After reviewing a feasibility study regarding shared-use paths on Snowy Range Road, West Laramie business owners said mixing bikes and pedestrians with highway traffic was a bad idea.
“I don’t think any of us are against a bike path,” The Butcher Block owner Salli Johnson said. “But the placement on Snowy Range Road doesn’t make sense. It isn’t safe.”
The West Laramie/Snowy Range Road Corridor Bicycle/Pedestrian Feasibility Study was funded by a Transportation Alternatives Program grant to assess future development options for bike and foot traffic. After hosting public meetings and accepting comments online, the Laramie Parks and Recreation Department published the final version of the study in December on the city’s website at www.cityoflaramie.org.
While several items on the study’s priorities list dealt with the section of Snowy Range Road primarily east of Interstate 80 between Garfield and Adams streets, Johnson said most of her concerns were focused on the section of Snowy Range Road west of I-80.
Import Auto Repair owner Klaus Halbsgut, McKim’s Upholstery & Auto Sales owner Gary McKim and The Cutting Cube owner Lisa Halbsgut shared Johnson’s apprehension.
“Who really wants to ride on Snowy Range (Road)?” Klaus Halbsgut said. “We see drivers on that road talking on cellphones, eating, speeding and not paying attention daily.”
As a whole, they disagreed with the study’s first priority, which recommends on-street bike lanes between I-80 and Wyoming Highway 130.
“It’s the least impactful suggestion they presented,” Johnson said.
“But I think it’s a bad idea to put a bike path on a state highway.”
Klaus Halbsgut said while the on-street bike lanes would affect his business less than the 11-feet-wide shared use bike path he saw proposed at a public meeting in September, he still didn’t agree with installing the bike lanes.
“I’ve got nothing against bicyclists,” Klaus Halbsgut said. “But a lot of emergency vehicles go zipping up and down Snowy Range Road — do they want to dodge bicyclists?”
He suggested avoiding a bike path on Snowy Range Road altogether.
Laramie Parks and Recreation Department Director Todd Feezer said he was familiar with some of the criticism toward the bike path, which is published in the public comments section of the study.
“Public comments are incredibly important,” Feezer said. “I felt like we did an excellent job listening to them and incorporating the desires of the community.”
Initially, the study looked at the possibility of developing a route that could circumvent Snowy Range Road, Feezer said.
“The other streets around there have no pavement,” he said. “Putting bike lanes on streets without pavement is very dangerous and expensive.”
With bicyclists already using Snowy Range Road, he said the study determined on-street bike lanes were the best compromise between the business owners’ concerns and the cyclists’ needs.
While members of the Laramie City Council said during a December meeting they thought developing the pathways and beautification corridors suggested by the study would help boost economic development, McKim said he didn’t see the point.
“It’s not going to do any good to do beautification if there’s no business,” said McKim as he stood on Snowy Range Road and gestured to numerous empty buildings.
Despite the study recommending an 8-feet-wide separated pathway along the south side of Snowy Range Road from Adams Street to Colorado Avenue instead of an 11-feet-wide shared-use path on the both sides of the road, Klaus Halbsgut said he thought the city might pursue the idea later down the road.
He said the 11-feet-wide path would have cut into his customer parking area reducing the amount of business he could conduct.
McKim said the formerly proposed path would have eliminated all but one of his parking spaces and negated the $20,000 of concrete he recently installed.
“We were very responsive to the public comment,” Feezer said. “By listening to the comments of the public and the business owners, we determined the only improvements to the north side of the road would be a 5-feet-wide sidewalk and (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements.”
Looking at the landscaping additions to the 8-feet-wide separated pathway along the south side of Snowy Range Road, Johnson said she didn’t like the idea the businesses might be required to care for the improvements.
“Who’s going to maintain the landscaping?” she asked. “I don’t have time — I’m running a business.”
Feezer said if the 8-feet-wide shared-use path were constructed, the city would maintain both the landscaping and sidewalk.
Instead of installing strips of landscaping, Lisa Halbsgut said she would rather community gardening groups and business owners work together on beautification efforts.
Although some West Laramie business owners and residents submitted comments against developing the bike path, the final study also included several public comments in support of the proposed developments.
While Johnson said some of her customers were in support of the study’s recommendations, she didn’t think on-street bike lanes were the safest option.
“The problem is the path won’t just attract adult bicyclists,” Johnson said. “It will bring the kids and families. That is the scariest part for me.”