Mckinney Courier-gazette > News
Council approves on-street bike plan
The McKinney City Council on Tuesday approved the On-Street Bicycle Transportation Master Plan amid citizen controversy over its necessity and financial impact on the city.
The plan, which city staff has worked on over the past 18 months with consultants and residents, is designed to make the city more bicycle-friendly through bike lanes and other on-street facilities.
It entails in maps, graphics, tables, photographs and text how the city will complete half of its bicycle transportation network, to fit with the off-street paths and trails of a hike and bike network.
"We didn't want to bog you guys down with every particular roadway, so we've adopted a general plan that identifies different treatments," Gary Graham, city transportation engineering manager, told council Tuesday. "It gives staff the ability to implement those treatments where they feel is the best fit."
Graham emphasized the projected $20 million plan is "not set in stone." The plan's first phase, enabling safer bicycle routes along existing networks, will cost about $1.6 million, all of which will come from remaining grant money and McKinney Community Development Corporation (MCDC) funds, he said.
According to the plan, the entire McKinney thoroughfare system, excluding U.S. Highway 75 and State Highway 121, is available for cyclists' use under Texas law. The bicycle facilities portion of the plan focuses on more bike-friendly downtown streets and smaller neighborhood streets, and calls for pavement markings and signage to reinforce their bikeability as "bicycle boulevards."
City staff has identified $40,000 in grant funds to pay mostly for such signage to indicate these routes. The plan prescribes greater interventions like shared-lane markings and buffered and conventional bike lanes for streets with higher traffic speeds and volumes.
District 4 Councilman Ray Ricchi, the lone dissenting vote in the plan's approval, has an issue with the proposed buffered bike lane along Glen Oaks Drive between Lake Forest Drive and Stonebridge Drive. The 7-foot-wide lane would basically take away one of two traffic lanes on the street, which could cause congestion and potential danger during school pickup and drop-off times.
"You're asking me to support this with that in there," Ricchi said. "I can't do that."
The plan's maps denote a network of shared bike lanes, buffered lanes and signed roadways that cover most of the city. City planners, with the help of Renaissance Planning Group, Hall Planning and Engineering, and residents' input at recent public meetings, devised a network that could foster bicycle transportation in every area of McKinney.
Resident Lisa West, a supporter of the plan, spoke Tuesday of the city's need to broaden such capabilities eastward from Stonebridge Ranch, where she said a network already exists.
"People don't feel safe or feel like there's a place where they can get out and be active," she said of McKinney's east side. "When that place is provided, they're out there, they're doing it."
Her husband David, also at the meeting, presented to council a petition with 270 signatures of plan supporters. He alluded to steps neighboring cities like Plano are taking to educate cyclists and motorists, and said new developments along the plan's routes would cover future implementation costs.
Other supporters spoke of the plan's necessity for improving residents' quality of life. Sean Cotter, who lives in the city's historic district, said he no longer feels safe taking his young daughters around in a bike trailer because of drivers' persistent rude gestures and shouting for him to get off the streets.
Scott Rainey, a 13-year McKinney resident, alluded to "very small and congested" thoroughfares that make for "a very treacherous route" for him and his sons to bike along.
Supporters feel the plan will better split traffic flows and ease safety issues.
Yet several residents voiced their concern that payment for the project will come from taxpayers' pockets.
"Do we need to be spending this much money?" Carolyn Parker asked council. "It will probably run well over ($20 million)...I just wonder what percentage of the taxpayers and voters of this city know anything, or even heard of this plan."
Within the 152-page plan, city staff outlines cost assumptions for the project, including those for signage, pavement marking and stripes and bike racks. They estimate that a complete buffered bike lane will cost about $38,000 per mile, and that a paved shoulder-bike lane-buffered bike lane facility along a new roadway will cost about $150,000 per mile.
The plan reveals existing and potential funding sources, including federal and state grants, programs and partnerships with active transportation advocacy groups, bicycle industry corporations and environmental foundations.
Ten percent from the federal Surface Transportation Program is set aside for Transportation Enhancement projects, but that amount is subject to change with the impending reauthorization of the Federal Transportation Bill, according to the plan.
In March 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) released a policy statement in support of bicycling projects, stating, "Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems."
Though they admitted such a policy could shift during the bill's reauthorization, city staff is confident federal and state funds for the plan will materialize as it is implemented in coming years.
Mayor Brian Loughmiller, who voted in favor of the plan, assured residents of the council's budgetary discretion. He said council will not pass a budget that requires a tax increase.
"We are, I believe, fiscally prudent on behalf of the citizens of McKinney," he said. "I have not seen us at any time approve an element of a plan that would put us in a position where we were not fiscally prudent."
Regardless of where its funding comes from, the plan is now officially in motion, as likely more cyclists will be in coming months and years.
"This bicycle plan in my opinion is really about going from good to great," resident Brent Bell said. "One thing that all great cities have in common is a very great transportation system. That's something that McKinney really lacks right now."