Center Street Cycletrack

Project Intro:

There is a plan to bring a protected, two-way cycletrack to Center Street. The project is currently in the engineering and design phase at RTC and is due to be constructed in 2023. This is a key piece of making bicycling viable through central Reno. It connects 3 key bikeable neighborhoods that have currently have limited bicycle infrastructure: UNR, Downtown, and Midtown.

Updates:

We successfully worked with RTC, the City of Reno, and local businesses to initiate the approval, design, and construction of a two-way, protected cycle track on Center Street from the University to Cheney St. in MidTown. Construction is tentatively scheduled for 2021.

Historical Information:

During the Virginia Street corridor study from 2013 to 2014, there was a significant struggle with fitting everything in that people wanted in the new Virginia Street. Through extensive outreach and public engagement, the RTC along with the bicycling community and local stakeholders agreed upon compromise for how to address bicyclists: they would have a safe parallel route to Virginia Street connecting UNR, Downtown, and midtown but there was not enough room on the road to fit a dedicated bicycle facility on Virginia Street itself.  This compromise has now been set in stone on Virginia Street south of Liberty Avenue; there are no dedicated bicycle facilities and no space for them.  While the first part of the deal has been done, bicyclists eagerly awaited the selection of an alternative route.  Following an alternative analysis in 2019 which included a protected bicycle facility on Virginia Street, the best and most feasible option was identified: a two-way protected cycle track on Center Street between 9th Street and Cheney Street. The study also stated that a protected bicycle facility on Virginia Street was the only option deemed infeasible due to frequent closures for Special Events and the “unacceptable traffic operations throughout the corridor” removing left turns would cause (Downtown Bicycle Facility Alternatives Analysis – Center, Sierra, and Virginia; 2019). The City of Reno and RTC Boards both approved the findings and the Center Street Cycle Track was recommended to move forward into the engineering process. Funding for design and construction of the project was included in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) which was just approved in March 2021.  Within the RTP, the Center Street Cycle track was identified as a project supporting land-use and economic development policies and a key safety project.
 
This is where the logical process to finally deliver on the grand bargain between bicyclists and the RTC begins to fall apart.  The RTC, at the urging of the Row Casinos (ROW Letter November 30, 2020), paused the Center Street Cycle Track project during their August board meeting in order to help the City conduct a placemaking study focused on creating a strong vision for the future of Virginia Street in the downtown area.  RTC Executive Director stated that there is no pause on the project but instead that “I think as we’ve gotten to that 30% percent design [on Center Street], we realize that we probably look a little more closely at Virginia Street before we go to 90%.” And that “There’s just things that came up along the way that caused us to think we should consider a bit more before we get too far down the road and kick ourselves and saying ‘why didn’t we think of that.’” (Reno News & Review article, Center Street Cycle Track Derailed?) 

No public agency would intentionally follow such an illogical planning process, so what are the things that came up? What changed so significantly in the downtown area since March, 2021 that the protected bicycle facilities on Virginia Street that have twice been deemed infeasible by the RTC itself are now being reconsidered?  What new route could be identified to connect UNR, downtown, and midtown that can be constructed with minimal impact to traffic (RTC Staff report Item 6.1 8/20/21) that has not already been studied and analyzed?
Our world is burning with the impacts of climate change and the IPCC just issued a red alert about the urgent need to address climate change.  One of the major strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector is to get people out of cars and onto other modes, including the bicycle.  For anyone who has ridden a bicycle on our current bicycle network, it is no surprise that the majority of people will not get on a bicycle unless they feel safe and comfortable (Four Types of Cyclists, Geller).  The Center Street Cycle Track represents the safe and comfortable kind of bicycle facility that would actually get people onto a bike who are not already riding and make a tangible impact towards reducing local greenhouse gas emissions.

The RTC is failing to live up to their end of the bargain and delaying a vitally important safety and sustainability project for no other stated purpose than to re-study a concept that they themselves have already soundly rejected at the suggestion of a single major constituent, The Row Casinos.  If you would like to see the Center Street Cycle Track continue to move forward, please call your Reno City Council Member today and tell them we can not delay this project and the need to boldly address climate change a moment longer.