Bikes jam Juneau bridge to protest reconfiguration

Posted: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) Bicyclists jammed the Douglas Island Bridge during rush hour Tuesday to demonstrate their displeasure over a state plan to remove bike lanes.

About 30 bikers including members of the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club crossed the bridge to demonstrate what they say will happen if the Department of Transportation removes bike lanes.

They also are talking to lawyers about filing a formal appeal to overturn a Juneau Assembly vote backing the $8 million bridge project.

''The whole point of (the demonstration) is that with DOT's plan the cyclists on the road are going to slow everybody down, and they are going to be in the lanes and what happened today is going to happen on a daily basis,'' said Dave Bartlett, president of the Freewheelers.

Bartlett said it was the Freewheelers' first political protest, and the group is willing to hold similar demonstrations, even if it means being cited for obstructing traffic.

Police were called to the bridge at about 5 p.m. Protesters were told they are to ride single-file over the bridge and not block traffic.

''If you ride side-by-side with more than one person in the lane, you can be cited for that,'' Officer Krag Campbell told protesters.

The state Department of Transportation plans to remove the bike lanes when it reconfigures the bridge, changing its two vehicle lanes to three lanes. The center lane would be reversible, with traffic flowing into downtown in the morning and toward Douglas Island the rest of the day.

The lane change, a traffic circle on the Douglas side and approach lane changes on the Juneau side were designed to limit congestion, reduce accidents and improve the flow on and near the bridge, DOT project planner Chris Morrow told assembly members before they voted Monday.

Morrow said the state would proceed only if the assembly approved.

He also said bicyclists could share an expanded pedestrian walkway, as many do now, or ride in the road.

Bicyclists, medical professionals and others protested the plan, labeling it unneeded, unsafe and an attack on the fitness needs of a community where too many people drive and too few exercise.

Freewheelers member Rob Welton said the bicycle club is talking to several attorneys about a legal protest to the assembly decision. City procedure allows an administrative appeal in Juneau Superior Court.

If the bikers do not file an appeal, or file and lose, they may turn to a federal appeals process, Welton said. Bike club members say removing bike lanes would violate terms of federal funds used for the project.

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