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Biking Scottsing

March 19, 2010

Sometimes, industry can be beautiful. I was headed east at dawn last week, and the steam cloud from the Western Sugar factory against the sunrise was rather lovely. Cell phone picture doesn’t do it justice.

But more often, industrial development is aesthetically hideous and noisy and smelly, which is why we have zoning laws to keep it out of our living spaces. (We need industry, we just don’t want to have to look at it all the time.)

So, I was surprised to hear an idea floated at a downtown Scottsbluff revitalization meeting for a downtown-Scottsbluff-to-downtown-Gering bike lane on the Scottsbluff-Gering highway (which is the local name for Scottsbluff’s Broadway and Gering’s 10th Street).

I think a bike route connecting the Scottsbluff and Gering downtowns and Scottsbluff National Monument and the Riverside Park complex would be fabulous! Such a path could help improve citizen health by getting more people on their bikes, make transport easier for people who don’t have cars, and tie the downtown economic hubs and the tourist draws of the monument and Riverside Park (with the dog park and disc golf course and soon-to-be Discovery Center) into a nice, marketable “bicycle excursion” package.

But not on the Scottsbluff-Gering highway!

I will show you what I mean:

Warehouses, used car lots, industrial plants, loose gravel, buildings close up against the road, billboards, salvage lots, trash, semi trucks, lots and lots of driveways, speed limit of 40 miles per hour on a four-lane road.

NOT a good place for bicyclists!

True, this would be the most direct route between the two downtowns. But for a bike route to catch on, directness of route is only one of several variables. It must also be as safe as possible from traffic hazards and be at least somewhat aesthetically pleasing.

According to an area map, downtown Gering and the monument are already connected via the U Street pathway (which I’ve not yet explored, in part on account of the ice of the past few months). Now we just need to connect the monument to Riverside Park, and Riverside Park to downtown Scottsbluff.

I heard a Gering city leader ruing the fact that they hadn’t pushed for bike and pedestrian access when 21st Street at the railroad tracks and river was redesigned. It is currently not at all bike/ped friendly. If fixing 21st Street to get people safely from Country Club Road to the Monument Valley Pathway is too complicated, and if I were all-powerful, I would create a path along the east/north side of the Gering Canal, bridge the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and the North Platte River through Terrytown, and hook into the Monument Valley Pathway.

There! The monument and Riverside Park connected.

Now for Riverside Park and downtown Scottsbluff. Hmmm . . .

  1. If you follow the Monument Valley Pathway all the way east, you could go directly up Broadway. But, from the pathway north to downtown, Broadway is still ugly and industrial with lots of driveways.
  2. What about heading north on Avenue B from the pathway? Mmmm . . . still pretty industrial in spots. Maybe if there were a bike lane there? Kelley Bean has a facility on that street. Perhaps the “Avenue B Bean Bikeway” could be developed?
  3. The Google Maps bike route planner suggests traveling on West Overland to Broadway. From satellite images, the route looks mostly residential, but I’ve not seen it in person.

For both the Avenue B and West Overland options, there’s also the question of how to cross the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks into downtown. Is it better to take Avenue B to 17th Street or West Railway? Or would crossing the tracks at Broadway be best?

The City of Scottsbluff is currently looking at reconfiguring traffic at railroad crossings at Avenue B and Broadway, as part of a project to silence train horns through town. There’s an open house next week to solicit public feedback on the project. Will I be there to make sure bicyclists are considered in the planning?

You betcha!

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2010 5:16 pm

    Love the Ave B alliteration!
    By the time of the meeting you will have already explored all the options.
    Good work!

  2. Sue Mommy permalink
    March 21, 2010 9:00 am

    Aha! Katie the “city planner” has been mulling the possibilities. Must be that geography education.

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