Cascade council members weigh safest options turning First Avenue into three-lane road

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CASCADE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A disagreement over bike lanes has put the brakes on an eastern Iowa road improvement project.

The Cascade City Council is considering turning First Avenue into a three-lane road- one lane going each way with a left-turn-only lane in the middle. However, the council is divided on how to use the leftover space.

Currently, First Avenue has four lanes, two going each way. At a city council meeting this week, the discussion was less focused on whether to change the section to three lanes, but how to draw it up.

The proposed changes create about a five-foot empty space on each side of the road.

Some on the city council would like to see that space remain empty so bikes can use it.

Some council members like Steve Knepper believe the space would provide a false sense of security for those riding on the side of the road, especially young kids.

But other council members like Bill Hosch say having a space for bikes falls in line with Iowa Code.

"By designating a stripe or definite area, to keep other traffic out of that area, is more safe than just having a very wide lane where you may have a bicyclist could technically be on that same area," Hosch said. "So we just feel it’s much safer."

Hosch said the alternative would be to widen one lane, which he believes could create an even more dangerous situation with drivers trying to pass by.

While the city council determines what to do with the road layout, the city has had grant money on the table for safety improvements to the road.

The city of Cascade received a grant of about $7,000 to put traffic signals at the crosswalks across First Avenue adjacent to Cascade Elementary School- these would alert drivers when people were crossing the street. But the city put that money on hold until the road went from four lanes to three.

But the debate continues.

Principal Dan Wendler for Cascade Elementary School said for him and the rest of the school, if the road has bike lanes or not, it is about adding another safety feature to protect the kids.

"We’ve had situations that have been, not close calls but have made you uncomfortable," Wendler said. "So I’ve had a lot of conversations with the city council about anything they can do to make that safer makes me feel better, sending the kids out at the end of the day."

Wendler said reducing the speed limit from 35 to 25 made a big difference with kids coming or leaving from school, and says having signals would only help ensure the safety of students. He added he is confident the city council will establish plans that will not only ensure the safety of the students and parents, but the community driving as well.

Council members agreed to readdress this issue at their next meeting to allow engineers to come up with other options. The Cascade City Council meets again on June 25.