Fresh air and sunshine abound this time of year — which are a perfect recipe to ride bikes on the new interconnecting bike trails and routes throughout Hays. Residents already are taking advantage.
“I did see quite a few people out riding on the system,” said Assistant City Manager Paul Briseno. “The pool rack was full of bikes the other day. People are utilizing it.”
Briseno updated the city commission Thursday evening on the status of Bike Hays painting projects.
The on-street system is approximately half done, and the levee concrete path east of Main should be completed in another week.
“The system allows for a healthy, alternative mode of transportation,” Briseno said.
Once bicyclists reach their destination on the nearly 21 miles of routes, they can store their bikes on one of the 24 bike racks that have been added to popular destinations. It connects every park, neighborhood, commercial district and educational facility.
The cost to the city was approximately $400,000, plus additional engineering costs.
No property tax or sales tax was used to pay for the project. Funds came from the special parks fund, and stormwater funds paid for the levee cap, which was needed to protect the integrity of the levee. Special parks is funded by alcohol and tobacco tax.
The total cost was $1 million and was paid for with the assistance of the Kansas Department of Transportation funds.
“The system routes were selected with the least amount of stop signs to allow for quick travel,” Briseno said. “The system provides for safer routes for both motorists and bicyclists utilizing the system.”
The system is new for everybody, and the Hays Police Department is working on educating officers.
“We’re working with our officers to make sure they are updated on the lanes themselves and comfortable with the rules of the road,” said Assistant Chief of Police Brian Dawson. “Our main goal is to educate and keep people safe.
Officers know it will take time for people to acclimate to the new system.
“Twelve months from now, what the norm will be in Hays hopefully is people will appreciate the additional markings. It will create awareness of safety issues, and people will take advantage of riding bikes. It’s a good form of transportation and healthy.”
Briseno told commissioners questions have arisen about the use of some of the paths for vehicles and riders.
Just as in regular traffic, solid and intermittent white lines mean different things. An intermittent line means cars can use the lane to turn once they have ensured no bicyclists are present. A solid white line marking a nearly 4-foot wide lane on eacg sides is for bicycle use only.
A sharrow, designated by a bike with arrows, is shared by bicycles and motorists. The type of bike route used was determined by the width of the street.
“In certain areas, there is going to be a dotted line, which means it’s going to be an entrance to a private driveway or access into a parking lot where vehicles are going to have to drive through the bike lane to get into a business,” Dawson said. “If there is a solid line, motorists are supposed to stay in their lane, and bicyclists are supposed to stay in their lane.
“Motorists should not enter the designated bike lane,” he said in an email. “If the motorist needs to make a turn across the lane, or avoid a road hazard, or to cross the bike lane to park if applicable, the motorist may do so only if the lane is not occupied and it is safe to maneuver their vehicle across the bike lane. But, if the motorist is just traveling along the roadway they should stay in their lane and not travel in the designated bike lane.
“They should not drive on the line or even partially in the bike lane,” Dawson said. “Motorists and bicyclists have always been allowed to share the roadway. The designated lanes help make it safer to share the roadway. Bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road and share the roadway as well as motorists should share the roadway. The marked lanes help designate lanes for motorists and bicyclists.”
Motorists and bicyclists need to obey traffic lights and use signals, Briseno said. Only bicyclists are allowed to use the bike routes — not skateboards or roller skates.
No bikes are allowed on sidewalks downtown, and bike riders need to obey all traffic laws and travel in the direction of traffic. Helmets are recommended.
Brochures are available explaining Bike Hays at www.haysusa.com/html/bikehays.html.
However, it all boils down to thinking of others.
“Bicylists and motorists are both out there on the system, and they need to respect each other,” Briseno said.
Briseno had a final word of advice.
“Travel safely, have fun and enjoy it,” he said.