Unlike some issues to come before the City Council, such as smoking restrictions in the parks, there was no debate when the issue of funding a new bike path south to Mulvane came up at the Oct. 8 meeting: it sailed on through.
Council members such as Jack Hezlep said it will add to the local quality of life and build on the existing system.
“We in Derby are lucky to have forward-thinking people who have developed an extensive hike and bike trail system that can get you almost anywhere in the city without having to ride on a road,” said Hezlep, himself an avid bicyclist.
The new route, called the Derby-Mulvane Pathway, will feature a concrete bike path along the west side of Rock Road connecting Derby and Mulvane and uniting both communities to the future Decarsky Park. It will be about two miles long.
The county is responsible for administration of the project including design, land acquisition and utility relocation. Some 80 percent of the project’s budget was covered with federal dollars through the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Design of the project is complete and it was recently bid by the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Based on the bids received, the required local share of 20 percent of the construction and its engineering is estimated at $173,000. The city’s share is $57,667.
Construction is set to begin by March and be completed in September 2020.
Unlike a path within the city, this project will be a needed connection between two communities, Hezlep said.
“We have been limited to interior Derby with no way to get to surrounding towns safely,” he said. “This bike path is what we should be building throughout the metro area.”
He pointed out that there is a path from Derby to Wichita, which “has been needed for some time.”
The Wichita area is behind other cities, such as the Denver metro region, he said, with paths.
“But I’m seeing progress being made,” said Hezlep, who used to live in Colorado.
In the Denver area, he said, virtually every highway, stream, river, and town has extensive bike paths that lead to every town.
“Bottom line is that you can go anywhere in the metro area on a bike path and they are used extensively,” he said.
Bicycling is good exercise, but safety is a major factor to consider. The new path will create safe riding and walking conditions that don’t exist today on that roadway, he said.
“Our roads have no shoulders to ride on and [that] puts a rider in danger with speeding cars coming very close to a rider,” he said.
Council member John McIntosh echoed that and recalls that several years ago, a bicyclist in the area was killed in an accident with a vehicle.
“This will help,” he said. “It’s a good thing.”
It also will help connect Derby and Mulvane, which makes sense, he said.
And the path is not just for bicycling.
There’s a lot of use for it,” he said. “Runners can use it, too.”
The path is building on a tradition in Derby as it has developed an extensive system of over 25 miles of bike lanes.
To make that happen, much of the system was constructed by leveraging state and federal funds.
However, in recent years, the focus for the award of federal funds has shifted from projects that connect local points of interest to regional projects that tie together communities, according to Dan Squires, the city’s director of planning and engineering.
That, in turn, has required partnerships between cities and counties.
Derby partnered with Sedgwick County to leverage federal funds in 2016 to construct the Aviation Pathway along Buckner and Oliver streets and 47th Street South, connecting Derby’s and Wichita’s path systems.