Several roadway projects still in the planning phase seek to designate shared roadways and bike routes to guide cyclists along the most accommodating city streets, simultaneously reminding automobile drivers of cyclists’ presence.
“‘Share the Road’ is one of the easiest and least expensive protocols you can develop for bike-ped,” City Planner Toby Bennington said of the plans to incorporate road emblems and signage to remind drivers of cyclists and pedestrians.
Plans being put together by the city in conjunction with the Metropolitan Planning Organization, will guide cyclists from the future Chief Ladiga Trail into other parts of Anniston.
Bike routes being studied could link trail riders to McClellan, Lagarde Park, Coldwater Mountain, and a loop around downtown Anniston.
Jack Plunk, a principal planner with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission who also administers the MPO, said some of the intersections along Alabama 21 are problematic for crossing cyclists, particularly at the Baltzell Gate Road intersection.
“If we can figure out how to get across the intersection, there will be more share-the-lane type facilities,” he said. Plunk said traffic signals there, which he called obsolete, are on the MPO’s list for replacement in 2013 or 2014.
A so-called “Inner City Loop” would connect to the future Chief Ladiga Trail extension at 12th Street to Moore Avenue, through Zinn Park at 14th Street, and down Gurnee Avenue where it will connect to a much larger loop from Cobb Avenue to Christine Avenue along 11th and 18th streets, with extensions to Anniston High School and its sports facilities.
Bennington said that while bike routes are being planned, decisions have not yet been made as to which will include dedicated bike lanes and which will be designated with signage and road markings.
Plans call for signage along the routes and bike racks at destinations such as the high school, the 12th Street trail connection, Lagarde Park and facilities at McClellan.
The street sharing plan is about more than just connecting to the Chief Ladiga Trail, Bennington said.
“It’s about connecting neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s about connecting to employment locations; it’s about providing access.”
Recent input from stakeholders, he said, have officials considering racks and other features along Noble Street. Bike lanes there, Bennington said, “are very desirable because of the activity coming into the downtown core district.”
When designating bike routes, planners must take into account many factors — including space, safety and accessibility to businesses and neighborhoods — before making recommendations, according to Bennington.
Plunk said ideally bike routes are on wider, low-volume, low-speed roads that take riders to destinations such as downtown, the Woodstock residential area and Anniston High School.
Joe Jankoski frequently commutes from the east side of town to his office at the Calhoun County Community Development Corporation on West 10th Street, crossing through the city’s downtown on the way.
As much as cyclists have a legal right to use the roads, Jankoski said, at the same time, they must realize their responsibility to take actions for their own safety. Jankoski said that when he commutes by bicycle, he wears reflective gear and a helmet and keeps lights on his bike to remain as visible as possible for automobile drivers.
For many cyclists, the Henry Road-10th Street corridor is problematic enough to keep them from commuting across the mountainous roads when they’re busy.
Darin Sims, who lives in Golden Springs, said he found a way to mostly avoid that corridor when he tried commuting to work at Pinnacle Research on 10th Street. For about two months when gas prices spiked around 2008, Sims commuted frequently by bike, finding his most troublesome spot to be Choccolocco Road between Henry and Golden Springs roads. After being yelled at, cursed at, and hit with garbage by passing drivers, on the busy stretch of road, he stopped cycling to work, he said.
“I think a bike lane would be huge,” he said. “A bike lane is almost like a sign because people see and understand it’s for bikes.”
Although areas in Golden Springs are not included in the city’s current plans, Bennington sees potential for Share the Road measures on streets such as Veterans Memorial Parkway, Golden Springs Road and Iron Mountain Road.
Earlier this year, the city won state funding to complete Iron Mountain Road, the route Oxford resident Derek Jensen was cycling to when he was struck and killed on Golden Springs Road last year during his morning commute to the Center for Domestic Preparedness at McClellan.
Bennington said he foresees “Share the Road” measures being taken on the road’s extension, and the preliminary engineering work will determine whether it will include dedicated lanes or road markings and signage.
Ultimately, Bennington said, the goal is to make all of Anniston accessible for those who choose to ride.
“It’s not just about providing access to three or four destinations,” he said. “It’s about providing citywide connectivity.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.