TWIN FALLS — What should the future of bicycling in Twin Falls look like?
A group of people who are helping to develop the bicycling portion of the city’s Master Transportation Plan met Tuesday evening to talk about their ideas on where bicycle paths should go moving forward.
The transportation plan the city is updating covers many other aspects of transportation within the city as well. Work on the update started last year and is still in its relatively early stages. There will be another public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, also in the City Council chambers on Third Avenue East, to talk about sidewalks and lighting. The group that met Tuesday consisted of a mix of people, many of them cyclists themselves and many of them working for companies or agencies such as the College of Southern Idaho, Clif Bar or Glanbia that have an interest in the future of bicycling or the city’s transportation infrastructure in general.
The current bicycle plan, which was developed in 2014, includes multi-use pathways, dedicated bicycle lanes and shared-use lanes, often marked by pavement markings called sharrows. The existing plan was, in response to the public feedback received at the time, designed to steer bicycle traffic away from main vehicular arterials like Blue Lakes Boulevard and Eastland Drive and onto “bicycle arterial roadways” such as Madrona Street, said city staff engineer Josh Baird. Another goal of the existing plan, Baird said, had been to establish paths that could connect bicyclists with destinations such as schools, government buildings, or other popular bicycling spots.
Councilman Chris Talkington, who was first elected in the 1970s, contrasted the discussion with the mentality in the 1970s and 1980s, when Twin Falls was so much a driving town that, he said, some automobile dealers even asked the City Council to get rid of an ordinance requiring sidewalks in new subdivisions.
“You can see how impatient we are, but also how far we’ve come from the dark ages,” he said. “This is going to be a livable, walkable community, and you’re making a good start on it.”
Fran Florence questioned how much of a difference their efforts would make. While everyone in the room was interested in cycling in Twin Falls, Florence said there are many other people who live in Twin Falls and aren’t, and also said spending money on bicycle infrastructure likely would not be a political priority given the city’s other needs.
“Until there’s this cultural shift and the expectations are different, we won’t see a significant change,” he said.
The best way to get people interested, Florence suggested, would be to take one major bike route — he gave the example of one connecting the Snake River Canyon to the College of Southern Idaho to downtown — and developing it into a well-defined and usable route. This, he said, would be a better use of resources than spreading money out on a bunch of smaller, unconnected trails.
“You’ve got to make some kind of statement that we’re really into this and we’re really doing something cool other than stripes on the road,” he said.
Steve Korecki, who works for CSI and said he bicycles to work when the weather allows, said the city should develop two well-defined north/south bicycle routes and two east/west ones.
Mayor Shawn Barigar, who said he was part of the group in his capacity as head of the Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, said connecting a handful of high-profile destinations still leaves the problem of how cyclists are going to get there from their homes. A better approach, he said, would be to develop bike paths that safely connect broad sectors of town.
The new plan will also have to address how to get bicyclists through downtown, said City Engineer Jackie Fields. Putting sharrows on Main Avenue had been discussed during the earlier stages of the Main Avenue redesign, but the public input at the time was pretty decisively against this, meaning planners will have to devise another, parallel path to get bicyclists through the area.