Council votes to keep 83rd Street open to bicycles
The De Soto City Council voted 3-2 at their meeting Thursday night to keep 83rd Street, from approximately Kill Creek Road to the eastern city limits, open to bicycle traffic.
The council lifted the ban, which was put in effect in the mid-1990s, at a meeting in September of this year and almost immediately received requests from the public to reinstate the ban. Residents brought a petition with more than 300 signatures before the council asking that the council reconsider their decision, prompting Thursday night's discussion of the matter.
Councilman Rick Walker, a traffic engineer by profession, was the first to speak on the issue, outlining his belief that the road is just as safe as any other stretch of road open to bicycles in the country.
"I spent some time over the recent holiday doing the math and talking to experts around the country to get a better understanding of the real safety of this road," he said.
Walker's report, which went into detail regarding sight distance and stopping distance along the three-mile stretch of road, ended with his belief that it was safe so long as motorists and cyclists alike follow the law. He did suggest the city make a few improvements to the road to ease safety concerns.
"There are a few areas that could use some shoulder pavement to make [safety] better, and we could perhaps put up more signs to make motorists aware of the bikers' presence. But I don't think a ban is the answer."
Councilwoman Lori Murdock agreed with Walker, reiterating her belief that the ban impedes the rights of those who choose to cycle and her concern for De Soto's image.
"I ran [for council] to support De Soto and to help it move forward. Keeping bicycles out of our city in this way gives De Soto a bad image," she said.
Murdock also supported Walker's idea to explore adding cycling signs to the road and exploring minor paving options.
For the first time since the council began discussing lifting the ban earlier this fall, De Soto residents who support lifting the ban spoke, thanking the council for their efforts.
De Soto resident, recreational cyclist and city planning commissioner Mike Kroeger quoted lessons from his childhood to express his belief that lifting the ban was the right action.
"As a kid I was taught to mind my own business, and that's what I thought of when I heard this [lifting the ban] was such an issue. I think Rick [Walker]'s report shows that it's not unsafe. This seems like more an issue of inconvenience," he said. "The few times I've had trouble with cars while biking that road have been because of the drivers' actions, not mine. In my opinion, banning bikes because drivers have been misbehaving is out of whack."
Kroeger also pointed to a principle of American government regarding the ban and the petition to keep it in place.
"This country was founded on the majority rule but at the same time not at the expense of the minority right."
Four other residents joined Kroeger to speak in support of the lifting of the ban but their voices weren't the only ones heard. Several residents against the ban, including many who had spoken at previous council meetings and brought forth the petition, also reminded the council of their opinion.
"I've pushed for keeping the ban and I've heard a lot of good arguments here tonight but I'm still concerned about the safety," said Mike Vukas. "I think what tonight really shows is that the ban, one way or another, isn't the answer. We need to find a way to fix the road so everyone's concerns are addressed."
Councilman John Krudwig agreed and promised to support council members Walker and Murdock in their research for ways to improve the road at little cost to the city.
When the vote came to put the ban back in place, council memberRon McDaniel was the first to make the motion and speak in full favor of it. Council member Randy Johnson said he supported the motion despite his personal hesitation.
"[The ban] goes against every core value I have, but I was elected to represent the people of De Soto and those signatures are something I can't ignore," Johnson said.
After the motion was defeated, the council directed staff to look at options for paving shoulders in some areas of the road and research signage possibilities for future discussion.