TRUCKEE MEADOWS BICYCLE ALLIANCE: The new bike routes have posts between the bike and traffic lanes.

A major education effort is underway in Reno after bike advocates have responded to over 1,000 comments on Reno police, TV news, and government social media sites about the downtown Micromobility Pilot Project.

The pop-up pilot program that opened in June connects Keystone Avenue to Evans Avenue/University of Nevada via Fifth Street and downtown Reno to Midtown via Virginia Street. It’s not a traditional bike lane and both riders and drivers will need some time to adjust to it.

Local drivers commenting on social media sites are angry about the plastic candlesticks and green paint that force them to give a little safer space to micro-mobility users on just a few miles of their thousands of miles of county roads. One of the new bike lane users is my own 15-year-old daughter, Alara Plaskon who started a new job at Roller Kingdom this year.

“I feel like I am not going to get run over as easily with them,” she told KTVN Channel 2.

Making kids feel safe on bikes in our community should be everyone’s goal and sharing a small section of the road is a small price to pay for saving the lives of children and encouraging a healthy activity. Similar safety measures should be in front of every school. At Reno High there is a traffic jam every day and I see kids on bikes dodging cars and illegally riding on sidewalks because it’s their only choice. Where are they supposed to go? Meanwhile there is a massive center turn lane in the street and hundreds of unused parking spots. Surely our community can spare 6 feet of unused roadway (three feet on each side) for the safety of our children. The downtown safety measures must be expanded to schools to reduce traffic and parking problems and improve safety.

Another common social media comment is that people on bikes don’t follow rules. That is part of our education too. Communities across the United States are recognizing that the same rules should not apply to cars and bikes. One: because it takes lot of effort to stop and start on a bike and we want to reward cyclists for using efficient transportation. Two: because unlike cars, bikes are not deadly weapons. Colorado recently made it a state law that people on bikes can treat stop signs like yield signs and stop lights can be treated as stop signs.

Drivers also complain that people on bikes don’t pay gas taxes for roads so they don’t have a right to be on the road at all. In fact, according to the Safe Mobility for All Survey (SMAS), 80 percent of cyclists also own cars. So, they do pay for roads. Bikes also have a much less heavy impact on roads, so they don’t require expensive repairs as often as cars do.

The 2022 SMAS survey also shows that locals want protected lanes just like what the City of Reno has built. This is also federally recommended. Local cyclists have quietly been pushing for better infrastructure like this for decades in our community. They have made concessions all along the way with little to no results.

This inaction has led to major apathy, not just from bike advocates, but even from local traffic engineers who see other cities catapulting into modern infrastructure while Reno-Sparks languishes in the transportation dark ages. With our flat, wide streets, and near-perfect weather, we could be a bike mecca.

Long-time advocate and cyclist Kurstin Graham of the Reno Bike Project explains the frustration: “When I heard about Reno’s plan for protected bike lanes on downtown Virginia Street and adjacent projects I thought, ‘Here we go again, years of studies, public meetings, and local business opposition.’ I didn’t give it a second thought. Then it appeared… protected bike lanes from Fifth to Liberty streets. Wow! And there were some east-west complete streets intersecting Virginia Street. Then came the grumbling and criticism from all sides. The new striping, lane closures, traffic lights, barriers, and bollards weren’t a part of my regular commute from Ninth Street and Ralston (home) to Grove and Wrondel (work, Reno Bike Project) so I didn’t pay too much attention. But if I was going to be a part of the conversation, I figured I would need to talk from experience.

“I had followed a bit of the conversation on Facebook,” Graham said. “As a bike guy my Facebook feed is all bikes. So I entered the new bike lanes anticipating a mess. My mind was exploding (with objections): what am I supposed…, what were they thinking… have the people who designed this ever ridden a bike?’ But I was also thinking, ‘this is kind of cool. I’m here, behind a visible barrier, and following rules to make my movements predictable to motorists. The green paint and white lines are designed to indicate to motorists where to expect bicycles. The two greatest complaints motorists cite in regard to bicycles on the roadway, visibility, and predictability.”

The City of Reno did not do this project in a vacuum. Drivers need to understand that this micromobility project on Virginia Street was requested by business – The Row casinos. The city applied some of the cheapest and most practical safety measures — using parked cars as barriers to protect cyclists, for instance.

This project demonstrates how fast and cheap the city and Regional Transportation Commission can do micromodal projects. Improving our environment doesn’t have to take years and millions of dollars. It proves that we can make life-changing and life-saving improvements for our most vulnerable people quickly with the support of businesses, the city and RTC. What we need now is for drivers to jump on board and stop complaining about losing a little bit of roadway. This bike path through downtown must be made permanent and these measures should be expanded to schools for the safety of children. My daughter’s life and hundreds of others depend on it.

Ky Plaskon is the host of Bike Life Radio on KWNK 97.7 FM and president of the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance (BikeWashoe.org)

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3 Comments

  1. On Wednesdays I lead a casual bicycling group of mostly retired riders for OLLI/UNR. We have successfully ridden the new cycling lanes on Virginia St. and 5th streets. I recommend people on bikes try them out. Downtown is now both safer and more pleasant for cycling. Thank you to Reno for taking action.

  2. i drive a sports car and parked vehicles that separate the cyclists hide pedestrians in the intersections. a lady stepped out in front of a pickup and i almost creamed her.
    if i was an aggressive driver i would have

  3. One interesting problem is approaching and stopping at an intersection and then make a right hand turn at that intersection. Even with normal diligence of looking both ways prior to making a right hand turn, on several occasions I have a bicyclist in my blind spot to the right travelling and not slowing and going strait through the intersection on my right. Several near misses, that could have been avoided if the bicyclist had yeilded to my right of way to make a right hand turn.

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