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Carbondale installing bike paths to make the city more cyclist-friendly

Student%27s+bicycles+at+the+beginning+of+a+new+bike+trail+Saturday%2C+Sept.+9%2C+2017%2C+between+the+SIU+Recreation+Center+to+the+tower+apartments+on+Grand+Ave.+%28Auston+Mahan+%7C+%40AustonMahanDE%29
Student's bicycles at the beginning of a new bike trail Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, between the SIU Recreation Center to the tower apartments on Grand Ave. (Auston Mahan | @AustonMahanDE)

Student's bicycles at the beginning of a new bike trail Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, between the SIU Recreation Center to the tower apartments on Grand Ave. (Auston Mahan | @AustonMahanDE)

Auston Mahan | @AustonMahanDE

Auston Mahan | @AustonMahanDE

Student's bicycles at the beginning of a new bike trail Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, between the SIU Recreation Center to the tower apartments on Grand Ave. (Auston Mahan | @AustonMahanDE)

By Tierra Carpenter, Campus Reporter

Carbondale officials are in the process of making the city safer for bike riders, installing new bike paths to cut down on accidents and allow cyclists to have a clear route to almost anywhere in the city, officials said.

Chris Wallace, director of the city’s developmental services department, said one path is almost complete.

He said the path goes downtown, runs along the railroad tracks from Main Street to Park Street and leads to the pedestrian overpass that goes across U.S. Route 51 and onto campus.

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The purpose was to make a side path for cyclists so they wouldn’t have to travel on main roads, Wallace said.

“It’s lit up at night,” Wallace said. “It’s supposed to be a safe path for people to be able to get from one place to the other.”

It was especially designed with students who live on East Campus in mind. Wallace said this allows them to have a clear way to get from campus to downtown.

This path cost $419,960, with $335,950 coming from a grant through the Illinois Department of Transportation and $84,010 coming from the city’s budget, Wallace said.

Wallace said along with city funds, Carbondale has received additional grants totaling an estimated $1,195,052 from IDOT to fund other bike paths.

One is being developed to take riders from Mill Street across Grand Avenue to Park Street and the pedestrian overpass across U.S. Route 51, and will cost $388,870 in grants, with the city contributing $97,240.

A third path may begin construction next summer, Wallace said. This would take cyclists from the northwest side of Oakland Avenue to New Era Road, and would cost $1,131,820 total, $422,880 of which will come from the city budget.

The city is in the process of applying for another IDOT grant for a path that will go from New Era Road to U.S. Route 13.

“We’re currently in the design stage,” Wallace said. “It is a long process to get all of our approvals through IDOT. As soon as we can, we hope to get started.”

He said he hopes the path will eventually create a large network that runs from Carbondale to Murphysboro.

Wallace said other, smaller projects are in the works to make the city more bike-friendly. These include placing bike “fix-it” stations and air pumps around town, striping city roads and adding bike lanes to existing road networks where the streets are wide enough.

These smaller projects will continue as funds become available, Wallace said.

Included in these changes is a set of flashing lights that were installed over the summer on the crosswalk between the Student Recreation Center and the parking lot for East Campus, according to Brad Dillard, the director of Plant and Service Operations.

“When you press a button they’re very noticeable and obvious to cars coming and going from both directions,” Dillard said.

Doug McDonald, owner of the bike shop Phoenix Cycles, said the changes to the crosswalk were needed because the area is very high-traffic, busy with both cars and pedestrians.

“That was definitely needed to alert people that there was even a crosswalk there,” McDonald said. “If you didn’t know it was there, it was pretty easy just to buzz through.”

McDonald said all the city’s improvements for bike riders have been needed.

“They actually have stepped up to the plate and done a lot of things to actually become a bike friendly community,” McDonald said. “It really kind of makes me proud to be in Carbondale now. In the past … [they] kind of overlooked bicycles, when it’s been the main form of transportation for a lot of students for a lot of years.”

Wallace said the city is trying to budget more money every year to make improvements because grants can’t always be relied on.

“Little by little, we’re trying to make Carbondale more bicycle-friendly,” Wallace said.

Tierra Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] or @tierramc_.

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