3rd Avenue Bridge work aims to alleviate bike lane issues

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids’ 3rd Avenue Bridge is getting a big facelift.

Construction work is currently happening along the bridge in an attempt to alleviate issues over parking and the bridge’s bike lanes.

“We’re going to be converting the angle parking to parallel parking, and we’ll have a nine-foot buffer between the bike lane and the parking,” said Doug Wilson, who works for the City of Cedar Rapids. “So it’ll be a lot easier for people to stay out of the bike lane, obviously.”

Once the work is completed, the bridge will feature one lane of traffic each way, and parallel parking will run next to those. A buffered area with benches, trees and shrubs will stand between the parallel parking lanes and the bike lane, which will run on the outside of the bridge, closest to the water.

In the past, drivers had to diagonally park a few feet short of the curb to keep the bike lane clear.

“It’s hard to see, pulling in the angle parking, where the edge of the bike lane is, so we see people pulling over in the bike lane to stay out of it,” Wilson said.

That led some cyclists to complain that not enough was being done to enforce bike lane regulations after they repeatedly found their path partially or fully blocked by cars.

While the bridge is under construction, the bike lane is closed, and bikes aren’t allowed to cross.

Because of this, the city is asking cars to pull all the way up to the curb during this time.

“It gives us a little bit of room to work on the bridge and replace those joints that we’re doing right now,” Wilson said.

He added that the new parallel parking should help with driver visibility.

“Where now, when they’re pulled in the angle parking, it can be very difficult to see when they’re backing out,” he said.

More construction will soon start along other parts of 3rd Avenue. The City is building protected bike lanes from 6th Street SW to 8th Street SE, creating more than a mile of these lanes, which will be buffered from parallel parkers by curbs. The parallel parking lane will stand between the bike lane and traffic.

One Cedar Rapids cyclist says this is what many people on bikes prefer.

“When you’re on a bike, that feels so much safer because you have this big wall of non-moving steel between you and moving steel, so you’re much more protected,” Benjamin Kaplan said.

When bike lanes are between traffic and parked cars, Kaplan said some drivers forget to check their mirrors, and riders can get “doored.”

“That’s riding on the driver’s side of the car, and [the driver’s] parking, and the driver opening the door and me hitting that door or even hitting that driver,” he said.

The work on 3rd Avenue, including on the bridge, is expected to finish by September or October of this year.