EDINBURG – The push for a more pedestrian and bike-friendly city continues.
Environmentalists and cycling advocates in Edinburg are asking City Council to consider at least three projects in the coming budget year. Road improvements to Sprague, 4th Street, and the area around UTPA will have a great impact in making the city more bike friendly and walkable, according to Mark Peña, who addressed City Councilmembers last week.
Peña, an attorney, is chairman of the city's Environmental Advisory Board (EEAB), and coordinator of the CoolCities Climate Change Initiative, a sweeping effort that is attempting to influence municipalities nationwide who are looking to go green.
"Things have developed really nicely. As far as what's going on in Edinburg, we're still trying to move Edinburg forward, to make the city more bike friendly," Peña said, referring to a Safe Passing ordinance passed last year.
"We are still pushing for more bike lanes, for cycling amenities. They give people an opportunity to get out on the roads, and as safely as possible, give them a recreational amenity in the city. It's just a matter of making the right-of-way more conducive to cycling."
EEAB is requesting that bike lanes be added along Sprague Road, from Raul Longoria on the east to Jackson on the west. This route will look to connect with existing bike lanes on Jackson and Veterans Blvd and provide a needed central east-west cycling corridor linking 4 city parks: Municipal Park/the Birding Center, Memorial Park, Cenizo Park and Gilbert Diaz/Bicentennial Park.
Environmentalists are also requesting that bike lanes be added to 4th Street/Miguel Nevarez from Schunior on the north to Geoffrey Ln (south of Hill Dr) on the south. The locations is already a popular cycling route for a number of citizens including university students and faculty and will provide an important cycling link between Sprague and University Dr, according to Peña.
EEAB is also asking councilmembers to consider partnering with UTPA on ways to improve cycling and pedestrian safety and mobility around the campus area.
This can include improving the prominence of existing bike lanes in front of the university to improve safety, transforming Sugar Rd between University and Schunior into what is referred to as a "Livable Street or a Bike Boulevard" making it safer and more appealing for both pedestrians and cyclists, and finally consider the idea of "bike boxes" around campus.
Bike boxes are an intersection safety design present in larger cities, and are meant to prevent bicycle/car collisions, especially those between drivers turning right and bicyclists going straight. They also facilitate bicyclist left turning positioning at intersections during red signal.
"The great thing about bikes lanes is that cities struggle budget-wise for new parks," Peña said. "You have to buy the land, it's expensive to maintain, and even though we would love to see more parks in the city, my guess is we're not going to see a bunch of them in the very near future. But as a bridge to that, and as a way to give citizens a recreational opportunity, bike lanes are a great thing."
City departments have begun the process of hashing out their budgets for the coming year. In the first budget workshop held last weekend, city council members were asked to consider a wide array of requests by department heads, leading up to the final budget, which should be in place by September. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.