Urbana plans to improve infrastructure for bicycles

By Mary Versaci

The city of Urbana has begun to implement a plan designed to improve the experiences of its bicyclists.

The Urbana Bicycle Master Plan was developed by the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission after they were approached by the city to build a bicycle network throughout the community.

Urbana transportation planner Gabe Lewis said the plan involves treatments for street and off-street trails.

New bicycle lanes, routes and trails constitute infrastructure improvements, while non-infrastructure improvements focus on helping citizens properly use the bicycle network, Lewis said.

“We tried to include the public as much as we could,” he said.

Urbana hosted two workshops aimed at gathering the concerns of its citizens. At the first, citizens mapped out their preferred bicycling routes. Lewis said the commission then used this information to place bicycle facilities on the most popular routes.

The second workshop presented citizens with the chance to view a draft of the plan. They were then encouraged to share their opinions.

However, many students have not heard of the plan.

Both John Teijido, freshman in LAS, and Lauren Mulcrone, freshman in ACES, said they did not know about the bicycling plan.

Teijido typically bikes a lot around campus, especially to visit friends living in other residence halls. In his experience, he has not seen a real need for the plan.

“The way the bike paths are set up is really good,” Teijido said. “There are actual bike paths, and crosswalks for both walking and biking. It’s really good as it is.”

Mulcrone also said she has not encountered any major problems biking in and around campus.

“The biggest problem is when pedestrians are walking in the bike lanes, or they don’t move,” Mulcrone said. “But you can’t do anything about that.”

Not all students agree that the plan is unnecessary though. Jungmin Kwon, graduate student, said the plan would definitely make biking conditions better.

“There are not many bike paths,” Kwon said. “There are dangerous places for bike riders.”

Kwon said the city needs to install more lights because the streets are especially dangerous for bicyclists at night. Arnab Chakraborty, professor in urban and regional planning, serves on the technical advisory board for the commission. Because he bikes to work, Chakraborty said he absolutely thinks this plan is important.

“There is some biking infrastructure around the University,” Chakraborty said. “Outside, in the rest of the town, it’s not like that.”

He said the plan involves provisions for designated bike paths, bike lanes on the sides of the road and signs that warn drivers of the presence of bicyclists.

“The city plans to improve over time,” Chakraborty said. “Signs will turn into bike lanes, and no signs will turn into signs.”

In the meantime, the plan has received awards from the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Commission and the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. It was awarded for its originality, transferability, quality, implementation, advancement and coordination.

“It’s a good start,” Chakraborty said.