The Platteville Community Safe Routes Committee tried out its proposal for bicycle lanes on both sides, and parking on one side, on Ridge Avenue with Ridge Avenue residents and neighbors March 29.
The response from those at the meeting at the Platteville Public Library was mixed.
Most of the people at the meeting live on or near Ridge Avenue, and received a letter from the committee outlining the committee’s bike lane idea.
The committee’s proposal would use 16 feet of 36-feet-wide Ridge Avenue for bicycle and pedestrian lanes going each direction on the north and south side of Ridge, and parking on the north side of Ridge, as a proposed solution for morning sun glare for drivers going east.
The proposal is meant to last about a decade, when Ridge Avenue is slated to be repaved, and sidewalks may be added on at least one side of the street.
“The default is to put sidewalks on the south side of the road to connect with sidewalks … Lancaster Street at least as far as Smith Park,” said Director of Public Works Howard Crofoot. “The safest place for pedestrians is off the street.”
Crofoot said “a lot of people say we don’t need sidewalks; we don’t need bike lanes because we haven’t had any accidents. We don’t want to be like other jurisdictions where people wait until somebody is hurt or worse.”
Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission executive director Troy Maggied called the proposal “best practice,” but added, “We also know that best practice often conflicts with good intentions.”
The proposal is meant to encourage bicycling, which according to Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson, leads to bicyclist shopping, less use of fossil fuels, and less wear on city streets.
“The committee’s about what kind of community do we want to be in five, 10, 20 years,” said Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson, who said Platteville is the second fastest growing community of more than 10,000 population in Wisconsin.
Seeboth-Wilson said bicyclists stop more often and shop more often at local businesses.
Committee member Lynn Verger said an additional feature of bike and parking lanes, narrowing the width of Ridge Avenue, would be slowing down vehicular traffic on Ridge Avenue, which — along with the northern end of North Fourth Street, Sylvia Street past the Family Aquatic Center, and Pitt Street past Legion Park — serves as an unofficial northern bypass connecting Wisconsin 81 (Lancaster Street) to Lancaster and Wisconsin 80 (Water Street) to Livingston.
“We want to make safe ways to get around Platteville,” said Verger, who said the lack of bike lanes was “concerning for us especially with summer coming on.”
Committee member Kristina Fields said pedestrians are allowed to walk in bike lanes when there are no sidewalks. State law requires that bicyclists ride in the direction of vehicular traffic, while pedestrians who walk on roads should walk opposite vehicular traffic.
Crofoot questioned the need for parking in the neighborhood outside events at Ridge Avenue houses and in Smith Park. “When I’ve been here, there hasn’t been that much [vehicles] parking,” he said.
Crofoot said current city policy is for the city to pay for new sidewalks, instead of assessing property owners as some communities do. He added that alternate-side parking requirements are not placed on streets where only one side has parking.
Ridge Avenue resident Jim Schneller said a 20-foot street after bike and parking lanes would leave little room on each side of vehicles. State law limits vehicles to 8½ feet in width.
“I agree with one bike lane, perhaps of increased size, and one parking lane,” he said. He called the committee proposal “definitely an improvement.”
The proposal addresses heavier traffic to Legion Park and the Family Aquatic Center during the summer, though one neighbor said residents would have to live with a new street configuration 12 months of the year.
Momentum Bikes owner Tim Ingram said Ridge gets “a lot of walkers; it gets old, young; it gets a lot a lot of commuter traffic” plus traffic headed to Platteville Middle School and Platteville High School.
More than one resident suggested more police speed enforcement on Ridge, citing specific vehicles notorious for regular speeding. Another suggestion made was for the city to ban truck traffic on Ridge Avenue.