Oxford Pathways Commission: Safety First

The members of the Pathways Commission met Monday to continue to improve bike lanes for the pedal pushers of Oxford and ease traffic conflicts for drivers.  The commission approved plans and critiqued details to expand and add lanes to provide safety for Oxford’s bikers as well as drivers.

“I feel like we can’t start these meetings without starting with the engineering side of things,” said Mike Mossing a commission member. This is when Reanna Mayoral, the city engineer spoke up.  Mayoral provided the commission members with plans on how to improve the roads of Oxford specifically focusing on bike lanes and intersections. Mayoral told the commission that the plans for improving the intersection by the new Oxford High School have had to be redesigned twice.

“After the high school opened there has been so much traffic,” said Mayoral. Mayoral is working on a solution by studying the results from a traffic study on Sisk Avenue. The result led her to believe that three lanes are need between ramps. MDOT, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, also requested having three lanes.

“We addressed all the geometrics and we feel good about the safety,” said Mayoral. The solution for Sisk Avenue came from experience with a past commission issue from highway seven north bound.  It was difficult to merge with many cars that just kept moving so the commission tied to fix it but ended up having to redo the plans to get it just right. The solution turned out to be widening the exit ramp.

The commission works on solution plans but also focuses on making sure the plans are pretty plans. The commission wanted to make the exit ramp appealing as well. After all, Oxford is known for it’s small town beauty. The commission pushed for stamped pavement at intersections. This pavement looks like brick and is better looking than asphalt. When the plan was presented to MDOT, “the bible we go by,” according to Mayoral, MDOT became anxious about it. It was decided that while the stamped pavement may be pretty it is much more cost effective to just stay with striped paint on the asphalt.

Oxford’s beauty in the details is credit to the Pathways Commission as well as their work in safety details for bikers and drivers. The conflict between intersections and bike lanes on campus and the city streets is something the commission is constantly battling with. On campus there is a problem with bike lanes converging. “Trying to get everyone out of the street that’s always the problem,” said Rodger Kuhnle, a commission member.  The commission talked about possibly imitating the bike lane and sidewalk by the Oxford railroad that are together 10 feet wide.

With bike lanes on the brain, the commission continued to talk specifics regarding having curbs on the lanes or doing striped paint. Much like the stamped pavement issue it came down to coast. “In a perfect world, we would have qwik kurbs, but were sticking to striped because of the cost,” said Mayoral.

Sticking with stripes for bike lanes is the plan along with easing the conflict of drivers and bikers sharing the streets. The commission shed light on the issue that some streets have issues with cars merging in bike lanes. “Drivers and bikers have to understand what’s going on,” said commission member, Becky Moreton.

“We rely on the engineers on how to connect it all, UPD to enforce it, and us to communicate it,” said Mossing. Moreton also admitted to the commission missing opportunities to make the people of Oxford aware of changes to the roads around town, but with bike month coming up in May it seems the Pathways Commission has the perfect opportunity to educate and involve Oxford.

Bike Month will be headed by Lacey Cunningham, a commission member whose first term expires August of 2016.  Bike Month will include a ride your bike to work and school day along with other activities that are in the process of being planned. The commission made a plan of action to make a graphic for the Oxford press and news outlets to share.

Because the city of Oxford and the University are so closely linked, the commission also got a visit from Mike Harris, the University of Mississippi’s new parking director. Two weeks on the job and Harris is already making changes to improve the parking on campus. Harris joked, “You can’t blame me for anything yet.” Harris comes from 14 years of parking experience at Mississippi State and 18 years of experience overall. He is very excited about the new parking garage plans that will make for 829 new parking spots. 500 of theses spots will be free for anyone to park in and the rest will be sold to the faculty. There will also be a parking lot added by the track he said for even more parking options.

Harris looks forward to providing new parking technology to Ole Miss staff and students. “I love technology,” said Harris. His love of technology will pay off for students and faculty in his desire to make a parking app that can tell the user what spots are open and if lots are full before they arrive on campus.

“We look forward to working with you,” said Mayoral. The next Pathways Commission meeting is April 21, 2014.

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