In what was described as a "rare" occurrence, the Cole County Traffic and Safety Advisory Board had a tie vote on whether to recommend to the County Commission that they should approve signing for bicycles on county roads would be part of the Jefferson City Bicycle Loop.
The vote at Thursday's board meeting was 3-3. The seventh member of the board, Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman, abstained from voting.
"I know this issue will come back to us (the County Commission) in the future, so I don't want to cast a vote now. But if I did, I'd lean towards voting no," Bushman said. "Compared to the county, the traffic on city streets is going slower, and there is more room on them for bicyclists to use."
The tie vote meant the signage request was turned down.
The request had been to install signs on County Park and Rock Ridge roads to complete the JC Loop bicycle route.
The request was first heard last month by the County Commission as part of a presentation on cooperative projects between the city and the county.
On March 2, Jefferson City Engineer David Bange asked commissioners for directional signing to be placed at two locations -- the intersections of County Park and Rock Ridge roads and at Rock Ridge and Glenstone Drive -- to designate the loop route. The city would have a contractor do the work at no cost to the county.
The commission approved the request on a 2-1 vote with Bushman and Western District Commissioner Harry Otto voting in favor and Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher voting against.
At the March 23 commission meeting, commissioners brought the matter back up after having several constituents contact them with concerns. Commissioners had Public Works Director Eric Landwehr do a speed study in the area where the signs would be located and found more than 1,500 vehicles travel these areas every day, going as fast as 50 mph.
Hoelscher said he couldn't vote for the measure, citing safety concerns about cars speeding through the area on roads that are hilly and have tight corners.
Bushman changed his vote from "yes" to "no," agreeing with Hoelscher bicyclists do have the right to be on roads, but it was a safety matter, especially on county roads that don't have shoulders and are narrow.
Otto said he was still in favor of having the signs because the bicyclists were going to be on the roads whether there were signs or not.
After the second vote, Bushman said the matter should have been taken first to the traffic board as that is usually the place where county traffic issues go to first. The group makes recommendations to the commission as to whether traffic signs or speed limits should be approved on county roads.
At Thursday's board meeting, Bange asked the traffic board to install the signs, giving much of the same information he had presented to the County Commission.
Bange told the board the city's greenway master plan, which was put together in 2017 by the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Department, showed where they'd like to see bike routes in the city and county.
"This same piece we're talking about now on County Park and Rock Ridge was part of the plan," Bange said.
Bange showed a map taken from the app known as Strava which tracks where people run or ride using GPS. Bange said the map indicated high bicycle usage on Route NN and Pea Ridge in the western part of the county and in other areas such as Wardsville and Wade roads.
Bange then showed a map with crash statistics for the County Park/Rock Ridge area from 2006-18. In that time, he said, they found no crashes involving bicycles or pedestrians.
"Studies have shown that if you increase the number of bicyclists on a road, the road becomes safer, both for cyclists and motorists," Bange said. "If I realize there's bicyclists on the road, then I'm paying more attention to what is going on on the road."
Some board members expressed concerns the signs might encourage bicyclists to use county roads that aren't designed to be bicycle friendly, although they agreed bicyclists are using the roads now and have the right to be on them.
Other board members said adding the signs was just a logical progression for the JC Loop and the signs should be added. Others said adding the signs was a safety matter.
"It is not a request for additional bicycle facilities," Jefferson City resident Karl Straub wrote in a letter to the board. "Signs that make motorists and other road users aware of the possibility that a bicycle may be taking the lane have shown to improve safety."
After voting on the bicycle loop signing, the board heard a brief presentation from county public works officials regarding a request from some citizens for safety-related signing for bicycles throughout the county.
"We specifically request signs to improve safety on those roadways where a significant volume of bicyclists or other vulnerable road users operate in shared lanes," Cole County resident Stoney Cranmer wrote.
Public works staff said the county does not have a specific plan for how to handle bicycles on county roads, and they already have to deal with repairing or replacing traffic signs in the county with a limited staff. For these reasons, they recommended this request be tabled so further study could be done and the board members agreed.
One other point bicycle supporters brought up was that having cyclists traveling through your community equals economic power. They noted many communities have wanted to find ways to connect with the Katy Trail, knowing how many people use the trail.
Next week, the County Commission is scheduled to have a presentation from officials from Missouri State Parks about the Rock Island Trail and its development to become just like the Katy Trail.
There already have been talks about how to connect the Katy and Rock Island trails with a trailhead being looked at in the Eugene area. Bushman said he sees this as a separate matter from the bicycle signage issue and would fully support the Rock Island efforts, knowing of the economic impact it could have for the county.