ARLINGTON -- On-street bicycle lanes would be drastically cut back and concentrated downtown and around the University of Texas at Arlington under the latest version of the city's proposed Hike and Bike Master Plan.
On Monday, an Arlington City Council subcommittee reviewed a scaled-back version of the original draft master plan, which had called for designating 163 lane miles of city streets for bicycles. The new plan proposes only 41 lane miles, to promote on-street cycling, while shifting focus to an off-street trail system that would connect pedestrians and cyclists to linear parks citywide.
"I'd like to keep the system off-street. I know it's not ideal for cyclists. I know it falls way short of what they would prefer," said Councilman Robert Shepard, who heads the subcommittee.
"Ten years from now, five years from now ... somebody will look at this and things will have changed and our vision will have improved because of some things that have been done. This is a really good place to start."
The new proposal, which is expected to go before the council in June, calls for an estimated $200,000 to designate on-street bicycle lanes and recommended routes, $38 million to build off-street hike-and-bike trails and $15 million to fill in gaps in the city's sidewalk network.
The projects, which range from installing signs reminding motorists that they are sharing the road to building 14-foot-wide off-street paths, large enough for pedestrians and cyclists, would largely be paid for with bonds and built over the next 30 to 40 years as roadways are expanded or rebuilt, city officials said. The initial hike-and-bike plan cost $87.6 million.
Buddy Saunders, whose organization Save Our Streets argued against on-street bike routes, said he supports the latest plan. It would reduce the number of streets targeted to have traffic lanes converted to bike lanes from 14 to six, with the focus on getting people around downtown and the university and to Lake Arlington and its surrounding parks.
"Bike riding is much safer when it's done off-street. This plan gives pretty complete connectivity between one part of the city to another," Saunders said. "It's fair and it preserves the streets so we won't have congestion."
Greg Collins of Bike Friendly Arlington , however, was disappointed at the drastic reduction in planned cycling amenities and said his group would continue working with the council to provide safe routes for bike riders.
"Bicycling is not just a recreational activity," Collins said. "People want biking and walking connectivity from the neighborhoods they live in to work, school, entertainment and restaurants in addition to parks."
One of the largest projects in the plan calls for a 17-mile, off-street trail along the entire length of Green Oaks Boulevard, which would connect people with several parks., including River Legacy Parks in far north Arlington, the Rush Creek trail system in west Arlington and Fish Creek Park in southeast Arlington. The city, which already has 3.4 miles of trails along Northwest Green Oaks Boulevard, has adequate right-of-way to extend the concrete trail along the rest of the loop, said Jim Parajon, Community Development and Planning director.
The council subcommittee, which has held two previous meetings on the Hike and Bike Master Plan, has set another meeting for 3 p.m. May 17 at City Hall.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639