our view

June 16, 2011 |

Two-wheel trouble on Hubbell


We were not surprised to hear recently that more bicycle lanes would be proposed for Des Moines streets. We were, however, surprised to learn that Hubbell Avenue would be the next one considered, with a plan of converting the four-lane street to three from East 18th and East 33rd streets to accommodate bicycle lanes. The city council was to vote on this on June 13.

We, unfortunately, had to send this paper to press prior to the vote, but we are told that only two members planned to oppose the lanes, leaving it to likely pass at the 4:30 p.m. meeting. Keep in mind, too, that the city was to be presented a “Bicycle Friendly Community Award” prior to the meeting.

We initially expressed concern over the restriping on Ingersoll to accommodate bicyclists. As much as we support the bicycling community, we were concerned about further congesting traffic there and creating an environment ripe for accidents. We also did not want businesses along Ingersoll to be negatively affected. After speaking with bicyclists, those who regularly commute on the road via automobile, and Ingersoll merchants, we realized our fears were unfounded. With that in mind, it would be logical that we would now support bicycle lanes on Hubbell.

Not so fast.

Hubbell Avenue is not Ingersoll Avenue. The cost to restripe Ingersoll was minimal compared to the nearly $400,000 that is projected to complete the Hubbell project. Supporters argue that much of the funding will come from the state. Regardless, that’s a large chunk of taxpayer change.

Traffic on Hubbell simply cannot be compared to Ingersoll. The proposed bike lanes will be constructed near such retailers as Kmart, Gordmans, Hy-Vee, Dahl’s and other businesses with heavy auto traffic. It will cross railroad tracks and even pass in front of the fire station. Supporters say these “road diets” are about reducing auto accidents. They also claim that adding bicycle lanes to Hubbell will provide cyclists a safe passage into downtown Des Moines. Still, many bicyclists we talked to say bicycle lanes on Hubbell are downright scary and blood will be shed.

We won’t totally rule the Hubbell option out. But there are safer options that could — and should — be considered. We hope the council agreed. CV