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Efforts Underway to Make Columbus a "Bike City"

Mayor Michael Coleman wants to make Columbus more bicycle friendly. Bicyclists are encouraged by the proposal to add new bike trails and bike lanes, but they want the city to put a priority on safety.

Competitive bike racer, Kirk Albers rides 50 miles a day. The 41-year-old regularly pedals The Olentangy bike trail or some other trail. He supports the city spending more money to improve and expand bike paths.

"The roads are basically subsidized by all of us so I think it's only fair for cyclists to get their share as well,"Albers said.

Bicycle riders in Columbus have a partner in Mayor Coleman who supports spending $6 million this year to build an additional 24 miles of bike paths and bike lanes on city streets. "We are determined to make Columbus Bike City USA," Coleman announced at the state of the city address in February.

The mayor's goal is a 170 mile network of bike trails and bike lanes on existing roadways. Spokesman Dan Williamson says the mayor understands some cyclists want to share the same road as cars.

"He believes that cyclists do have the right to be on the road. At the same time that doesn't mean the cyclist shouldn't have options. And I believe the cycling community has been extremely supportive of all these efforts on trails on lanes and the share the road effort," Williamson said.

Messenger bicyclists in downtown meet everyday at the corner of High and Gay streets to trade stories. Cyclo Space Legal Courier Service owner, Chuck Hootman says Columbus is on its way to becoming a major biking metropolis.

"I've watched this city grow from very few urban cyclists to thousands every year even this winter's with all the snow there were countless people riding their bikes and toughening it out," Hootman said.

Hootman says during his 12 years as a bicycle messenger he has been in several accidents. He believes education for car drivers and bicyclists is necessary.

"That's where I'm talking about the education for motorists to let them know that hey I'm riding in this lane you cannot come into this lane but you can't obviously make a left turn in the middle of an intersection in a bike lane," Hootman said.

Bicyclist, Tim James welcomes the plan. He says the lack of bike lanes from Bexley to downtown made it impossible for him to cycle to work this winter.

"There's just no good way. Broad Street you can go the side streets or you know the parallel streets, but it takes a while. They don't clean those streets in the winter," James said.

Meredith Joy founded the bicycle advocacy group, Yay Bikes!. She rides from Clintonville to her downtown office. Joy says more bike lanes are a good step forward, but not the only answer.

"For a bike lane to be successful it has to be part of a larger strategy of education and enforcement of traffic laws frankly," Joy said.

One city dealing with such issues is Minneapolis. It has an 88 mile bike trail system that began over 100 years ago focused mainly on recreational use. Spokesman for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, Nick Eoloff, says the trails were taken off the main roads after 2 fatal accidents in the 1980's.

"So anything with wheels be it roller blades, skate boards, bicycles is on one trail, and then hikers, runners are on another trail," Eoloff said.

Columbus is continuing to promote safety by putting up Share the Road signs to remind motorists that bicyclists have a right to travel.