22.

“The doctors noted that the immediate care … had a direct [impact] on the patients survival,” Cychosz said.

Campbell’s daughter Allison said the family’s gratitude and thanks is overwhelming and infinite. The full City Council chambers gave the first responders a standing ovation.