On any given Saturday morning, Toll 49 comes alive with cyclists enjoying the wide shoulders and the light traffic the loop along southern Tyler provides.
That has raised safety issues in the mind of the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which is considering banning cyclists from the roadway.
The authority addressed the issue at a January meeting, with a decision expected later this year.
Chairwoman Linda Thomas said the Texas Department of Transportation will hand over Toll 49 to the authority, which will be responsible for establishing rules.
Bicyclists have used the road because of its wide shoulders, smooth pavement and the relative safety of having access limited to on and off ramps at major intersections. The limited access also has meant limited traffic, but that will change with the connection to Interstate 20.
Mike Butler, a local architect and former president of the Tyler Bicycle Club, said the biking community is opening discussions with the city, county, state and North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority with regard to access on roads.
He said safety is the No. 1 concern for bikers, and denying them access to Toll 49 means riders will be limited to high-volume roads such as Old Jacksonville and Broadway Avenue, which present safety problems such as driveways and intersections.
“There are not a lot of options for bicyclists, and we want to make sure we are part of the conversation when considering a master street plan,” he said. “Toll 49 traffic may increase, but it’s a safer option.”
Butler said wide shoulders, long, straight stretches and limited access make the toll road appealing to bike enthusiasts. As the trend for more bicycles in the community continues, Butler said, the conversation needs to be directed toward vehicles and riders coexisting in a safe way.
Mobility authority spokeswoman Erin Lavender said the group is going to meet with stakeholders prior to its next meeting in Canton at 1:30 p.m. March 26.
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