The city of Reno approved a proposal for improving micromobility—transportation including bikes, e-bikes and scooters—along 4.15 miles of key corridors from the University of Nevada, Reno, to Midtown at the Oct. 11 City Council meeting, including a budget of $20 million and a timeline that puts completion in 2026.
Despite previous objections by the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance (TMBA), TMBA president Ky Plaskon announced on its Facebook group that the alliance had experienced “a bit of a reverse course” as it supported the proposal, with Plaskon rallying TMBA members to “hold the city to its word” so that “hopefully, they will think twice before derailing this project part way through.”
Before conceding support, Plaskon claimed that the city was proposing a project that would take too much time and cost too much money. He believes that micromobility should only cost $1 million per mile of improvement and should be designed to accommodate the changing needs of an area. “Fast and cheap,” he’d noted in a previous press release. The city’s Public Works Department, which put together this proposal, steered by city engineer Kerrie Koski, claims the opposite, and in the Oct. 11 meeting, Koski said that even though the proposal calls for more money spent, “we’re taking the approach (to) do it right the first time.”
In an interview before the Oct. 11 council meeting, Plaskon said “nothing’s perfect from the start,” describing the city’s way of thinking as “the old method.” His argument for fast and cheap is built on the principle that micromobility infrastructure will need to be redesigned as planners see how users and vehicles interact with new or modified bike lanes and other parts of the system. He pointed to other cities around the country that have implemented micromobility programs with this newer way of thinking—Washington, D.C., in particular.
At the Oct. 11 meeting, Koski, too, mentioned Washington D.C. “They’ve done a lot of micromobility with just striping, but we’re also finding out that they’re going back and spending more money to put more infrastructure in to make it safer. So they’re using a (mindset of), ‘Let’s get it on the road, then we come back and deal with it later.’”
Will Handsfield, a transportation expert in Washington, D.C., acknowledged that perfect infrastructure does not exist. “I don’t think I would presume to say we’re going to get every single street exactly right and never have to modify it again,” Handsfield said during a phone interview. “It’s just not how it works.”
With changes inevitable, he advocated for “doing the maximum that you can as fast as possible,” because every day that goes by without proper micromobility programs in place increases the chances that bikers, skaters and other users incur injuries or death.
Plaskon further cites Washington, D.C., as a basis for his budgetary recommendation for Reno. The TMBA press release said that places like Washington, D.C., are completing projects at $750,000 per mile; Handsfield said he thought the figure was closer to $250,000-$500,000. Both numbers are a far cry from the city of Reno’s proposed $4.8 million per mile.
“One of the things about adding micromobility to our streets is there are existing streets that have to be redesigned when adding a mode of transportation onto them safely,” said Amy Pennington, special projects and outreach coordinator for the city’s Public Works Department. “Not every street is easy to do something cheap and fast, because some streets have more things that need to be done for it to happen safely.”
She could not describe specific designs for this project, as they have yet to be completed. However, she did note that each street within the proposal was evaluated individually. “It’s not one size fits all,” she said.
The city previously went through a pilot program to study micromobility. Implemented in 2022 on Fifth Street (from Keystone Avenue to Evans Avenue) and Virginia Street (connecting downtown Reno to Midtown), the program studied a number of infrastructure options to see what might work, including buffered lanes, two-way tracks, protected intersections, intersection bike boxes and bike signals. “We do feel like we got a lot of feedback from the community, from all different types of users, to hear what they liked,” Pennington said.
In total, the city conducted four public feedback surveys and recorded more than 4,500 responses. “We were able to take all that information into what we have brought forward for this recommendation,” she said.
Reno’s Public Works Department used the success of this pilot program to rationalize the implementation of the more expensive, permanent infrastructure in its now-approved proposal. Plaskon believes that the pilot program, which was implemented in less than a month, proves the need to continue building micromobility quickly, in a way that can be easily adapted.
Passions run high regarding these issues. Councilmember Devon Reese said while talking about the city and TMBA’s relationship during the Oct. 11 meeting: “Have there been perfect moments in that relationship? No.”
The project is now being handed over to the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), which, after review, will not only manage but also fund the project.
Plaskon concluded after the Oct. 11 meeting: “The city’s effort is not perfect, (but) we have to start somewhere, and there is a lot of learning as we try to improve safety together.”