Birmingham seeks to be better for bikes

Published: May. 20, 2021 at 9:51 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Between the surge in bike sales during the pandemic and Birmingham’s revival of its bike/scooter-share program, there are likely to be a lot more bikes on Birmingham roads. But is Birmingham becoming bike-friendly enough for large numbers of people, especially new riders, to consider riding to work?

That’s one thing the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham’s CommuteSmart program would like you to consider. While they usually incentivize people to carpool or try alternative ways of getting to work, this Bike Month they’re trying to encourage people to pledge to just ride.

“We can bike to the store”, says Jeniese Hosey, Director of Outreach for CommuteSmart. “If we are biking to work, if we’re just out biking with friends or family, we want everybody to take that pledge to ride and we’re celebrating cyclists in general.”

Studies show Alabama is usually ranked among the least “bike-friendly” but the Birmingham area is moving, albeit slowly, toward being a place where the idea of riding a bike (or scooter) to work sounds reasonable.

The Freshwater Land Trust says it will extend the Jones Valley Trail east out of downtown to Avondale by the end of this year, and to the Continental Gin Building by the World Games next Summer. This will allow people from Birmingham’s east side to bike from just outside Woodlawn to downtown on a mostly off-street trail.

The Regional Planning Commission’s b-active plan contains a map that also ranks streets in terms of relative safety to help people locate streets and trails that would be more commute-friendly.

The city of Birmingham and the University of Alabama at Birmingham are working on a neighborhood greenway or a “neighborway” for the Titusville community.

“It’s taking the central connector street that goes through the neighborhood from the housing development on the West side that connects over to the park on the East side and connects near the school and makes it a safe place to walk, bike, ride a scooter,” says Bert Kurykendall, a transportation design manager for Birmingham’s Transportation Department.

Kurykendall says the project designed at part of UAB’s Grand Challenge initiative is due for implementation in the next couple of months. While the neighborhood will have bike and scooter share stations, “it’s still accessible by cars, but the car through traffic is deemphasized and the walking and biking and running connection is emphasized,” says Kurykendall.

Birmingham Transportation Director James Fowler says the city is also in the engineering stages of a plan to make Richard Arrington, Jr. Boulevard safer for walkers, runners or people who want to ride their bikes over Red Mountain. The project will reduce the current four lanes of traffic to three, creating a protected area for people who are not in cars. Fowler says the project, for which the city is seeking federal money, is still a couple of years away.

Hunter Garrison, a senior planner for the Regional Planning Commission says there is an overarching effort to make various trails and repaving projects work together even if it may not seem obvious. “From a city government standpoint, you often build them where you can, when you can,” says Garrison. “And that’s something we’re working to push, throughout the entire region, not just for the city of Birmingham.”

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