A Denton City Council committee wants construction crews to hold the pause button a little longer on finishing part of West Hickory Street, just in case the city truly has the option to save about 20 parking spaces in the Fry Street area.

The roadwork has become a flashpoint between bicyclists and business owners. Business owners want to keep the parking spots they had before the road was rebuilt. Bicyclists want a consistent path along Hickory to improve their traveling safety. And the city staff wants to know how to stripe the new pavement, so they can be finished, at least for now, with the most contentious part of the project.

After the controversy erupted last year, the city hired Alta Planning and Design, a firm well known for its bike and pedestrian plans. The firm proposed two options that would remove parking on one side of Hickory or the other, while dedicating that part of the pavement for bike lanes. Both options would cost less than $100,000 but would mean the loss of either 19 or 24 on-street parking spaces.

However, council committee members Keely Briggs, Paul Meltzer and John Ryan said they would like more information on a third option: Preserve the on-street parking, turn the south-side sidewalk into a “bicycle boulevard,” and reroute the current sidewalk around mature trees in the area.

The city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, Marc Oliphant, said the University of North Texas may be open to the choice.

“In places where they have bike boulevards, they do work,” Oliphant said, adding there would be a lot more involved to getting it done, however.

For example, the project requires engineering work that would have to be done, along with securing the university’s cooperation for the change. He estimated the option would cost about $250,000.

Kevin Marshall, owner of Bullseye Bike Shop at 700 W. Hickory St., cycles in the area every day. He told the committee the bicycle boulevard is his favorite option.

“But I don’t want to recommend something that will never happen,” Marshall said, pointing to both the extra cost and the extra work to get the job done.

He and fellow cyclist Aaron Powell said the option to remove parking on the south side of the street is the other preferred option for most cyclists. That option is the least expensive and also gobbles up 24 parking places.

Powell, representing Bike Denton, a local advocacy group, told the committee bike boulevards work best when they go for a longer stretch than a block or two. That way, both motorists and cyclists know what to expect.

Kim McKibben, owner of Aura Coffee and a member of the work group that drafted the city’s new concept plan for the area, said most Fry Street businesses oppose removing any more parking. She urged the committee to recommend another option — the preferred option of the work group, she said — which mixes bicycles and cars in the travel lanes, but also physically enforces the 20 mph speed limit.

That option, too, would require engineering and cost an estimated $250,000.

Although the staff asked, the committee members stopped short of picking an alternative option in case the bicycle boulevard really isn’t viable. Instead, Meltzer told the staff the committee is willing to meet again quickly and revisit their recommendation should university officials balk at the bicycle boulevard.

Once the committee settles on a recommendation, the issue will go before the full City Council for a final recommendation and vote.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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