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Forum editorial: Bike lanes don't fit on all streets

As Fargo tries to accommodate the growing number of bicycle riders on city streets, safety for riders and motorists must be the first concern. It's fashionable these days to assume a modern, progressive city is bicycle-friendly, but that should n...

As Fargo tries to accommodate the growing number of bicycle riders on city streets, safety for riders and motorists must be the first concern. It's fashionable these days to assume a modern, progressive city is bicycle-friendly, but that should not mean anything goes when it comes to making city streets accessible and safe for bicyclists.

One proposal has raised the hackles of at least one city commissioner. Dave Piepkorn essentially put on hold a plan for bike lanes on two of the city's busiest thoroughfares, 10th Street North and North University Drive. "Amazingly ridiculous," he said of a proposal for bike lanes on those two arterial streets.

Piepkorn's characterization might be a tad hyperbolic, but his point is well taken. As Tuesday's City Commission meeting demonstrated, commissioners are willing to take a critical look at any and all bike lane proposals.

While a progressive city should work to accommodate bicycle traffic, not every street is suitable for such accommodation. Streets in older neighborhoods, for example, have narrow rights of way, even those streets that might have been widened in recent years. They can just barely handle an ever-increasing volume of motor vehicles, let alone add lanes for bicycles. North 10th and North University might be in that category.

(The city has done a good job building off-street bicycle paths in the newer sections of Fargo.)

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It is important for Fargo to find suitable bike routes between the central city and the North Dakota State University campus in north Fargo. Students are among the routine users of bicycles to get from the main campus to the downtown campus. But instead of trying to add bicycle traffic to the high-speed, often-congested North 10th and North University corridors, the city might want to investigate other, less busy streets for bike lanes. Surely routes connecting downtown and the campus can be found through neighborhoods adjacent to the busy thoroughfares.

As lifestyles change to a healthier mode, as a younger urban population calls Fargo home and as gasoline prices rise, bicycle use will increase. The city is obligated to provide safe and practical bike lanes that connect the city's neighborhoods and business districts. But cyclists must recognize that not every street and avenue in the city can, or should, be open to unrestricted bicycle traffic.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

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