A full draft of the city's Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities Plan has been completed, recommending a broad range of improvements aimed at creating new routes and increasing access for walkers and bikers to all parts of the city.
The plan recommends a mixed approach using lane markings, signage, sidewalks and off-street trails to make walking and biking to points throughout Wauwatosa easier, safer and more attractive as an alternative to car travel.
The 140-page document is available through a link on the city's website, www.wauwatosa.net and will be presented to the Plan Commission on Oct. 7.
The plan proposes adding almost 92 miles of bikeways to the 17 miles that currently exist in the city. The new routes would include bike lanes, marked neighborhood greenways, shared lanes, signed bike routes, off-road paths shared with pedestrians and cycletracks, which are dedicated bike lanes physically separated from the street and the sidewalk.
It sets a goal of increasing bike commuting in the city from 0.6 percent today to 4 percent by 2020, and pedestrian commuting from 2.4 percent to 7 percent in the same period. It also urges the city to strive for a bronze level award as a "Walk Friendly Community" in 2014 from an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A steering committee of residents and city officials, with the assistance of consultant Toole Design Group and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, created the report. Besides routes and recommendations, it outlines priorities, cost estimates and potential state and federal funding sources.
It identifies as challenges the barriers created by major streets, including Highway 45, Mayfair and Bluemound roads, the Menomonee River, and the lack of sidewalks in many neighborhoods on the city's west side.
Making biking better
The stated top priorities for biking are:
· The city should strongly encourage Milwaukee County to include a shared-use path alongside the Menomonee River Parkway from Swan Boulevard to West Congress Street. The county is planning to rebuild much of the parkway in 2014 and 2015. The plan calls on the city to include on-street biking facilities as well.
· Installing signs and street markings along selected neighborhood streets to create the Neighborhood Greenway Network.
· Greater use of shared-lane markings throughout the city.
· Striping bike lanes on existing streets identified in the plan.
· Providing wayfinding signs for the biking system.
Improving walking routes
The top priorities for pedestrians are:
· Installing sidewalks where they are missing within two blocks of schools. This includes Underwood Elementary, Eisenhower Elementary, Madison Elementary, Whitman Middle School and Wauwatosa West High School.
· Installing a sidewalk on one side of Mayfair Road where there is not one, north of North Avenue to the northern city limit.
· Installing a sidewalk where missing on the east side of 124th Street from Watertown Plank Road to the northern city limit. The report also encourages sidewalks on the west side of 124th, which is under the jurisdictions of Brookfield, Elm Grove and Butler.
· Sidewalks where missing on a north-south route using 115th and 116th streets from the southern city limit to Center Street.
· A sidewalk where missing on the south side of West Burleigh Street from Mayfair Road to the eastern city limit.
· A sidewalk where missing on the north side of Watertown Plank Road from Highway 45 west to the border.
· A sidewalk on Wisconsin Avenue from Mayfair Road to 90th Street, some of which is in the city of Milwaukee.
· Providing a sidewalk or path for pedestrians on at least one side of all three county parkways that course through Wauwatosa.
Point of contention
Installing sidewalks where there are none may be the most controversial recommendation, depending on the neighborhood. Already a flier has been distributed anonymously in one neighborhood, Lovers Lane Estates, directly west of Pinelawn Memorial Park, claiming that the bike and pedestrian plan "will require the installation of sidewalks in all subdivisions in the city of Wauwatosa" and that they will "destroy the suburban appearance of our community."
It also says, "children managed to walk to school without sidewalks," when Webster School was in the neighborhood, years ago.
Mayor Kathleen Ehley responded in writing to the flier, calling it "false and inflammatory," and encouraging the neighbors to read the plan.
While the plan does encourage sidewalks in future developments, it places a high priority only on the streets listed above, and on the streets near schools. Lovers Lane Estates is not among them. In any case, the plan is a draft, not a final version, and has not been adopted by the city.
The plan says implementation may cost $1 million a year for several years.
"By comparison, the city of Madison, with a population of about five times that of Wauwatosa, has annual capital budget requests for bikeways for the next six years ranging from $6 million to $12 million," it says.
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