Supervisor candidates give views on bike-friendly Linn County

With the election coming up soon, I’ve been wondering what our candidates for supervisor think about making our roads safer for bicycling. So I asked them. What better way to find out? The question:

If you are elected, what will you do to make our roads safer for the bicycling public?

District 1

Lu Barron: As a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization my priority is to pass and implement a “Complete Street” policy.

District 2

Linda Langston: I think first and foremost our goal should be to solicit more funding for roads that include bike lanes. Next, I think our obligation is to wherever possible include areas in the right of way for bike paths or lanes. I think that as we plan roads in the future we need to anticipate bike lanes to be included in road projects for minor and major arterial roadways. I also think that it is important to engage in collaborative projects to educate both drivers and bikers regarding road safety.

John H. Erceg: (New 11/1) As I understand the Linn County road system is largely gravel and not very suitable for bicycles of any kind. That said one must keep in mind as well that except interstates bicycles are allowed all the other roadways. The state of Iowa highway department also controls many roads outside of the counties control. The use of bicycles is generally broken down into sports/entertainment and personal transportation (a function of gas prices) both of these uses are controlled in large part by the weather. Except for the extension of abandoned rail lines for transportation and enjoyment there is no resources available for individual bicycle lanes at this time. If a group can show that there is a particular need and rider ship that needs to be served then I am unaware of a particular reason to afford a creation for bicycles.

District 3

Eric Rosenthal: (New 11/2) Planning and public education are critical components to building better infrastructure for biking. The incredible potential offered by biking has been realized in several European countries, but only after there is a broad understanding by the public of the benefits of such a lifestyle. So the first hurdle is public education. Then the next challenge is to incorporate bike lanes and trails into our regular planning processes for streets and roads. I grew up in Iowa City and enjoyed the bike lanes available there. There was consensus in the community so there was planning and coordination that resulted in bike lanes and trails. I hope that with the recovery from the floods we will choose to incorporate trails and bike lanes into our green spaces. It is a real opportunity that should not be missed. And I believe that there is community consensus to make it happen.

Ben Rogers: (New 10/24) As Supervisor, I would welcome discussion on getting bike lanes on county roads. I think our first priority is to secure more funding for roads that include bike lanes. I have lived in other countries that have adequate lanes for bikes and I would like to see a similar model in Linn County. This needs to be coupled with safety and ensuring motorists and bicyclists have ample room and right of way. I would also look forward in listening and learning more from the biking community how we can improve current trails, roads and educational programs for bikers and motorists..

District 4

Don Gray: (New 10/24) I would like to see, when road work is being done on arterial roadways, that a bike lane should be added; as well as when planning future roads. As more people turn to cycling as an alternate to driving, or simply as it becomes a viable recreation, I believe education regarding safety for both bicyclists and motorists need to be investigated and addressed. I welcome all input to this regard. I am proud to say that the City of Central City, along with the Central City Parks Commission have built a trail (for both bikers and walkers) from one end of town to the other. And, with Linn County, will have that trail eventually extended into Pinicon Ridge Park within the next several years. This is a fantastic addition to Central City, as well as Pinicon Ridge Park. I look forward to having future additions like this throughout the county.

Brent Oleson: I would be willing to sit down with any members of bicycling clubs or individual bicycle enthusiasts to discuss how to include serious proposals for improved educational programs when getting or renewing a driver’s license, working to get better enforcement of current laws and regulations regarding how drivers treat bicyclists on approach, and good ideas for incentive and awareness projects regarding this problem. I would entertain working with any existing local task forces or creating one, which should include members from bicycling enthusiast groups, local law enforcement, road engineer and trail/path planning agencies, school districts, and safety groups.

District 5

James M. Houser: (New 11/2) I have been a longtime advocate of trails. I initiated the paving of the Cedar Valley Trail from Hiawatha to the County Home Road. I also pushed for the tunnels under the County Home Road and Midway Roads for bike safety. The Linn County Conservation Board is currently applying for grant funding to pave another three miles of the Cedar Valley Trail going north from the County Home Road. I support that and hope we can eventually pave the trail all the way thru Linn County. We are also looking at the possibility of paving wider shoulders on our trunk collector roads to be used as bike lanes to give a expanded trail network on paved county roads.

Dave Machacek: As a supervisor, I would push to have roads improved to include a bike lane when they are either improved or resurfaced. I think trails are a great place to bike and would advocate improving existing trails to be more usable by both pedestrians and bikers. Being a farmer and rural resident, some of my most serious concerns involve bikers that elect to ride into either a setting or rising sun. They become virtually invisible to the vehicles overtaking them. I need your input as to how to deal with this.

To find out which district is yours, go to the Linn County website and locate yourself on one of the maps. The Gazette’s online voter guide might also be helpful. Pedal on. Comment? Full names, please.

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2 Responses to “Supervisor candidates give views on bike-friendly Linn County”

  1. 1 Mark Wyatt October 23, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Dave Machacek’s response to the setting sun issue is a “get those bikes out of my way” response. In the 2001 Iowa Supreme Court case Vasconz v. Mills, a driver going westbound during sunset hits a bicyclist also traveling westbound. The driver claimed he was exempt from liability because he couldn’t see. The court concluded Iowa Code 321.234 gave the cyclist the right to be on the road. It was the driver’s responsibility to keep a proper lookout for bikes, pedestrians, fallen trees, cows, etc. At any time, the driver could have stopped or slowed until his vision improved and avoided the collision.

    I don’t oppose the building of bike lanes or paved shoulders, but I do oppose a blanket attitude of “get them out of my way” approach.

  2. 2 B.J. Smith October 23, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for the citation, Mark. My e-mailed response to Mr. Machacek said, in part:

    I share your concern about the rising and setting sun and usually try to avoid riding in those situations. Maybe someone will have a better idea when they see your comment.

    Once in Cedar Rapids on 29th St. NE, a driver nearly hit me from behind while I was riding. I confronted her at the next stoplight and she said she couldn’t see anything because of the rising sun. My response was that if she couldn’t see where she was going, she probably shouldn’t be driving. I do think it’s a driver’s responsibility to see what’s in front of the car. To my mind, “the sun was in my eyes” might be an excuse for dropping a fly ball, but not for running over someone with my vehicle.

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