City Commission approves bike routes

In a perfect world, the Pratt community, or any community, would adapt to physical activity as a normal part of life. In reality, older streets are not wide enough to allow bicycle lanes and sidewalks are lacking in some areas.

Most people live within a mile or two of the services they need, DeWayne Bryan, executive director of the Pratt Health Foundation, said. Bicycling or walking should be an easy choice and a healthy choice.

Some do travel by self-propelled means; most drive or ride.

Changing the culture is a challenge, Bryan acknowledged. What he and the Pratt Health Coalition, working in conjunction with the Foundation, are trying to do is change the environment.

The Pratt City Commission approved a first step at its meeting Monday evening. In the near future, signs will go up designating Maple Street, from Main to K-61, Sixth Street, from Country Club Road to Fincham Street, and Fincham to First Street as bicycle routes.

If bicyclists think they have recognition on the road, they're more likely to travel it, Bryan said. The hope is that signs will slow traffic, making the road safer for all.

Designation of bicycle routes will not prevent bicyclists from using other streets.

The cost of signage was estimated at $1,200. The Coalition will contribute $500 to $600 toward the cost, with funds from a recent South Central Community Foundation grant. The group will also purchase bicycle racks and work with the downtown sidewalk committee to determine where they should be installed.

"It's a good start," commented Commissioner Bill Hlavachick, who frequently advocates for bicycle lanes in city development projects. "I'd like to get something started to build awareness."

More study will need to be done to determine if bicycle lanes can be added to existing streets. Bicycle lanes are typically four feet wide, with a two-foot buffer between the car zone and bike lane. Cities that have an extensive system of bike lanes have streets that were laid out for that purpose, Bryan said. Many Pratt streets aren't wide enough. Also, homes built 50 or 60 years ago do not accommodate multiple vehicles that are common in families now, so residents must park on the streets.

In a memo to City Manger Dave Howard, Bryan encouraged the city to develop a 10-year plan for the expansion of the bicycle environment, consider implementing zoning standards that require sidewalks with permits for new residential construction, and consider the development of a 10-year sidewalk plan to build a walking environment in Pratt which would be supplemented with grant monies when available.

The memo also suggested making Haskell Street a one-way street going north, alleviating traffic congestion at the corner of Haskell and Third from the swimming pool, tennis court and Pratt Regional Medical Center emergency room, and painting a bicycle lane on Haskell. Commissioners were concerned about traffic volume from parents dropping children off at the pool.

Bryan commented that the City of Wichita has designated $10 million to study and implement bicycle routes, but agreed that would not be realistic for Pratt.

"We're trying to come up with a plan that is cost effective and reasonable for all," he said.