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Help Save Prairie Spirit Trail Bike Lanes in Ottawa

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In October, Ottawa City Commissioners approved bike lanes on Walnut Street to delineate the Prairie Spirit Trail, but are now facing local opposition.

According to Kansas Cyclist:

In October, City Commissioners in Ottawa, Kansas approved development of an innovative bike lane design on Walnut Street, but now the plans are being reconsidered after complaints from nearby property owners.

The new bike lanes would address a long-standing sore spot for riders on the Prairie Spirit Trail in Ottawa. Up to now, riders heading south from the Old Depot Museum trailhead (the northern terminus of the trail) would cross the Marais des Cygnes River on the pedestrian bridge, then be unceremoniously dumped onto Walnut Street, with little or no indication that the trail actually followed the street for a few blocks before becoming a typical asphalt multi-use pathway through the remainder of town.

This summer, the city organized a planning committee to investigate the problem

The committee recommnded, and the City Commission unanimously approved the proposal, which would place the bike lanes in the center of Walnut, with a shared traffic lane on either side, which would mimic the historic placement of the former railroad line, which the city paved over long ago.

The center bike lanes would also solve the problem of visibility, both for the trail itself, and for riders using the trail. Also, by locating the lanes in the center, people riding bikes wouldn’t be at risk of opening car doors, a common hazard with typical bike lanes adjacent to parallel parking. Some would perhaps prefer a more protected bike lane (a cycletrack) rather than just relying on paint to delineate the lanes, but this design would be a solid step in the right direction, particularly given the low traffic volumes on this side street.

This sort of design has been used in many places around the nation (most famously on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC). However, these bike lanes would be the first of this type in Kansas.

However, after the bike lanes were approved, adjoining property owners came before the commission to object: Property owners: Bike paths shouldn’t trump parking spots, basically asking the commission to reverse its decision and eliminate the bike lanes in favor of on-street parking, despite a sea of nearby surface parking lots along the entire length of the bike lanes:

OttawaPST-WalnutBikeLanes-1-2

City commissioners have scheduled a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Commission Chambers at City Hall; 101 South Hickory Street; Ottawa, Kansas. The public is invited to attend and voice their opinions.

If you’re unable to attend, you can submit your comments to City Manager Richard Nienstedt at 785-229-3637 or rnienstedt@ottawaks.gov.

Please speak up, either in person or via email or phone. This “missing link” has long been an embarrassment for the Prairie Spirit Trail, and led to frequent confusion among first-time trail users.

Randy Rasa
Follow Randy Rasa:

Randy runs Bike Prairie Spirit, as well as the Kansas Cyclist web site, which is the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more.

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