Pedal plans

Tuesday, October 2, 2007
A bicyclist emerges from under the Hopper Road bridge on the Cape Lacroix Recreation Trail on Monday, October 1, 2007. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

On Saturday, hundreds of bicyclists are expected to participate in the annual Tour de Cape.

The tour is an opportunity for Cape Girardeau to showcase its city to bicyclists from a wide region. Closer to home, the cycling community has concerns about safety and access issues. But there are at least two camps who have philosophical differences on how the city should improve two-wheel transportation.

One group, Leadership Cape, a product of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, wants to use a model based on Complete the Streets, which takes into account pedestrian, bike and other forms of transportation besides cars. This plan is limited to certain areas of the city.

A cycling group, called the Velo Girardeau bike club, is simultaneously pursuing the Bicycle Friendly Community plan offered by the League of American Bicyclists. This plan is more focused on including bicycles in the city's transportation system, focusing on adding lanes to the existing road network. This plan would cover the entire city.

Chris Moore, the vice president of the bike club, said the Leadership Cape plan is broader in scope but "requires a lot more money and planning." He said federal funds through the transportation enhancement program are available, but costs add up when "you have to put in sidewalks and push-button signals, lines and mass-transit parking." He says the Velo Club's plan is more cost-effective because it mostly deals with painting bike lanes on existing streets, which can be striped as road crews do their normal maintenance. However, the plan would incur some engineering costs.

Eric "Red" Redinger, during a Leadership Cape program in June, promoted a route system, combining trails, sidewalks and bike routes that share the road with automobiles. The chamber endorsed the plan and passed it along to the city. Avid cycling enthusiast Gordon Glaus, an lawyer and co-sponsor for this year's Tour de Cape, had learned of the Leadership Cape plan and tried to garner support for what he thought was the Leadership Cape presentation before the city council on Sept. 17. On a Cape Girardeau bicyclist message board, he shared information with other cyclists that the Leadership Cape group was presenting its plan to the city.

Instead, the presentation was made by Chris Moore of the Velo Club. Moore was not part of the Leadership Cape group. Moore had 800 signatures and booklets with maps suggesting citywide routes that should contain lanes for cyclists.

Eric Redinger, who had been stumping for Leadership Cape's route system along Sprigg Street, Rodney Vista Boulevard and Lexington Avenue, was not at the meeting.

Each of the three men -- Moore, Redinger and Glaus -- will ride the 100-mile track in the Tour de Cape this weekend.

"I was a little bit unaware about how it was all playing out," Glaus said. "What I do know is that their approaches seem to be different. From what I understand, Mr. Redinger's approach is a little more conservative [in terms of the area covered], and Chris' [plan] roads need to have a bike lane system that is more comprehensive."

Redinger, assistant director for Southeast Missouri State University's recreation services office, also sits on the health and human services committee for the Cape Girardeau's Chamber of Commerce and is a recent Leadership Cape graduate.

Moore and Redinger met last winter to talk about Leadership Cape's plan, but Moore was not in the class.

"I didn't ask if we could just sit in," said Moore, a video producer and owner of One Moore Production in Cape Girardeau. "We just didn't work it out in the beginning phases to work together."

Redinger characterized the differences between the plans as "purely philosophical," saying "I think this is all just people misunderstanding."

Redinger said the Leadership Cape plan is modest, an "introductory plan to plant a seed and get people accustomed to bike routes.

"We were looking at streets for all users and that includes, ideally, accessibility to sidewalks and crosswalks for visually impaired users and the elderly," Redinger said. "Children and the elderly are, quite frankly, the largest user groups of sidewalks. Bicycle lanes are for children and seniors. Think about it, who doesn't have a car or a driver's license? Children or seniors, because at that point in their lives they aren't driving."

Tim Arbeiter, vice president of community development for Cape Girardeau's chamber of commerce, said his office does not have plans beyond the endorsement of the bike lane plan.

"What we have done is essentially said the Leadership Cape group came up with a very easy-to-implement kick-off point of putting bike lanes in Cape Girardeau. It's a low-cost, low-impact and educates, or at least makes drivers aware, that bikers are around," he said. As for bringing Redinger and Moore's groups together, Arbeiter said, "We probably won't be facilitating those meetings."

Glaus said he's for whichever plan advances first.

"I think that there are people who are standing behind Chris or willing to work with Mr. Redinger," he said. "I think we all have the same goal. It's my opinion if Mr. Redinger got the ball rolling, we should get on board, not just settle, but continue to advocate."

Like the Tour de Cape, the pursuit of bike routes is not a competition. Glaus, Redinger and Moore agreed that creating safer routes for those traveling by bike is the main goal.

"They could be right. I'm no genius either," Moore said.

At his Sept. 17 presentation to council, Mayor Jay Knudtson suggested Moore and Redinger get together with city planners to talk about their respective proposals. Moore said he hopes to meet with city officials soon.

"The mayor said they were moving forward, and I assume they are. I don't know what they've got accomplished," Moore said, adding that, while the Leadership Cape plan "is a great idea, I think, to have the master plan first would probably be the proper way to approach it."

With university classes back in session, Redinger said his current focus is working with student government to find appropriate areas for bike racks.

As for Tour de Cape, "I'm using it to see how fast I can ride 100 miles," Redinger said "I'm going to try to break 5 1/2 hours."

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