Friday, January 22, 2010

Another kerfuffle about bike lanes and sidewalks

The efforts to rebuild Old Middleton Road as a "complete street" have raised a few feathers, as proposals to truly improve roads for non-motorized users often do. Rarely do we get this much noise when a road goes from 2-lanes to 4-lanes. Those are often called "improvements," but my question is always, "Improvement for whom?"

The efforts to get Old Middleton Road fixed, so that pedestrians and bicyclists can safely and comfortably use the public right of way has been a long battle. Over ten years ago  - long before being elected - I went to testify at the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission about how I feared to ride my bike to work in Middleton because of the conditions on OMR. Families feared to walk the road where they lived, and I heard people  say, "Nobody walks here, so why do we need sidewalks?"

To see my commentary on that frequently heard lie, check my post from Tuesday 

And I want to hasten to add that the Engineering Department has made heroic efforts to design the new  roadway to save a large number of large trees. If anyone actually listened to the testimony on Tuesday, the number of trees lost is closer to 200, and most of those are what my neighbor calls "alley trees" - those skinny little nuisance trees that you end up cutting down, because they are barely more than shrubs. The vast majority of the ones lost will probably be Box Elder, a trees that grows quickly in disturbed areas and then dies out without getting much bigger than your wrist.

Why is it that space for cars can sacrifice many trees, and people just shrug, yet if we want a little sliver for  those not being transported in a metal box, there is a huge uproar? And even when a compromise is made, pedestrians and bicyclists are shunted aside in the areas where they are told is the "path."

For those with longer memories, see the example of Pheasant Branch Road - where no bike lanes were added, in order to not cut down some truly mature trees. We were told that the path through the Pheasant
Branch Conservancy was good enough to bike on, and so there was no need for bike lanes on the parallel road. However, when the City of Middleton suggested that the path needed to be paved, so that it could be used year round, there was a hue and cry from those that live adjacent to the Conservancy. "No, we don't want bicyclists really using the path. They go too fast, and we want to keep it quiet and natural." This from those who built their houses on the edge of a wetland, including the retaining walls to allow their houses to not
slide into the marsh.

So no bike lanes on Pheasant Branch Road - a rapidly developing commuter corridor to the eco-mansions north of Lake Mendota. No paved trail where bicyclists are told their should be. And implications that bicyclists shouldn't even be using the unpaved trail. Yet when the water quality of the Pheasant Branch Conservancy is threatened by development to the north, or a North Beltline is proposed that would surely facilitate even more development, where are the residents of the "conservancy?"

This letter to the editor is pretty humorous to me. Am I now a Trek lobbyist? Or is there another former alder that I don't know about? And I actually had no idea that Bike Fed came to testify, or even was aware of the vote on this project at the Council meeting, though I admit I only tuned in periodically, so maybe I missed them. But there certainly was no communication on Bikies, or to local members asking for their help, so I assume Bike Fed stayed out. All the proponents of bike lanes and sidewalks that I heard were neighbors that wanted a safe way to use the road.

I also didn't show up at the meeting, so I have no idea where the author gets his info.

(By the way, I believe the author of this letter used to be the person in charge of the police property room - where bicycles went to be hidden from their owners. He didn't do a very good job of helping bicyclists get their vehicles and job life-lines back then, so I guess I can't be surprised that he doesn't care about safety for bicyclists and pedestrians now.)

Cars = normal, so they are to be accommodated.
Bicycles = special interest group with too much power.