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Editorial: Keep cyclists safe; pick routes with less traffic

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Local cyclists have plenty of options in Johnson County where they can ride safely, including bike trails in Greenwood and Franklin and low-traffic county roads with hills near Prince’s Lakes and Trafalgar.

But the challenge can be in getting there. Some roads are too narrow, while others have deteriorating or narrow shoulders.

Avid cyclists know the local roads and streets to avoid. But casual riders will not be so well informed.

In the past five years, as cycling has become more popular, local communities have found ways to give cyclists safer routes to travel on.

Greenwood and Franklin have systems of trails throughout each city. The goal is to make the trails a network that would allow riders to travel from one part of the community to another without having to risk riding on heavily trafficked streets.

Franklin is working to complete its network. Mayor Joe McGuinness said, “For the most part the broken areas are in places where the trail may end or pick up in a half of a mile.

“There may be a safe road or other lane they can use to get to the next section of trails. But we have the maps that show where they’re not connected and working towards improving those places.”

The next step is to develop the connecting routes that would allow riders to travel between the cities and to reach the recreational riding areas in the southern parts of the county.

It doesn’t need to be a major trail system, similar to the Monon Trail in Indianapolis.

But a few designated bike lanes and easier places to cross some of the busiest roads would greatly enhance the utility of the existing trails.

Such an expansion will require the help of the county, which is responsible the roads not in incorporated areas. It also will require greater vigilance by motorists as the number of cyclists increases.

As one cyclist put it: “We’ve made a lot of progress, but the biggest challenges are the human challenge and the infrastructure challenge.”

Trails contribute to a community’s quality of life. They promote health and are an attractive amenity for many would-be residents looking to move here.

Franklin and Greenwood should continue efforts to expand their trails and designate safe bike routes. In turn, the county needs to make sure trails are in the long-term plan, so a countywide network is possible.

The payoff would be more livable communities.

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