DES MOINES – There is a lot of confusion right now surrounding the new bike lanes in the East Village.
They have been there for about a month and drivers are saying they are now starting to get used to the idea. Some of the bike lanes are along East Grand Avenue.
The confusion stems from how tight the space is. Drivers are supposed to park in designated areas right next to the street. The parking lanes and vertical poles are supposed to serve as a barrier between moving vehicles and bikers riding in the new bike lanes.
While everyone is still getting used to the change, more central Iowans are coming on board.
Drivers in downtown Des Moines are still weaving their way through the city’s bike lane project. Phil Latessa of West Des Moines has not been downtown since the pilot began in late August. He says the main issue for him is parking.
“What I was looking for was a space near where I’m going for lunch,” Latessa said. “And if I had seen a car parked inside here I would have probably done the same and not seen those signs.”
Those signs painted on the street were just added a couple weeks ago. But parking problems still seems to be the trend.
“We couldn’t figure out where the meters lined up with the slots and where we were supposed to be and whether we were allowed to be there at all,” said Greg Short of Adel.
Some people also say the road is too narrow. But police say it is not that big of a deal – as long as the project is saving lives.
“I’ve ridden through there myself and I feel a lot more comfortable on that road,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department. “Anything we can do to increase the distance between cars and bicycles and cars and pedestrians as they share those roads is definitely going to enhance safety.”
The City of Des Moines say it has gotten positive feedback so far, but is working to make things better.
Principal Traffic Engineer Brian Willham released a statement to Local 5 saying, “We’ve began to modify the vertical delineators because we were hearing the streets felt too narrow and turns were tough. This will make turns easier and more room to park for larger vehicles along East Grand.”
Now that some time has passed, downtown drivers – even those who are annoyed with those pesky poles – are starting to come around to the idea.
“I think there are always going to be growing pains when you have traffic pattern changes, but I think it’s important to keep the bikes in their own safe space,” Short said.
“I think it’s probably a good idea and we need to see more of this throughout the city,” Latessa said.
Again, the bike lane project is a pilot program. The City of Des Moines says they are continuing to collect feedback and traffic reports to decide if and when they will expand the lanes throughout the city. City officials also say there is not timeline yet on when that decision could come.