Planners mulling more bike, pedestrian lanes in greater Waco

Cyclists ride along a bike path past pedestrians. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Cyclists ride along a bike path past pedestrians. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Cyclists ride along a bike path past pedestrians. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

By Regina Dennis
Waco Tribune-Herald via Associated Press

The Metropolitan Planning Organization is holding public meetings this week to gauge residents’ interest in seeing more bike lanes and pedestrian paths throughout the Greater Waco area.

The MPO seeks input from residents on whether new lanes for bicyclists, runners and walkers are needed in cities that border Waco, and where the features would get the greatest usage. Suggestions for installation of new sidewalks also are welcome.

The meetings are scheduled in Waco, Hewitt and Lacy Lakeview, but also target residents from neighboring cities like Bellmead and Woodway.

The feedback could help the MPO map out a network of bike lanes that would allow cyclists to move easily between each city.

Waco has about five miles of bike lanes, mostly in the downtown area, plus new lanes along Park Lake Drive between North 19th Street and Lake Shore Drive.

“Just like the road network stretches from city to city, if there is a desire for a bicycle network, it should not just stop at the city limits of Waco,” said Felix Landry, a Waco city planner who also works with the MPO. “If people in Hewitt want to ride into Waco or vice versa, it can be a seamless transition.”

David Guyer, president of the Heart of Texas Safe Roads Coalition, said the idea makes sense to ensure the safety of everyone who uses the roadways.

Guyer is an avid cyclist who lives near downtown Waco.

He said during his morning rides, he will bike quickly to farm-to-market or county roads on the outskirts of town to avoid the congestion of drivers heading to work.

“Nothing is more frustrating than riding on a bike lane that dead-ends. Then what do you do?” Guyer said. “We need to connect the dots.”

Guyer, who is executive director of the Providence Foundation with Providence Healthcare Network, said cycling also seems to be picking up steam in Waco, because there are now three bike shops in town.

But safety for cyclists remains a concern. Guyer said about two years ago, a waiter at one of his favorite restaurants who commuted by bike was hit by a car while biking home from work.

After an extended recovery in a hospital, he was left permanently disabled, Guyer said.

More bike lanes could assist in educating motorists, bikers and pedestrians on how to share the road, he said.

“We want to make sure that motorists are aware that there are bikes out there,” Guyer said. “Anytime there’s a collision between a bike and a car, no matter what, the cyclist is the loser. Even if they’re legally right, they’re going to pay the price.”

Landry said improving road access for bikers and runners adds several benefits to the community.

It could encourage more people to bike instead of drive, which would lower air pollution and alleviate traffic congestion.

It also may inspire more residents to adopt a more active lifestyle.

“There’s a lot going on with the health district; they’ve got a lot of funding to do healthy living education and programs,” Landry said. “There’s kind of a push from all sides.”

At a glance

Public meetings on adding bicycle and pedestrian lanes

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: Hewitt Meeting and Event Center, 208 Chama Drive

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Waco Operations Center, 1415 N. Fourth St.

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Lacy Lakeview Civic Center, 505 E. Craven Ave.