Jefferson City bike/ped bridge: Now on to the next steps for Jefferson City

Aaron Smith writes in the March issue of Jefferson City Magazine:

It was early last May when I first heard that a pedestrian bike bridge was going to be built along the US Highway 54 eastbound/US Highway 63 northbound Missouri River Bridge. I was panting like a dog on a group bike ride with five other guys, and the new bridge development provided us with a topic of conversation for the next few hours. In between breaths, we discussed what we thought this would mean for cyclists living in and around Jefferson City. I remember the positive talk of being able to cross the river safely and the negative talk of the lack of infrastructure for cyclists who need to use the roadways.

Jefferson City pedestrian/bicycle lane under construction
Jefferson City pedestrian/bicycle lane under construction

I recently continued this conversation with Jason Vanderfeltz, the transportation project manager for MODOT. I asked Vanderfeltz if he had an estimate of how many people would use the new bridge, scheduled to be complete on April 1 of this year.

“It’s just one of those things, if you build it, they will come,” Vanderfeltz says. “We’ve had lots of support from bicyclists and pedestrians who are excited to see this project completed.”

Vanderfeltz then noted the amount of requests MODOT has received during the years to provide a safer way for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel across the Missouri River Bridge. He also broke down the project’s $7 million budget and explained how it was part of a collaborated effort between MODOT, the Department of Natural Resources, Jefferson City and the Missouri State Parks Foundation. . . .

Currently, the main section of greenway ends on West Dunklin Street. Where do bicyclists go once they cross the bridge? Will it just dump them into the street? Vanderfeltz says when people come over the bridge, there will be a painted crosswalk over Clay Street that leads them to the sidewalk on West Main.

Suddenly I felt the exciting opportunity to bring in tourism from those traveling by bicycle being outshined by the heavy dependence on sidewalks and the lack of development for bicyclists who might want to ride on the roads. I tried to put myself in the shoes of those traveling to Jefferson City and coming to a narrow sidewalk with pedestrians and light posts planted in the middle of it.

Aaron is a Jefferson City resident, bicyclist, and president of the Respect the Ride Foundation, a Jefferson City based organization that works on infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects within the community. This includes bike lanes, shared bike routes, trail repair/new trails, safety classes for students, bicycle races, and hosting events.

The good news for Aaron is that we have seen time and time again that completing a large, important, high visible bike/ped project like the Missouri River Bridge connection galvanizes a community to provide the rest of the system to link up with it.

And Aaron is exactly right that Jefferson City is in the middle of developing a very good trail and greenway system, but has no form on-street bicycle route system.

That is a shame because the on-street bicycle route system is almost every community's low-hanging fruit--the single project that will have the greatest community-wide impact at the lowest cost.

So it is likely that Jefferson City will move in the right direction.

Things it would be great to see happen in Jefferson City:

  • Adoption of a city Complete Streets policyComplete the Streets logo
  • Creation of citywide on-street bicycle plan
  • Citywide bicycle map
  • Bicycle education for adults and as a regular part of school instruction
  • Create a Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee to advise the city on bicycle and pedestrian related policy, plans, and projects
  • Works towards and then apply for Bicycle Friendly Community status; set specific time-specific goals for reaching Hon. Mention, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinimum BFC levels.
  • A city-wide, comprehensive Safe Routes to School plan to help encourage more children to bicycle and walk to school and provide the sidewalks, bike lanes, trails, and other routes needed
  • Dedicate a certain percentage of public works funding to bicycle and pedestrian projects (often just 1% or 2% for bicycle projects and 3-5% for pedestrian projects makes a huge difference over time)
  • Continue to expand and connect the city's greenways system

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