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Bike Lanes or Bottlenecks? Some Cedar Rapids Streets Tighten Up

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It's 7:40 on a Friday morning. The eastbound lane of H Avenue NE is filled with parents shuttling their children to nearby schools. Employees are trying to beat the clock to get to work at hospitals, factories, colleges and other businesses by eight. Other drivers are simply trying to cut against the north-sound "grain" of traffic in Cedar Rapids.

" Cars drive down the bike lane anyways but definitely has plugged up traffic trying to get out of here in the mornings, down to one lane," said Stacy Carter, who lives in the neighborhood.

Until last month, two lanes of traffic filled each direction of H Avenue NE between Interstate 380 and Center Point Road. Now H Avenue is down to a single lane of traffic. The eastbound traffic flow always ends in a three-way stop at Center Point Road and, with the space cut in half for cars and trucks, the commute can take considerably longer.

For a full hour, between 7:30 and 8:30 on Friday, we took an informal count of the vehicles that travel in the eastbound lane of H Avenue. About 600 cars and trucks approached the three-way stop, in a single-file fashion, at Center Point Road. The newly-designated bike lane sat empty the entire time, save for the occasional right turn.

Not a single bicycle used the H Avenue bike lane during this particular rush hour.

Getting information out on the availability of bike lanes as well as the rules and responsibilities of both riders and drivers is taking place in Cedar Rapids. On Thursday, experienced cyclists met at the NewBo City Market to guide newer riders on the rules of the road and staying aware.

One cyclist, pedaling down Center Point Road on Friday morning, did stop to talk about the new lanes on H Avenue. The rider, who declined to give his name, said he was concerned about all of the traffic that would drive past him.

"I enjoy the bike lanes but I'm a little skeptical when there's traffic on either side of me and it's somewhat disconcerting when you're in the bike lane and there's a heavy truck next to you."