Advisory board to propose new bicycle route

PARKERSBURG – The Parkersburg Bike Advisory Board is asking City Council to reconsider a route which takes bike riders along Juliana Street.

A proposed ordinance to allowing sidewalk biking from Second Street to the historic district along Juliana Street generated opposition among area bicycle enthusiasts when it was first introduced in February. Opponents insisted the move would cause issues along the busy road and was not the best route to the Julia-Ann Square Historic District.

Mayor Bob Newell later asked for a vote on the ordinance to be postponed until Tuesday to give officials more time for research and planning.

In a letter dated May 7, Bike Advisory Board Chairman Greg Garrett recommended the changes to Newell.

The proposed route creates a biking loop for Avery and Market streets, running from Second Street to 18th Street. The route also takes riders past several parks and historic sites, such as Holliday Cemetery and Friendship Park. The trail includes a loop through the city’s historic district, accessed by taking 11th Street off of Avery or Market Streets.

“Members of the Bike Advisory Board have ridden the proposed route twice with input from the public,” Garrett said in his letter.

The proposed route also would include changes to Second Street’s current and proposed bike lanes.

“To make the ride safer, there should be a bike route on both sides of the street,” he said, and offered the advisory board’s assistance in planning those routes.

Councilwoman Kim Coram, a national advocate for alternative transportation and member of the advisory board, gave a presentation Tuesday to the city’s Public Works Committee, showing the benefits of using city planning to establish bike routes and encourage the use of alternative transportation.

Coram said the city has applied for a “bike-friendly” designation, and should hear next week if it has been approved.

“The places people most want to live have been designated bike-friendly,” she said.

Coram finished her presentation asking for Juliana to be removed as a bike route and for state signage along that street to be removed.

Shortly before Newell’s proposed Juliana bike route came before council in February, state officials installed “Share the sidewalk” bicycle signs along the heavily-traveled street. At the time Coram argued it created a dangerous situation for both bikers and pedestrians, while Newell said it provided a direct route for families to ride from downtown to the historic district.

Newell said Thursday he had no issues with removing Juliana from the bike route.

“My whole issue back then was nothing was being done. The advisory board didn’t have a plan, and now they do,” he said. “Personally, I don’t care where (the bike trail) is located, and I don’t mind seeing those signs removed from Juliana.”

Newell said his only concern is in removing the ordinance entirely. Certain parts of the Little Kanawha Connector bike trail will still require use of sidewalks for cyclists, and he hopes to make that clear to council members before they vote.

“I don’t want council to be confused about the ordinance,” he said. “There are areas where we want people to be able to safely use the sidewalk for riding.”