A divided City Council narrowly approved a long-range master plan intended to make Mansfield’s streets more bike friendly, but they opted for a bare-bones initial investment.
Under the 30-year, $6.78 million plan, the city would spend $100,000 annually over the next three years mostly for street signs and some lane markings to alert motorists and provide cyclists a little more protection.
No other funding was committed to the overall master plan, which outlines a wide range of signs, striping, bike lanes and other improvements to 105 miles of Mansfield roadway.
The start-up funding will come not from the city’s general fund budget but from the Park Facilities Development Corp., which administers a half-cent sales tax for park projects. The park board has been setting aside $100,000 annually the past several years to pay for future on-street biking improvements.
The originally proposed $11.1 million On-Street Bicycle Master Plan has been in development since last summer by the city park staff and the consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates. The proposal was slashed after earlier work sessions in which council members complained about costs and the potential for increased traffic congestion.
The revised plan of $6.78 million was presented at the May 12 council meeting for discussion. It included the quick-start $300,000 alternative to improve chances of approval.
It was just enough. After a long debate Tuesday, the council approved the resolution 4-3. Mayor David Cook, Larry Broseh, Stephen Lindsey and Brent Newsom voted for the measure; Cory Hoffman, Darryl Haynes and Wendy Burgess voted against.
“I’d rather spend the $6 million on [park] land acquisition and finishing out the linear park,” said Hoffman, the most outspoken opponent of both the long-range and the $300,000 start-up program.
Lindsey, an avid bicyclist and the leading proponent, said that making streets more accessible to bicyclists is a quality-of-life enhancement like expanding parks and trails that makes Mansfield a more attractive place to live and work. Other major projects that involved city investment — such as Hawaiian Falls, Big League Dreams and the Mansfield National Golf Club — required time to prove their worth, he said.
“All of those things were criticized as wasteful spending or not returning any value, and now they all return value,” Lindsey said.
Street-biking advocates argue that riding not only improves health, but can reduce traffic as more people switch from cars to bikes. And it improves safety for bike riders, who have a legal right to share the street, advocates contend.
But council opponents questioned how many riders would be served by such a major long-term investment and said bikers are more likely to add to traffic congestion than to its relief.