MISSOULA – The Missoula City Council has approved layout change of two crosstown streets to make for a safer neighborhood for residents, drivers and bicyclists.
Missoula officials have looked at the idea of taking Fifth and Sixth streets down to a single lane for several years as part of efforts to re-work the streets.
The idea is that throughout the day, one lane could handle the east-west traffic, making it safer for people living in the neighborhood.
But this change impacts more than just the residents living along this street — bicyclists will reap the benefits.
“Coming down Sixth Street, the lack of a bike lane can be really kind of scary in the morning, Missoula Bicycle Works Manager Chad Dilworth said. “It’s going to be safer for sure, as long as they plow the lane and all that. But, riding home in the dark – definitely going to feel safe.”
Snow build up is also a real concern. Missoula Bicycle and Pedestrian Board Chair Gene Schmitz says that as a resident who drives these roads the snow condenses road space.
“During a lot of the months of the year…during the snow, it essentially becomes one, 1½ lanes anyhow, Schmitz said. “I think it seems unintuitive, but I think things will actually better once people are used to the single lane.”
Schmitz added with a single lane, drivers have fewer decisions to make with one flow of traffic.
Dilworth hopes the widening of the bike lane will decrease crashes at the Higgins intersections and encourage new bikers to hit the roadways.
Bikers and people living in the area will have to be patient, as it’s expected to be another year before the changes along the two streets go into effect.