Gonzales residents offer input on walking, bike trails

Halen Doughty

Gonzales residents gathered at City Hall on Wednesday night to offer their thoughts on ways to improve walking trails and bike lanes throughout the city. The Master Trail Input Session comes after the National Park Service called on municipalities to identify needed facilities that will improve trails and complement existing facilities.

City Engineer Jackie Baumann hosted the public meeting and gathered input from residents who attended. She said the comments helped identify areas that need improvement, while also shedding light on some problems with existing infrastructure. She said by focusing on the areas that matter most to the public, they city can save money and invest it wisely where improvements are most needed.

The only official bike lane within the city limits is on Irma Blvd. between Cornerview and East Worthey. Attendees noted that the path is not connected to anything, meaning cyclists are forced onto roads and sidewalks at the end of the street. Additionally, because of the cars parked along the road, often times there is no room for cyclists to use the designated bike lane. Baumann said she would like to see "No Parking" signs put up and enforced along the road.

Another trail on New River Road could also use some upgrades, residents said. Some said the plant life along the tail leaves sap on the trail, which makes it treacherous for seniors and children by causing them to slip and fall. When the bushes are in full bloom, they can also obstruct the pass, making it impossible to pass. It was pointed out that some low lying areas along the trail hold water after a rain or fill up with dirt. The greenery can also create the perfect place for criminals to hide and pounce on unsuspecting passersby.

Attendees at the meeting noted connectivity is the biggest problem among the existing trails in the city, as many are short and lead to no where. Because it is not legal for bikes to be on the sidewalk or safe for them to be on the road in many places, cyclists said they would like to see safe options that allow people to ride for miles without being forced off the path.

One proposal that could resolve the issue without a huge financial investment would be to re-stripe some existing roads. Some suggested making roads one way in the older part of town between Airline Highway and Cornerview. By eliminating one lane, the lane for traffic could be widened while also adding a designated bike lane. Baumann said this area meets the federal requirements for one way streets because the blocks are not very long.

Safety was another big concern for cyclists and walkers alike. One rider proposed adding short barriers that separate the bike lane from the lane used by cars and trucks, noting that many inexperienced riders feel unsafe when nothing stands between them and passing traffic. Making bike lanes safer, he said, could encourage more people to use them.

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