The Metro Area Bicycle Master Plan will consider bicycling infrastructure, policies, and programs in the communities of Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin, and University Heights as well as portions of unincorporated Johnson County. The vision for the plan is to make bicycling safer, easier, and more convenient for residents of all ages and abilities. The new plan will coordinate with the Iowa City Bicycle Master Plan (adopted in 2017) and the Bikeway Plan for the University of Iowa.
Planning Process and Timeline
- November to December 2018: Online public survey and data collection
- February 2019: Public workshops in North Liberty and Coralville
- February 2019 to March 2019: Preparation of draft plan
- April 2019 - May 2019: Public open house and review of draft plan
- June 2019: Public comment period
- July 2019: Adoption of final plan
Online Metro Bicycle Survey
469 people responded to the online Metro Area Bicycle Survey. Of those, 290 indicated that they live in or have a daily destination in Coralville, North, Liberty, Tiffin, or University Heights. Input from the survey was used to identify preferences of metro area bicyclists and locations or routes on which they encounter obstacles or see need for improvements.
Travel time and convenience are the top criteria that determine how individuals travel to work (Source: LRTP General Transportation Survey 2016). It is not surprising therefore that respondents to the Metro Bicycle Survey who live in Coralville, North Liberty, and Tiffin are less likely to commute by bicycle than those in Iowa City or University Heights. Survey respondents from these four communities skew toward recreational riding.
Access to the many recreational riding opportunities in the metro area require connectivity, including safe transitions between facility types and more intuitive wayfinding. Such improvements benefit all bicyclists (commuters and recreational riders) as well as pedestrians.
Youth Bicycle Survey
The unique travel behaviors and needs of young people are not often considered in planning, yet children generate much of family travel demand. The MPO has made it a practice to capture input from youth in our transportation planning efforts.
As part of the background for this Metro Bicycle Master Plan, students from North Central and Northwest Junior Highs and Clear Creek Amana High School participated in an online bicycle survey (Nov-Dec 2018). The information provided by more than 435 respondents should be useful to groups, including schools, recreation programs, and organizations that provide programs for youth.
Information on youth travel challenges and preferences were gathered through a similar survey as part of the MPO’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).
The MPO held two Bicycle Master Plan workshops in February 2019. Members of the public who attended the workshops were provided the opportunity to comment on bicycle infrastructure, policies, and programs. These comments will be incorporated into the final Bicycle Master Plan document.
- Coralville Public Library: Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 from 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
- North Liberty Community Center: Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 from 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. (Rescheduled due to weather conditions.)
The Bicycle Network
The Proposed Network Map shows the following:
- Existing facilities that serve bicyclists, including multi-use trails, sidepaths (8-10 foot wide sidewalks), striped shoulders, and shared lane markings (sharrows).
- Planned facilities include those projects that have been identified by communities for securing federal transportation funding through the MPO.
- Future potential facilities are improvements or routes that have been identified through this planning process. These include potential opportunities for bicycle lanes.
The following facility types are recommended as part of the draft plan:
- Multi-use trails are paved facilities that are shared with pedestrians or other non-motorized users. Because they are completely separated from the roadway and have few conflict points with motor vehicle traffic (cross streets and driveways), trails are the most preferred facility for most bicyclists. Multi-use trails are often located along waterfronts, creeks, railroad rights-of-way or utility easements as these spaces have limited development potential and thus a continuous route is feasible.
- Sidepaths are paved facilities, 8-10 feet in width, located immediately adjacent and parallel to a roadway. As part of an adopted complete streets policy, MPO communities typically provide a sidepath (wide sidewalk) along one side of all arterial streets. The network of sidepaths gets extended as arterial streets are extended or as rural roadways are reconstructed to urban standards. Access control, limiting the number or frequency of driveways that cross a path, is essential to ensure these facilities are safe and efficient for bicyclists.
- Bike lanes designate an exclusive space for bicyclists on the roadway through the use of pavement markings and signage. Conventional bike lanes are located adjacent to motor vehicle travel lanes and flow in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic. A street pavement width of at least 30 feet is necessary to provide a minimum 5-foot bicycle lane. Most streets in Coralville, North Liberty, University Heights, and Tiffin do not meet this standard and thus cannot accommodate bike lanes.
