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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Why can't the chicken cross the road on a bike?

Oak Leaf Trail, Complete Streets, Wauwatosa, LaCrosse, Mayfair Road, Bluemound Road

In the past, it was just, ‘We're going to rebuild this road.' Now we're trying to pull in the ideas of, while we're doing this, can we lessen the stormwater impact? Can we improve bicycle, pedestrian, physically disabled accommodations? LaCrosse city planner Larry Kirsch

If the road we are talking about is Mayfair Road, and especially its juncture with Bluemound, the chicken can't cross the road because the chicken is too smart to take his life into his hands.

So when Wauwatosa's Traffic and Safety Committee reluctantly decided to give up on figuring out how to solve the problem of connecting the Oak Leaf Trail through the car combat zone, I was disappointed. And so were some of the committee members, perhaps all of them.

As alder Jeff Roznowski said, "I think the community wants to be known as a bike-friendly city, and have a complete street bike plan. .… When you start making exceptions in areas … and you don't have anything here, then is the next one Center Street and Mayfair?"

A few months ago at the Wisconsin Public Health Association Annual Meeting, I had the pleasure of hearing a report on LaCrosse's Complete Streets. LaCrosse is the first city in the state to mandate that all streets built or rebuilt accommodate babies in strollers, bike riders in Spandex, and  folks with walkers as well as rain, snow, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and cars.

And almost a year after putting the odinance in place, they've found some great news. People are outside, circumnavigating the city on their own muscle power, in greater numbers. Businesses are seeing more foot and other traffic. Best of all, the cost of Complete Streets (what this kind of traffic engineering is called) has been nearly the same as conventional streets.

Win, win, win.

The Wauwatosa Council has made extraordinary efforts to find ways to maintain and create a city people want to live in. They know that doesn't mean just being able to move from house to work using an easy freeway entrance for your car. Or having access to power through a line that runs across a park or your front yard.

I know another way can be found. I also suspect our elected officials just get exhausted sometimes with all the battles they are called to wage. But the longterm ones are worth it. If Tosa wants to attract vital young people (who earn money, pay taxes, populate the schools, and bring new life to a community), it's going to have to get over old-school thinking about transportation. Because those folks expect bike friendliness and public transportation.

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