Mansfield News

Bike plan draws fans, foes

Consultants studying how to make Mansfield streets more bicycle friendly outlined Monday a preliminary long-range package of road signage, striping and expansion projects that could cost $11.1 million if all were implemented.

The plan also offered a buffet of options and combinations starting at $12,500 for 50 roadside signs warning motorists to look out for bike riders. The recommendations would become part of the city’s master thoroughfare plan, which would help guide the scheduling of the improvements.

The study, which was unveiled at a joint meeting of the City Council and Park Facilities Development Corp. board, will be presented next at a public hearing Feb. 6.

Biking enthusiasts are advocating for a system of interconnected bike lanes and shared lanes that ultimately would allow people to ride bikes to work or school or for recreation. The broader benefits, they say, are better health and reduced traffic congestion.

But cost-wariness was prominent at Monday’s meeting with the consultant, Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., which the city hired for $65,000 last summer. The more expensive recommendations, such as widening roads for bike lanes and building bike paths alongside streets, appeared to have little support of council and board members.

Council member Larry Broseh said the city’s streets couldn’t afford to give up any space to bicyclists.

“Mansfield is in growth mode and I expect it will be in growth mode for many years,” Broseh said.

The park staff had planned to prepare a final draft to take to the park board to consider Feb. 13 and to the council Feb. 24.

Mayor David Cook said that he and others might to be prepared to vote that soon. He asked the staff to bring a thorough cost-benefit analysis to the meetings.

Several residents weighed in on the on-street bike issue during the regular council meeting that followed the joint work session.

“Our roads are congested enough without adding something we don’t need,” said Houston Mitchell. “We’ve had a budget for the last 10 years that has been pretty tight. This bike lane (proposal) is kind of a fantasy right now.”

Mary Elizabeth Phillips touched on the less tangible benefits.

“When you’re someplace where you see people on bicycles, you know you are with people who value their community,” Phillips said. “These are the kinds of places that people want to visit, to live and raise a family.”

The study grouped its recommendations into short-term and long-term projects. The short-term list contained $1.2 million worth of projects that Shelly Lanners, city director of community services, said could the spread out over five to seven years.

Most of those would be street signage and shared-lane striping on 68 miles of existing road.

The long-range projects would cost $9.9 million, including almost $4 million for bicycle-only lanes. Many of those would depend on roads created by future development, and the council could decide at that point whether to go ahead with the improvements.

The park board has been setting aside about $100,000 a year since 2010 to fund bike-related projects, Lanners said.