Area bicyclists are urging Bartholomew County officials to add bike lanes to County Road 325W, which they consider a major route on the west side of they city.
Bartholomew County Commissioners have received about 75 requests by phone or email asking for the addition, commissioners said. The effort has been organized around a group of Columbus cycling Facebook pages.
The county plans to widen and straighten about 4,200 feet of the road this year, between County Road 200N and Lowell Road, at an estimated cost of about $190,000. The stretch of road runs close beside Driftwood River and is a major part of a back route between U.S. 31 to the north and State Road 46/Jonathan Moore Pike to the south.
“Initially we weren’t considering a bike lane at all, but we have gotten a lot of public feedback that at least made us think that we ought to be considering it,” Commissioners President Carl Lienhoop said.
The decision will ultimately hinge on the county’s ability to purchase right-of-way in several tight spots where the road is pinched against the Driftwood River, and how much the additional asphalt for bike lanes would cost, commissioners said.
Dr. Michael Whitworth, a local cycling enthusiast, said that County Road 325W is increasingly used by recreational bicyclists, and they would like it to be safer for their use and more convenient for motorists who encounter them on the road.
He said there is a danger because of the speed differential between bicycles traveling at slow speeds and motor vehicles traveling up to 65 mph.
“We are just thinking that bike lanes would be a viable alternative, not just for safety of cyclists but for the cars that are having to veer over into the other lane to avoid the bikes that are going to be using that route,” Whitworth said.
“We all own cars and drive cars. We recognize what it is like to get behind a bicyclist and have to wait to get around them.”
Whitworth said he has not had a response from the commissioners and has no estimate on how much it would cost to add bike lanes.
Advocate: Road dangerous
Ken Lanteigne, a local cycling advocate and member of long-distance cycling clubs, said the section of County Road 325W that is being repaired is particularly dangerous for cyclists because it is curvy, making it hard for drivers to see cyclists ahead. Drivers will try to pass a cyclist, putting their cars into the oncoming traffic.
“As a cyclist, the kinds of situations you don’t like on a road like that is where you have both oncoming traffic and traffic coming up behind you,” he said. “That puts
you in a little bit of a dangerous situation.”
Several of the ultracycling events and paths Lanteigne has organized use County Road 325W.
For example, one route to Shelbyville passes through that road, as does a 200-kilometer ride that eventually reaches Greensburg, North Vernon and Seymour.
There are no current plans to improve the southern portion of the road, which is about two miles long from County Road 200N to Jonathan Moore Pike at Westhill Shopping Center. But if bike lanes were added to the northern portion, they would likely have to be considered on the southern portion, too.
Commissioners said that they have included bike lanes in another recently completed project, the expansion of County Road 600N.