- Shared lane markings are recommended in the plan. While in recent years, some bicyclists have questioned the usefulness of shared lane markings (sharrows), the plan recommends such markings on those streets that provide important routes or low-stress connections but lack the minimum street width necessary for bike lanes. Sharrows in combination with “Bicyclist May Use Full Lane” signs can serve a useful purpose and present an advantage over a street with no facilities at all, especially for less experienced bicyclists or those who are new to the area. Streets identified for shared lane markings may also be designated as bicycle boulevards where additional wayfinding signage, traffic calming, and/or pedestrian improvements would be considered.
There are roadways identified by staff and survey respondents that present significant challenges to bicyclists for which there is no short-term solution.
- Coralville’s 12th Avenue, south of the railroad, is an essential route for connecting over the interstate. Topography, pavement and right-of-way width, and the frequency and number driveways all present challenges to making this roadway more accommodating to bicyclists. The pavement width is not wide enough for bike lanes, and driveway access and topography make the provision difficult. The plan will emphasize the importance of this roadway as part of a long-term roadway improvement project.
- Holiday Road is another road that was identified as being difficult for some bicyclists. The street pavement width is too narrow for bike lanes and the frequency of driveway access makes a sidepath less desirable. Widening the street pavement may be a consideration for future road construction projects.
Three important community connections that are noted on the map as planned:
- The reconstruction of a trail connecting Rocky Shore Drive in Iowa City to First Avenue in Coralville, along a bend in the Iowa River, is planned and part of a current Transportation Alternatives Funding (TAP) request submitted by the City of Coralville (fiscal year 2021-24 funding). This trail was washed out in the flood of 2008. Initial design and construction were completed with the CRANDIC Flood Protection Plan in 2014. The trail has been rough graded and the center bridge pier has been constructed in Clear Creek. The reconstructed trail will link up with trails leading to the Iowa River Landing, allowing bicyclists a low-stress alternative to the 1st Avenue sidepath.
- Completion of a sidepath along 965 to connect Coralville to North Liberty is planned. A ¾ mile section, between Hawkeye Drive and Forevergreen Road, is part of a Surface Transportation Block Grant request submitted by the City of North Liberty (fiscal year 2023-24 funding).
- A trail connection between Coralville and Tiffin will be complete when the Clear Creek Trail passes under the interstate. This much anticipated project is delayed due to the Interstate 80/380 interchange reconstruction but funding has been secured and the trail may be completed by 2022.
Other Elements of a Bicycle Friendly Community
Six Building Blocks
The League of American Bicyclists identifies six “building blocks” that help to make a community friendly to bicyclists. The draft plan considers these elements in order to encourage a culture of bicycling, educate bicyclists and motorists, enforce rules of the road, evaluate progress in expanding bicycle use and safety, and ensure equity in our investments.
Review recommendations for each one of the “6 E’s”.
Bicycle ordinances provide a legal foundation for accommodating bicyclists and other active modes of transportation. As part of the planning process, staff have reviewed bicycle ordinance language from all five MPOJC communities to identify inconsistencies and opportunities for change that may help to make bicycling safer.
Review recommendations for changes to municipal ordinances that impact bicycling.
Adopting a minimum bicycle parking requirement for commercial and multi-family development for all communities was a goal of the 2009 Metro Bicycle Plan that remains unfulfilled. Bicycle parking is an essential element for promoting bicycling as a legitimate form of transportation. The lack of convenient bicycle parking presents an obstacle for bicyclists. Bike parking can also be good for business, providing a substitute for vehicle parking in high-demand areas and an option for employees who might otherwise occupy parking spaces needed by customers. The provision of appropriate bicycle parking also helps to ensure an orderly environment where bicycles do not block walking paths or building entrances or otherwise inhibit property maintenance such as snow removal or lawn mowing.
Iowa City remains the only MPO community that has an adopted minimum parking requirement as part of its development code. In fact, in some areas of the community bicycle parking can substitute for automobile parking. Iowa City will be further revising its standards in order to better serve long-term bicycle parking—parking for residents of multi-family units.
In all cases, bicycle parking should be provided on paved surfaces with adequate space so that locked bikes do not block pedestrian passage. Communities should provide clear guidance for appropriate rack selection and installation.
The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) provides a helpful guide for bicycle parking with sample policies for minimum parking standards and information on how to select and install racks, including spacing.