PARKERSBURG - Mayor Bob Newell said officials are looking at replacing parking along a stretch of Second Street with a bike trail to help complete the Little Kanawha Connector.
Newell said he put forth the idea after a recent Public Works Committee meeting where officials discussed signage for the city bike path and the state Rails to Trails system. Newell said while the issue received some discussion no vote was taken and he has not yet moved forward with the idea.
"My suggestions was for the diagonal parking to be removed along Second Street to make way for bike traffic," he said. "I don't know a time frame, but I'm sure there will be more discussion on it at some point."
Officials are looking at eliminating diagonal parking along a section of Second Street in downtown Parkersburg to make way for a bike path, which would be part of the Little Kanawha Connector trail. (Photo by Michael Erb)
Along Second Street from Juliana to Avery streets there are areas of diagonal metered parking. One bike path is already in place on the opposite side of the street, but it only goes one way. That portion is part of the Little Kanawha Connector, which links the city to the state Rails to Trails system.
In addition to helping complete a section of the trail, Newell said removing parking would improve safety along that section of Second Street. Diagonal parking has long been an issue because it forces drivers to back out in to traffic while blocking their view. Newell also said removal of the transitional parking would force downtown employees, such as those working at Public Debt, to use long-term spaces instead. Several long-term parking lots downtown, which rent spaces by the month, are nowhere near full capacity.
"There are spaces available off the street for downtown employees in these long-term lots," he said. "Some people don't want to walk, want to park closer to where they work, and these metered spaces fill up with downtown employees. That's now what they were intended for."
At least two council members have objected to the idea. At Tuesday's City Council meeting, member Nancy Wilcox voted against a new bicycle ordinance, citing the discussion for removing parking on 2nd Street and saying the city is too willing to give up parking for bicycle paths. Wilcox could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.
Councilwoman Kim Coram, who is a national advocate for biking and alternative transportation, said Friday she believes there is space for both bike paths and parking. Coram said an outside engineering consultant said the road is wide enough a bike path could be placed next to the sidewalk and non-diagonal parking could be placed on the other side of the bike path.
"I think we can have both. I don't think there is any reason to take out parking," she said. "The parking acts as a buffer from moving traffic for people using the bike lane."
"It's not going to happen," Newell said Friday. "We've looked at this and it doesn't work. The lane is clearly not wide enough."
Newell said the two-lane road does not have enough space to accommodate two bike lanes and parking.
"The only thing we can do is eliminate the parking," he said.
Newell said the changes to 2nd Street could also help the courts which struggle to find parking for jury candidates. On jury pool days, which only happen a few times a year, anywhere from 30-90 people could be called to the downtown courthouse.
"On those days they would be allowed to park across that bike lane," Newell said. "It doesn't happen very often so it would be a minor inconvenience, but would help solve some of their parking issues."
Coram said she would oppose the temporary parking.
"I think parking that is sometimes there and sometimes not will just confuse people," she said. "A bike lane that disappears for parking is not something I have ever heard of."
Newell said regardless of what is decided, the city's portion of the Little Kanawha Connector will have to be completed.
"This is the plan submitted to the state 15 years ago and we only have one path done going one way," Newell said. "The state and the feds have put up transportation money to make this path happen and it's not done yet."