Government and Travel & Tourism

Not everybody is gung-ho for bike-only lanes

October 17, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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First Ward City Commissioner Walt Gutowski Jr., who owns a business on Bridge Street NW in Grand Rapids, was asked what he thought of the city’s explosion of bike-only lanes, which tend to eliminate some curbside parking.

“I am strongly for them,” replied Gutowski via email. “They bring vibrancy to an area and they truly promote good health. I’m for long boards, as well. However, bike riders and long boarders must be accountable and obey all traffic signs and lights.”

“I like bikes so much, I would offer a solid bike shop free rent for up to six months if they located in one of my buildings on Bridge Street,” he added.

When asked if he knew of any business owners who had concerns about the bike lanes, Gutowski mentioned Monte Reinert, who also owns business property on Bridge Street, including Monte’s Lounge. Reinert is also the president of Transnation Title of Michigan, located on the north side of Grand Rapids.

Reinert is mainly concerned that some of the curbside parking spaces where there are now bike lanes, as well, are too narrow.

Reinert, who had expressed his concerns in a letter to Gutowski, said he wonders if a car parked in too narrow of a parking space will be ticketed if its wheels are touching the bike lane stripe.

“Surely there must be some standard for the width of the bike and parking lanes,” he said. “But it appears like maybe there isn’t.” He provided the Business Journal with photos of parking lanes on Bridge Street.

“It seems to me that if a street is not wide enough to accommodate the bike, parking and traffic lanes, then the bike lanes are the ones that need to go,” said Meinert.

He said he is concerned that not enough thought goes into the process — “just a matter of how fast can we put these bike lanes in.”

Reinert said he also raised another question in his letter to Gutowski: the weather in Michigan. He noted the consultant hired by the city for the bike safety education project is from Portland, Ore.

“But Portland, Oregon, is a lot different than Grand Rapids, Michigan, when it comes to weather.”

He said the new bike lane parking ordinance should take into consideration that “our streets get more narrow in the winter,” due to snow accumulation, which would force parked cars into the bike lanes. Reinert said perhaps there should be a period during the winter when the parking ordinance is not in effect.

Christopher Zull of the city Traffic Safety Department said winter conditions are not addressed in the ordinance.

“However, it should be noted that if snow or other winter conditions do not allow a vehicle to remove itself from any vehicle or bike travel lane, then they are subject to enforcement” of the parking ordinance.

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