In The Des Moines Register’s recent article, “Why Iowa Isn't as Bike-Friendly as You Might Think,” reporter Timothy Meinch brought some of the state’s bicycle safety shortcomings to light. The League of American Bicyclists ranks states each year according to their bike-friendliness. Iowa has long been a middle-of-the-packer, ranking 25th last year. For 2015, Meinch noted, Iowa fell three spots to 28th – definitely not the direction Iowa cyclists were hoping for.
Des Moines’ Weakness in Bicycle Friendliness
Bike-friendly cities are those that have bike safety public education initiatives and programs, laws in place that protect cyclists on the road, adequate bike lanes, and other features that facilitate safe coexistence among all road users.
While Des Moines is often touted as a perfect place for cyclists, statistics point to the contrary. Des Moines is ranked far lower than many other bike-friendly communities, landing in the bottom “bronze” tier among the 350 cities reviewed by the League of American Bicyclists. Here are some of Des Moines' deficiencies.
- Des Moines has not designated any official as the organizer for bicycle and pedestrian efforts. In contrast, Minneapolis, one of the highest-ranking biking cities in the U.S., has an entire bicycle and pedestrian department with five+ staff members.
- The number of people who commute via bike is strikingly low. Des Moines bike commuter rate is 0.2 percent, compared to 3.5 percent among the cities that rank in the higher “silver” tier.
- Only 15 percent of Des Moines’ major roads have bike lanes, compared to cities in the silver tier, where an average of 45 percent of the primary roadways have bike lanes.
Former City Councilman Carl Voss said that “the most deficient aspect” of Des Moines was its biking scene. “There’s really no one in City Hall who is looking out for walking and biking,” he said.
Hope for a Safer, More Bike-Friendly Community
There is hope on the horizon, though. In July, the city decided to put $500,000 towards expanding downtown bike infrastructures, adding trail connections, shared-lanes (sharrows), more conventional bike lanes, and better traffic signals. Other tasks the city will be working on include adding more sheltered bike racks at entrances, installing more than 150 bike route signs for streets and trails, and reverting Washington Street to two-way traffic in order to improve east-west access throughout the downtown area.
Plus, Des Moines officials are beginning a one-year pilot program in which they will test the improvements they are making for pedestrian- and bicycle-friendliness.
For more interesting articles, take a look at the Walker, Billingsley & Bair Bicycle Blog. If you've been involved in a bike accident, talk to us about a free consultation at (641) 792-3595 or contact us online.