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Proposed bike lane study causes debate

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SCRANTON (WOLF) -- The issue of possibly building bike lanes in Lackawanna County and Luzerne County prompted a debate among commissioners.

We found out why there's a demand to build the bike lanes in the first place.

"Quality of life. Roll call," says Lackawanna County Commissioner Pat O'Malley.

"It's not our job. It's not our job to look for quality of life," says Commissioner Laureen Cummings.

"OK, OK, sorry," says O'Malley.

Commissioners were divided at their meeting Wednesday on whether to apply for a grant to study bike lanes.

"Commissioner Notarianni? 'Yes.' Commissioner Cummings? 'Absolutely not,'" went the vote.

Staffers said Lackawanna County would likely pay about $30,000 to contribute to the two-county, $150,000 dollar study. The hope is to connect Wilkes-Barre to Scranton and look at bike lanes in the downtown areas.

But Cummings says with people losing their homes, and potential state and federal budget cuts, she's not comfortable with the expense.

"This is your first $150,000 dollars of tax money on a study," says Cummings. "What the cost would be to actually implement that plan, God only knows."

Cummings says roads are in disrepair, and also says she did not like the bike lanes she saw while in Washington, D.C.

"Those stupid bikes riding down the side of the road and it was ridiculous! I couldn't believe it! I was like, oh my God, we're gonna, they're right on the road, we're gonna hit them! They don't move. It's crazy!" says Cummings.

Director of Economic and Community Development George Kelly says the lanes would be in downtown Scranton where the roads are generally in good repair.

One of the things the bike lanes could come in handy for is the Bike Scranton program, where people can borrow bikes from several locations around the city, and it's all free.

It's the third year for the bike share program with sites around the county.

On Thursday, a volunteer brought four bikes from the Lackawanna Valley Heritage Authority to a parking garage at a site they're trying to add, Geisinger CMC.

"People are not respectful. The guys in the cars, they seem to want to pass on the right-hand side," says bicyclist Howard Gordon, a Bike Scranton volunteer.

"There's a lot of residential and a lot on the way including this building and a lot of young professionals that ride their bikes," says Commissioner Pat O'Malley, referring to downtown Scranton.

Kelly says the grant would help fulfill a requirement by the federal highway system -- in an "unfunded mandate" -- to have plans to address "non-motorized" transportation.

Lackawanna County is applying to DCNR "with and on behalf of Luzerne County." Luzerne County Council members we asked were unaware of the application.

The vote was 2-1 to approve the grant application, and if approved, commissioners would discuss it at a future meeting.

The free bikes program had about 800 uses last year, especially at hotels and the University of Scranton, LHVA trails manager Owen Worozbyt said.

Commissioner Jerry Notarianni reminded Cummings that bike trails were popular and good for business in Chester County, where they'd attended a conference.


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