Goodwin to be a “complete street”

By Mark Rivera

Cars are going to have to start making way for the two-wheeled, gas-less vehicles that continue to compete with them on the road.

Bike riders have their pick of new paths on campus this year, but some may be safer than others.

According to Morgan Johnston, transportation demand management coordinator for the University, the paths in the street are safest. The risk of getting into an accident on a bike is 1.8 times as great if you are riding on a sidewalk.

New bike lanes appeared on either side of Gregory Drive near First Street at the end of the spring semester, and there are now bike lanes on First Street as well. However, plans for more biking and roadway improvements are already in the works.

Johnston said that the University plans to make Goodwin Avenue a “complete street” – one designed to include all modes of transportation: biking, vehicle traffic and pedestrians – during summer 2009. This will cost at least $1.5 million and will be completed by working closely with the city of Urbana.

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The streets will include clearly marked crosswalks, bike lanes on the road, pedestrian curb extensions to reduce crossing distance and bus pullout areas to minimize traffic congestion.

The notion of complete streets stems from a $155,000 Multimodal Transportation Study done in 2006.

“The objective was to continue to make the campus more pedestrian friendly,” said Bill Martin, principal consultant for the study, which recommended improvements to campus pedestrian safety and roadway congestion.

Creating complete streets with bike lanes, moving non-primary bus routes out of the core of campus and hiring a transportation demand coordinator are examples of safety-heightening projects, many of which are of medium to high cost.

However, the debt for making Goodwin into a complete street is not set squarely on the University’s shoulders. The project has already received $900,000 worth of grant money, Johnston said, leaving $600,000 to be shared between the University and Urbana. The University will have to pay $300,000, but this may increase because of gas prices.

Yet, despite the expense, creating complete streets is the best way to increase pedestrian safety, Johnston said. In the future, she said she would like to update many of the bike paths on campus to bike lanes on the street. As more are installed, she said she hoped that they will become the standard.

Still, not all see bike lanes on the road as the safest place to ride.

Patrick Quirke, sophomore in Business, said that he felt safer on a bike path.

“On a bike path, you can avoid cars,” he said. “If there are pedestrians walking in a bike lane, you have to swerve out and compete with traffic.”

And, although he noted that having bike lanes on both side of the street was convenient, he said he thought the University could improve bike and pedestrian safety by putting up bike crossing signs near intersections.

With or without crossing signs for bikes, Johnston is working to introduce more pedestrian safety improvements.

“My whole goal in life is to implement the Multimodal Study,” Johnston said.