Moving one step closer toward a “bicycle friendly” city, Iola council members granted permission for sharrows to be painted on designated streets in the city limits.
Sharrows are painted markers on streets that alert motorists and pedestrians to bicyclists. In Iola’s case, there will be an image of a cyclist, along with a series of arrows designating the flow of traffic.
David Toland, executive director for Thrive Allen County, has been working with city officials and administrators to map out exactly where the sharrows will be painted. After examining the streetscape with Becky Pepper, the Kansas bicycle and pedestrian coordinator from Topeka, both decided sharrows were instead of designated bike lanes.
“The streets are for everyone,” Toland said. He pointed out that Iola’s streets were constructed for all sorts of transportation originally, and over the years the traffic has defaulted to motorized vehicles. He said raising awareness of cyclists in the community can set Iola ahead of others.
“You guys have brought this community far ahead of other communities our size in the state,” he said to the council. Toland began his presentation by listing off the cycling improvements that have already been made in the city — including new sidewalks, the Southwind Trail, Missouri-Pacific Trail and others.
The sharrows will be painted along Washington Avenue from Lincoln Avenue south to Vine Street. The sharrows will also run on West Street west to meet up with the Prairie Spirit Trail and on Vine Street west to meet up with the Southwind Trail.
“It’s a good reminder to motorists, that we have cyclists in the area,” council member Steve French said.
“That’s a win-win situation,” Nancy Ford added, “Using this, again, as an educational tool.”
Toland said Thrive is already making plans to educate the public on what the bicycle sharrows will look like, and what they mean for traffic. He pointed out that cyclists are required by law to follow the same basic “rules of the road” that motorists do.
“What we don’t want is to create a false sense of security,” he said. “We need to educate our youth in particular.”
Randy Rasa, editor of the Kansas Cyclist website, stepped in to show his support for the sharrows and pointed out that cyclists need to be just as aware as motorists.
“Having sharrows in place doesn’t change the responsibility,” Rasa said.
The bicycle sharrows will be funded through a grant by the Kansas Health Foundation, and all of the painting will be done by city crews. The council discussed possibilities of using any spare funds from the grant to expand the sharrows to other parts of the city.
“The money is there if the will is there,” Toland said.
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