Sides argue about Lodi bike lane plans
The Lodi City Council had a contentious discussion about the Church Street bike lane expansion project during the Wednesday night council meeting at Carnegie Forum.
After City Manager Steve Schwabauer read the consent calendar, Councilwoman JoAnne Mounce, asked the mayor to pull an agenda item regarding the Church Street Road Diet — a segment of Church Street between Lodi Avenue and Lockeford Street that will be reduced from four lanes to three in an effort to expand bike lanes in Downtown Lodi.
“I have had business owners on Church Street voice concerns about the bike lanes, and they do not want to see the street go from four to two lanes because it will increase road congestion on that street,” Mounce said.
A city traffic simulator, tested by public works staff earlier this year, produced a model of what the traffic would look like during peak hours and found that the project would reduce collisions on Church Street, and reduce travel on the roadway by two minutes.
According to Mounce, the city had previously had a two-lane street on Church Street, but the city was forced to increase the lanes to four due to traffic.
Public Works Director Charlie Swimley said he could not confirm the details of Mounce’s claim due to a lack of records regarding past street projects.
Despite the lack of records, Mounce felt the reduction of the driving lanes would not prove to be beneficial to the community because she thinks the lane change would only facilitate a small portion of the city’s residents.
“How long will this last before we change it back from two to four lanes?” Mounce asked.
Councilman Bob Johnson agreed with Mounce, stating he rarely sees bicyclists around Lodi and asked whether it would be fiscally advantageous for the city to add bike lines around town.
“I often drive around Elm Street and Lower Sacramento Road and I rarely see bicyclists on those streets, utilizing the bike lanes,” Johnson said.
Both Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Kuehne and Mayor Mark Chandler disputed claims that the city lacked cyclists.
“Bicycles have become a popular mode of transportation for environmentally conscious residents, and it is also a source of tourism that brings people to Lodi,” Chandler said.
Bike Lodi President Kathryn Siddle addressed the council, saying she has records highlighting the increase in bike users as a result of the Bike Valet service the group offers.
“Bike Lodi parked 350 bikes weekly during the (16 week) summer farmers market, and what we heard from cyclists was they wish the roads were safer. We are only asking that one lane be added to connect people on
bikes safely to downtown,” Siddle said.
Siddle said as bikes become more prominent among regional commuters, Adventist Health has requested Bike Lodi participate in health fairs and student fairs, and educate residents about the group and the services they offer as well as the events they host.
“We have donated over 300 bike helmets to students this year, and we had 138 cyclists at our Park-To-Park bike ride,” Siddle said.
Kuehne said that at a meeting hosted by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce regarding the Church Street bike lane expansion project, many business owners saw a need for an extended bike lane.
“The room was packed, and there was not a single naysayer in the room,” Kuehne said.
Mounce said the businesses that reached out to her were not chamber members and were not made aware of the project until the city council voted for it.
“Would it be possible to stop the project?” Councilman Alan Nakanishi asked Swimley.
Since the council approved the project during a May meeting, monies have been allocated for the project using Measure K funding — a half-cent sales tax originally passed in 1980 to fund transportation improvements in San Joaquin County.
Lodi’s Public Works Department finalized the street design for the project this past summer and presented a detailed plan before the city council during a shirtsleeve meeting in April.
The project would modify a segment of North Church Street between Lodi Avenue and Lockeford Street will be reduced from two to one lane each way and include a center turn lane.
There will be designated bike lanes on both sides of the street, along with parking spaces. The bike lanes will provide a striped lane for one-way travel along the street.
The bike lanes will be four to five feet wide and will have accessible curb ramps at intersections. Existing traffic signals will be modified to have separate left- or right-turn arrows and video detection systems for cyclists and motorists.
The city will also re-stripe the street and increase the street space for motor vehicles, as well as additional spaces for parking on either end of the street. Left-turn lanes will be added at Lodi Avenue and Lockeford Street, according to the city’s concept map.
The bike lane expansion is projected to cost $1.6 million of which $1.46 million will come from Measure K.