EDITORIAL: Still need for a way to share

Published 9:00 am Thursday, June 10, 2010

County commissioners decided well when, earlier this week, they turned down a plan to create a bike lane along county roads. Commissioners and county staff feared that the lane, which would have connected the Shooting Star bicycle trail to Austin, would have created an unsafe situation by putting cyclists into a potential conflict with fast-moving cars and trucks. That wise decision did, however, point out again the need for cars and trucks to co-exist with bikes, pedestrians and other small, slow, traffic — a challenge that state, county and city planners need to address over the long term.

It makes all the sense in the world for the Shooting Star bicycle trail to extend all the way to Austin. Indeed, it’s obvious that the trail gets a lot less use than it should simply because there’s no easy access from Austin. Still, after years of trying, state money has not been forthcoming. Trail advocates had suggested that county highways be designated as bike routes, but the idea of cyclists riding along the roads’ shoulders as semis and cars blasted past at 55 mph or more doomed the plan.

It is, of course, already perfectly legal to ride a bicycle along a county road or along a city street. Whether it is safe to do so is another question. But in a world where fossil fuels are quickly being depleted and where their cost is likely to increase dramatically, more and more people will soon seek alternatives to today’s full-size cars and trucks. The question of how to fit bicycle traffic in with cars will become more and more important — in a general sense, if not specifically along county highways.

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The county board’s realization that it’s just not safe to encourage bicycles to use county roads highlights a problem that planners need to address.