While not taking sides in the issue that percolated to the surface at last week’s Parkersburg City Council meeting between Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell and members of the city’s Bike Advisory Board, we are happy both now seem to be looking for common ground to help the city become more bicycle-friendly.
During the public comment period of last week’s meeting, members of the biking committee expressed disappointment in a measure that would allow bicyclists to use the sidewalk while riding from Second Street to the historic district along Juliana, one of the busiest streets in the city. The mayor expressed his own frustration with the committee for what he sees as a lack of progress in creating new paths in the city.
Council then passed the first reading of the ordinance.
While the dust-up between the mayor and the group charged with recommending safe bike routes in the city is not a good sign, it was, we feel, a temporary bump in the road and not a permanent road block. After all, both want the same thing for Parkersburg: a safe route for bicyclists to explore the downtown area.
There is no question Newell has been an advocate for bicycling. From the start of his first term, he has been a proponent of expanding bicycling in the city and to prove that he has been an annual participant in the bike to work day.
And bicyclists are lucky to have an advocate such as Kim Coram as a council member. Coram has spent a good portion of her life advocating for expanding recreational opportunities – especially urban recreation. If Coram thinks Juliana Street is not a good location for a bike route, her opinion should be given a good deal of weight.
Coram and the bicycle advisory committee will be participating in a family-oriented ride Saturday beginning at Point Park that is open to the public. She said they hope to showcase what Coram and the committee feel are better – and safer – routes to the historic district.
Newell hasn’t been happy with the Bike Advisory Board’s pace, but we hope this weekend’s event will engender greater cooperation between the two sides. The growing popularity of bicycling as an alternative form of transportation and the city’s desire to make this an attractive place for bicyclists have run into the same snags in other cities. It may be a difficult task, but not an impossible one. Other cities dealt with these issues and have found solutions.