Meeting to decide fate of bicycles on toll road
A Tyler bicycle club said it has been working on a compromise to keep its members' rights to ride on Toll 49, but the decision may be decided by a board of directors this afternoon.
Members of the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA) will consider banning bicycles on the tollway at its meeting at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday at the Baymont Inn, 410 U.S. Highway 79 South, in Henderson.
NET RMA is a governmental agency created to accelerate development projects and implement transportation solutions to enhance the quality of life for East Texans, according to its website.
The agency is governed by a 19-member board of directors with one member from each of the counties it serves: Bowie, Cass, Cherokee, Gregg, Harrison, Panola, Rusk, Smith, Titus, Upshur, Wood and Van Zandt. It was established in 2004, the website states.
Kelly Boucher, president of Tyler Bicycle Club, said the group works to make bicycling easier in Tyler and Smith County. He said the club's Collaborative Board has been working with NET RMA for several years to come up with a compromise that would allow them to share the roadway.
"We have been meeting off and on for the past several years thinking of avenues we can approach this to try to change their minds so they leave it open," Boucher said. "The best way we figured was to try to show it was a true connection point for commuters on their bicycles, but we don't have that large of a cycling community right now, so it's hard to make that case."
Boucher said Loop 49 is safer than traveling on U.S. Highway 69 because there is less traffic and less debris to avoid. It is also a straight shot from one side of the city to another, and cyclists can take back roads from the loop to get to almost any part of town.
"Our collaborative board really works on connectivity -- connecting parts of the city together and Loop 49 would be an integral part of that as people move south," he said.
TxDOT has crunched numbers for a pedestrian and bike path along the tollway, but Boucher said with budget cuts, the measure was cost prohibitive.
He said representatives from the club will be at the meeting today to ask NET RMA's board members to table the item until a compromise can be reached.
NET RMA's public information officer Erin Lavender declined to comment on the agenda item until the meeting concluded.
"The NET RMA would like to reserve comment unit the board has given the opportunity for the public to comment on this very important safety matter," Ms. Lavender said in an email Friday to the Tyler Morning. Telegraph
Staff Writer Emily Guevara contributed to this report.