Ann Arbor is pedaling forward with a plan to improve its bike-lane system by adding eight miles of additional lanes and improving the 23.7 miles of existing lanes.

Max Collins/Daily

These improvements are part of the city’s goal of encouraging residents to bicycle and walk more frequently. Ann Arbor’s efforts over the past year have earned it the title of a 2009 Spring Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

Funding for the bicycle lane improvements will come solely from federal stimulus funds, capped at $250,000.

At a public meeting Thursday, members of the City Transportation Planning Program sought input from Ann Arbor residents on proposed improvements along Ann Street, Catherine Street, Ashley Street and First Street. Also discussed was the plan to add eight miles of bike lanes along Hill Street, North University Avenue, East University Avenue, South University Avenue and others.

After the preliminary plan is approved by the Michigan Department of Transportation, the project will be set in motion.

Ann Arbor resident Lily Gozman said that though Ann Arbor is, in general, a “bikeable” community, she has experienced problems when bicycling downtown.

“Downtown, I’ve been ‘doored,’” Gozman said, explaining that she had been struck by an opening car door while riding her bicycle.

Gozman added that she was excited about the prospective “sharrows,” which are shared-use pavement markings that alert bicyclists to the safest place to ride on the road.

Gozman said that sharrows would improve bicycle mobility and eliminate the issue of being “doored.”

Other changes in the downtown area include “Walk Your Bike” sidewalk signs that would instruct bicyclists to walk their bicycles on sidewalks to protect pedestrians, as well as “Share the Road” signs for motorists and bicyclists.

Eli Cooper, City Transportation Planning Program manager, said the reason behind the bicycle lane improvement plan is to clearly differentiate bicycle lanes from car lanes.

“Some of the problems that we have are that (the roads) are not well signed, and they’re not well marked using proper pavement markings and signage,” Cooper said. “What happens then is some motorists don’t realize it’s a bicycle lane, and we believe that by creating a clear indication by using proper marking and signage, what’s for the motorists will be used by the motorists, and what’s for the bicyclists will be used by the bicyclists.”

Based on the new design for the existing lanes, where they begin will be marked with an arrow pavement mark and bicycle symbol. “Bike Lane Ahead” signs will notify motorists that bicyclists should be expected in the roadway.

Signs spaced no further than a quarter-mile apart will notify motorists of continuing bicycle lanes. The end of the lanes will be tapered in order to warn bicyclists.

According to Pat Cawley, City Transportation Planning Program senior project manager, the plan for improving bike lanes still isn’t finalized.

“What we’re going to submit to the Michigan Department of Transportation in the next few weeks is a preliminary plan,” he said.

Cawley said the time frame for the project is still uncertain. There are no plans to start physically working on the project until spring 2010.

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