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Paducah continues to be bike-friendly

Staff report

W

hile construction to bring the Greenway Trail through downtown to the riverfront may be on hold until January 2018, Paducah continues to become more bike-friendly.

Recently, the Paducah City Commission introduced an ordinance to hire HDR Engineering Inc. for $63,000 to study the conversion of Broadway/Jefferson streets back to two-way from Fountain Avenue to Water Street, adding bike lanes on sections of those streets.

The study was inspired primarily by ideas city planner and author Jeff Speck presented to city leaders in 2014.

Speck highlighted changes that could make downtown Paducah more "walkable" or pedestrian-friendly.

His suggestions included converting Broadway and Jefferson streets from one-way to two-way traffic, replacing several stoplights along those streets with four-way stop signs, and adding bike lanes.

In the meantime, pedestrians and cyclists still have the Greenway Trail. It's one of the safest and quickest ways to get from one side of Paducah to the other, according to Martha Emmons, co-owner of BikeWorld in Paducah.

"A lot of people don't realize how efficient it is," Emmons said. "It takes you out from Paducah Ford all the way around the north side of the city to Schultz Park at the riverfront."

The city will look at bids next year for engineering firms to complete the design for the fourth phase of the Greenway Trail, which will cross through the Schultz Park riverfront development, where construction should be finished this fall.

The trail construction is on hold largely due to grant requirements. City Grants Administrator Sheryl Chino said in June that because of those requirements, it's going to take nearly a year to get all of the needed state approvals on the selected engineering firm, the design plans and environmental assessment of the project site.

She estimated that it could take until August 2017 before the city could begin advertising for bids. The selected contractor would then begin construction around January 2018.

Completion of the Greenway Trail come with the fifth phase, funded by a $403,000 Transportation Alternative Program grant. It will take the trail from Madison and Monroe streets to Jefferson Street, where trailhead parking and lighting will be installed. The fifth phase doesn't currently have a time schedule.

Meanwhile, Paducah Main Street, a division of the Paducah Planning Department, has continued support for cyclists by installing artistic bike racks in downtown Paducah.

A ribbon was cut for the first rack in July, and racks will be added to more locations including the future park at 432 Broadway, the sidewalks in front of Gold Rush Cafe, Shandie's, Kirchhoff's/Etc. and the Ice Cream Factory, 3rd and Broadway, the Market Square ART park, the Farmers' Market, and the public restrooms at Jefferson and Water streets.

There's still room for improvement when it comes to Paducah's bike-friendliness, Emmons said, but the city does seem to be getting bike-friendlier.

"All streets have risks," Emmons said. "But we try to encourage people to ride on streets that are wider, have less traffic, slower speed limits and good sight lines.

"In the last few years we have seen a huge increase in bicycle traffic, and consequently much more awareness of bicyclists from motorists. I do think it's getting better."

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