Group addresses bikability in city

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In Oct. 2020, a bike audit committee was formed to address bicycle safety in Guttenberg. The committee inventoried existing bike racks, considered directional pavement sharrows, has plans to create a bike route map, investigate the possibility of a bike share/rental system for the general public, and add additional way-finding signs for easier navigation and bike route connectivity. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

The City of Guttenberg invited Healthy HometownSM Powered by Wellmark, to assist with identifying opportunities for enhancing bikeability in the community. The Wellmark program uses evidence-based, proven tools and techniques that help make the healthy choice the easy choice. The program's purpose is to prompt healthy lifestyles through changes to the environment, which in turn can result in improved economic stability. 

In October 2020, Healthy Hometown representatives Aaron Swanson, Mary Lawyer, and Ethan Standard held a virtual bikeability workshop to assist community members to identify and visualize ways to provide a better, safer environment for individuals and family bicyclists.

Wellmark representatives mapped out a five-mile route that began at the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics and proceeded along Second and Third Streets, River Park Drive, and Bluff Street. They asked participants to ride the route and record their observations about existing bike conditions. Group members Amy Speed  - Director of Marketing & Development, and CEO Tim Ahlers, Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics (GMHC); Emily Yadoff, Guttenberg Community Vitality Director; City Manager Denise Schneider; Mayor Bill Frommelt; Ashley Christensen - Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission; and Guttenberg residents Jane Pearson-Moser, Norma Thiese, Stephanie Radabaugh, Dr. Andrew Smith, and Caroline Rosacker completed the route and shared their observations. Based on the information, representatives identified areas of concern and made suggestions. Some of their recommendations were low cost and easy to implement, while others were more involved and may take years of planning. 

"Most riders felt comfortable riding on neighborhood streets, but indicated that crossing Highway 52 and riding through the downtown area was a little more stressful," said Swanson. "Due to the mostly flat topography within the city limits, Guttenberg is naturally a very easy place to ride a bike. With some additional strategic investments, Guttenberg can become an incredibly bikeable community and regional destination for bike riders," he added. 

Shared streets

Improving bikeability starts with creating a network of well-connected safe bike routes. "On streets with speed limits below 25 miles per hour and low-traffic volumes, shared streets may be the best option for creating a bike network," noted Swanson. 

Shared streets are established by using a combination of sharrows, (on-street pavement markings) and directional signage. "These are a low-cost ways to quickly enhance bikeability in your community." Swanson said.

Sidewalk safety

Currently bicyclists are prohibited from riding on the riverwalk. The sidewalk's five-foot width makes it difficult for walkers and riders to share during busier times. 

A polite sharing of the sidewalk or an option to widen the existing sidewalk was discussed, but no decision was made.   

The downtown business district sidewalks are considered a no-bicycle zone. "In many communities there is a desire to keep people from riding bicycles on the sidewalks in downtown business districts. This often results in signage that states, 'no bikes allowed' or 'bikes prohibited,' leading people to believe that bikes are not wanted nor welcome in the community," explained Swanson. 

An alternative to the negative signage is to establish dismount zones on sidewalks in the downtown area. This can be accomplished with pavement markings indicating bicyclists should dismount their bikes and walk them on the sidewalk.

Several of the members participating in the group stepped forward to form a sub-committee to build on some of the suggestion from the bike audit. The group met on Feb. 11 and discussed plans to further their efforts. The group has plans to inventory the existing bike racks in town and add additional bike parking stations as needed, consider directional pavement sharrows, create a bike route map, investigate the possibility of a bike share/rental system for the general public and add additional way-finding signage for easier navigation and bike route connectivity.

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