PJ Harris has had several close calls riding his bike in downtown Chattanooga. Now, at least on Broad Street and soon elsewhere in the city, an extra barrier will separate bicyclists and motorists.
"I like that idea," he said, before riding his bike north on Broad Street. Usually, he weaves in and out of road traffic and the sidewalk, depending on how busy the streets are. "It gives you a better state of mind both as a driver and a biker."
The bike lanes will extend from Aquarium Way to M.L. King Boulevard both ways — about 0.6 miles. The bike lane will be separated from car lanes by an ankle-high concrete barrier.
Parking won't be altered when construction is finished in two weeks. Spots will still be open along the median and the side of the road, but some will be unavailable during the construction process.
What will change is the number of lanes dedicated to vehicle traffic. Broad Street has six lanes, with three going each way. When construction is done, that will be cut to four, with two going each way.
Bert Kuyrkendall, city transportation engineer, said cutting the number of lanes shouldn't be a problem.
"Relatively speaking, there's not a lot of traffic on Broad Street," he said.
About 10,000 cars use Broad Street daily. A four-lane road can handle 20,000 cars a day, he said.
The $250,000 Broad Street project is the first of several separated bike lanes that will be built in Chattanooga. Kuyrkendall said Eighth Street, M.L. King Boulevard, Bailey Avenue, Willow Street and Orchard Knob will soon have bike lanes, too.
The point of the bike lanes is to increase the amount of people who ride their bikes either to work or just around the city. Now, about 1 percent of commuters use bikes, Kuyrkendall said. The goal is to get that number to 5 or 6 percent. He cited Portland, Ore., as a city who has that number of bikers.
"We're trying to appeal to a chunk of the population that's concerned to ride with cars," Kuyrkendall said.
Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at email@example.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.