Finding room for cyclists —a redesign of Tallahassee’s West Tennessee Street

Welcome to West Tennessee Street — a most unfriendly environment for cyclists — but that could soon change.

The Tallahassee City Commission recently approved a plan to take the outside lanes and convert them to bus-and-bike lanes.

This is a pilot project, and there are still a few hoops the plan must hop through before this becomes a reality early next year. It has a lot of promise, and is a good sign that the planning department, the city staff and the city’s leadership have the right idea about our community’s multimodal traffic future.

West Tennessee Street is busy, but not so busy that requires six lanes of traffic, which is what it has between North Monroe Street and Ocala Road. This is the stretch that will, under this pilot project, be transformed to four lanes of auto and truck traffic — that’s plenty — and two lanes of bus-and-bike travel.

This is an excellent test case. West Tennessee Street, for a mile or so, runs through part of the campus of Florida State University. Plus, it is the bar-and-burger center for students, so there is a lot of foot traffic. A tough cross, with six lanes. The 4-plus-2 redesign should make life less hazardous for pedestrians.

It also is a danger zone for cyclists. As the photo above shows, the lanes are narrow — you can’t share a lane. There just isn’t room. That makes drivers testy if they get behind a cyclist (even though there are plenty of other lanes for drivers to use). It is, in many ways, a downright ugly stretch. Not recommended, even for experienced bicycle commuters.

Yet it serves a very large — 40,000 — student community of Florida State University, as well as faculty and staff and others who could cycle, and perhaps would cycle, West Tennessee if conditions were different.

Well, conditions will soon be different — a huge improvement.

One big question is how a bus-and-bike lane will work. Can they share a lane? Well, they have to share a lane now, whenever an ambitious cyclists ventures out on the road. So it can only be better than what’s in place now. And though this is something new to Tallahassee, it works in other communities. Will it work here? We’ll have to see — that’s why this is a pilot project.

Let the Tallahassee City Commission know of your support. Send an e-mail to the mayor and commissioners HERE.

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About Bikeable — Committee for a Bikeable Community

We are about making Tallahassee, Florida, a better place for cyclists and bicycle commuters. We are part of the Capital City Cyclists.
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