Earlier today, I posted a blog entry/rant about crossing the Beltline by bike or foot. It all bubbled up because there was yet another bicycle-car crash on Whitney Way neat the Beltline. Why does it seem we obsess and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to be sure car drivers are safe, and yet we can't spend a fraction of that to make sure that people using non-motorized transportation also have safe and convenient facilities.
Instead of tacking on the post below to the earlier one, I thought I'd tell a story about a time when we did have money to do things right, and yet the money ended up elsewhere, and the results were not even safe when the project was done.
Back when I was an alder and Mike Rewey was just leaving the Wisconsin DOT, Mr Rewey got some funding to fix a safety problem: people were trying to get across the Beltline between Fish Hatchery Rd and Park St. They were cutting holes in the fence and running across the Beltline. some of them got hurt doing that.
Why were they taking such risks? Because they wanted to get to jobs in the area of Greenway Cross, and they lived in the Burr Oaks and Bram's Addition areas of the city, which is traditionally a lower income area, in other words, full of people who would like to work at the entry-level jobs in the area directly across the Beltline from them. The Fish Hatchery Rd crossing of the Beltline is not friendly to pedestrians, and for people on foot, it's pretty far out of the way to just get across the highway.
So Mr. Rewey got funding to build a pedestrian-bike bridge to connect the two pieces of Perry St on either side of the Beltline.
However, some of the businesses in the area were concerned with making this connection, and the project was killed by the local alder. The money was diverted to another project farther west, rebuilding Todd Dr.
There was just one problem, and that was that Wisconsin generally doesn't allow targeted bicycle and pedestrian money to be used just to add sidewalks and bike lanes when a road is rebuilt. The Wisconsin DOT, and the various MPOs and municipalities that follow the WisDOT guidelines, figure that bike lanes and sidewalks are part of the roadway anyway, and since it's not really all that expensive to add them when the road is being rebuilt, you don't have to use a special, and very limited pot of money to out them in.
I argued that this was an inappropriate use of the funds that were supposed to alleviate a very specific safety problem, but I lost that battle and the money was used to add "bicycle and pedestrian accommodations" to the Todd Dr . project.
So imagine my chagrin when I went down to Johannsen's Greenhouse, next to the rebuilt intersection, and found that the "bike lanes" were to the right of a right-turn-only lane! Uh huh. So you are riding along in the "bike lanes" - note that they are not actually marked as such, because they are in the wrong place - and all those cars are going to be cutting you off to get on the Beltline. Great.
After a couple of years of noticing this, I finally remembered to mention it to a couple of people who should be able to fix it. I sure hope so, because what exists now is very dangerous. And really, this is what we get when we put in "bicycle and pedestrian accommodations" with money allocated to solve a bicycle-pedestrian safety problem? I sure as hell hope not!