City of Reno officials yesterday issued an after-hours press release announcing a “pilot project” that will “introduce micromobility-specific infrastructure to Reno’s downtown.”
By micromobility, they mean scooters and bikes.
“Using facilities such as bike rails, reduced lane widths, cycle tracks, lane closures, restriping, protected intersections and more, the pilot project will connect Keystone Avenue to Evans Avenue/University of Nevada via 5th Street and downtown Reno to Midtown via Virginia Street,” said city spokesperson Cassie Harris.
The announcement and project came before the completion of a “placemaking study” for downtown has been completed.
It also took bike advocates by surprise.
Ky Plaskon with the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance, which has been pushing for a bike track on Center Street based on past studies, said more bike lanes are welcomed in Reno. The city’s announcement, he said, lacked details, did not include the bike community and was announced before the bike alliance could even weigh in on it.
“They told us yesterday at 2,” he said. “They haven’t engaged the cycling community on this. “It’s consistently a ‘here’s what we’re going to do’ thing that comes at the last minute.”
Plaskon said the city is clearly working with casino interests but not including cycling interests as part of the discussion for these projects.
City officials today said the new infrastructure is both temporary and part of the placemaking study. Data will be collected on how the new infrastructure is being used.
“We’ve been working on it for a while [and] having stakeholder conversations for a while,” said city engineer Kerrie Koski. “The whole micromobility pilot project is the community engagement component. It wasn’t timing, it was really about getting the word out.”
Officials said they are working with the “businesses, the bike community, the ADA community and the [historical resources commission].”
“The pilot project, it’s an engagement component,” Koski added. “I don’t know that there would have been an engagement component to determine to create an engagement component. This isn’t a council-led activity. This is one component.”
Plaskon called the city’s approach “renegade bike path building.” He said the short notice meant he could not attend a 10 a.m. press conference held by the city today.
“At the last minute, they’re asking us to support something we know nothing about,” he said. “This communication issue is a constant problem. I don’t know why they can’t reach out to stakeholders and talk with them.”
The city plans to install the new infrastructure elements by the end of May.
“We want to see the safety features in action,” Koski said. “The purpose is to get usage testing of this. It will help them drive what the ultimate placemaking for Virginia Street will look like.”
This raises many questions, first about the timing. Won’t it skew the @citiesforpeople Virginia Street Placemaking Study if it must contend with temporary bike lanes that aren’t a permanent feature of the street, thereby creating a false baseline for “normal” activity there? https://t.co/rE4DAAduEG — The Barber Brief (@thebarberbrief) April 7, 2022
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.