Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ketchum eyes bicycle safety

Bike speed limit proposed for two Ketchum paths

Express Staff Writer

The bicycle paths along Saddle and Warm Springs roads in Ketchum are serious accidents waiting to happen, but the Ketchum Police Department is proposing measures to alleviate the danger.

"We have had a ton of complaints about the near misses," said Ketchum Police Chief Corey Lyman. "What we really want to do is prevent a serious accident from happening."

Solutions will involve a lot of paint and signs to more clearly delineate intersections where cross streets and driveways cut across the popular bicycle routes. Bicycle path speed limits will also be posted at 10 mph, and additional on-road bike lanes will be added to encourage faster bicyclists to ride with traffic on the roads.

According to Ketchum Police Sgt. Dave Kassner, more than 50 percent of collisions between bicycles and cars involve bicycle riders who are riding against traffic.

The bicycle paths along Warm Springs and Saddle roads encourage riders who are traveling east to ride against traffic.

Kassner presented plans for the improvements to the Ketchum City Council on Monday, March 21. Council members said the concepts make sense and agreed to consider an ordinance posting a 10-mph speed limit on the two paths. The money needed for signs and paint will come from existing street improvement budgets.

Kassner said the new bicycle speed limit would be enforceable. Infractions could include fines or in-lieu lessons that could include watching a bicycle safety video.

The bicycle path on Saddle Road includes only three to four road and driveway intersections, but bicycles coming down the hill are often traveling at high rates of speed, Kassner said. The bicycle path along Warm Springs Road includes intersections with 34 driveways and 12 roads.

"It's like running the gauntlet," Kassner said. "We really are courting disaster. We've been really fortunate."

Galena Engineering Engineer Dick Fosbury has worked in tandem with the police department and with Wood River Rideshare Executive Director Beth Callister on the new plans. Galena Engineering helped design the three-year-old Warm Springs path.

"Obviously the pathway is quite successful," Fosbury said. "These are innovative, creative ideas to make it safer, and I think these are positive moves."

Lyman said that new street signs could cost as much as $15,000. Paint could cost as much as $7,000.

Separately, Devin Rigby, an engineer with the Idaho Transportation Department, told the city council that highway improvements in and south of Ketchum depend on whether the Idaho Legislature passes Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's proposal to borrow federal moneys.

Passage of the so-called GARVEE bonds by the Legislature would give Ketchum extensive involvement about what improvements in and around Ketchum look like.

"If GARVEE passes, we will be working very closely with the city on federal aid projects," Rigby said. "In a lot of ways, I'm hoping GARVEE passes, but if it does, we're going to have a lot of money in a big hurry to deal with."

Rigby said if the federal funding plan does not pass the Legislature, his agency will stay the course with highway improvements that have been under review for years. One improvement could include adding a third lane exiting Ketchum.

Councilman Randy Hall and Councilwoman Terry Tracy disagreed on the additional lane.

"For me it's a quality of life issue," Hall said. "We've got, every night, traffic backed up in our town for over an hour."

But Tracy said adding additional lanes is like fixing a 21st century problem with a 20th century solution.

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