9th Street west of downtown was designated in 1999 to have bicycle lanes as part of the Bicycle Compatibility Index Study. In 2001 this plan was reaffirmed with the Bicycle Works Program, and by the City policy to install such designated lanes whenever the City repaves a street.
In 2007 during a repaving project of 9th Street, Sustainability Action prompted the City to install bicycle lanes by building a consensus among the 9th Street property owners and merchants. Public Works removed parking on the south side, and striped the street for bicycle lanes in both directions between Tennessee and Mississippi Streets. The benefits of these bicycle lanes were evident and helped people visualize a greater potential. So groups and individuals began lobbying the City to extend these lanes to downtown as well as west of Mississippi Street.
As a result of, and to their credit, the Public Works Department has been initiating bicycle lane installation on other sections of 9th Street (and elsewhere in town). In 2012 the section between Kentucky and Tennessee was reconfigured to include bicycle lanes. And in 2014, during an upgrade of the intersection of 9th Street and Emory Road, the City installed bicycle lanes west to Avalon Road and east to Mississippi Street.
To make a complete street, the street was “right sized” from being four auto lanes, to now being two auto lanes and a center turn lane and two bicycle lanes. Other than putting a “climbing lane” up the 9th Street hill, there now are bicycle lanes on virtually all of this part of 9th Street (some gaps are at intersections).
As learning curves go (and budget allocations grow), Lawrence will figure out how to appropriately design intersections to safely accommodate bicycles. But for now, 9th Street is our first example of a “complete street” where all forms of transportation are treated equally – buses, autos, bicycles, wheel chair users, and pedestrians. It’s not a perfect example, but a great start – a learning lab, a point of departure.
So on Saturday, 11 October, at 1:00pm, there will be a celebratory bicycle ride. Cyclists will meet at South Park by the east-side fountain for a slow-paced, family friendly ride to 9th Street, pedal along 9th Street, and then ride back again to South Park. This event is being sponsored by the Lawrence Bicycle Advisory Committee – http://lawrenceks.org/boards/bicycle-advisory-committee/.
Future prospects? Watch East 9th Street over the next year or so for some exciting changes!