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Revised bike plan returning to Wauwatosa panel

Feb. 6, 2014

A revised draft of the Wauwatosa Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities Plan has been released, showing hundreds of changes, adopting a milder tone and eliminating much of the original plan's emphasis on installing sidewalks.

The proposed revision changes "priorities" and "objectives" to "recommendations" throughout; removes statements urging the city to formally adopt the plan and work toward its implementation; deletes a recommendation to form a standing bike/pedestrian committee; and deletes another phrase urging the adoption of a "complete streets" policy, which would ensure bike and pedestrian accommodations are considered in all future projects.

The change in tone is exemplified in the statement of vision, which deletes the word "viable," among other changes, in the phrase "Wauwatosa will be attractive as a healthy, safe and livable community because it establishes bicycling and walking as viable travel and recreation options for residents, visitors and businesses."

The revised statement of vision says, "Wauwatosa will continue to be attractive as a healthy, safe and livable community because it facilitates bicycling and walking as travel and recreation options for residents, visitors and businesses. Bicycling and walking will be integral components of quality of life, economic development and accessibility features of the city."

To be reconsidered

The revised draft will be considered Monday by the Plan Commission. It it posted online, with changes marked in red, through a link on the city's website.

The earlier draft was debated and criticized by a roomful of residents for two hours at a Plan Commission meeting in October, and sent back for revision.

Chief among the complaints was the high priority the plan placed on installing sidewalks where there are none. Residents of 116th Street objected vociferously to the idea of sidewalks, many stating they specifically chose to live in homes that did not have them.

The new draft is "a reflection that we listened," said Alderman Jeff Roznowski, a member of the bicycle/pedestrian plan steering committee.

"We heard a lot of things about sidewalks, and some other things about the plan, so the changes that are there are a reflection that it was a draft document," he said.

Matters of policy

He noted that, though the earlier plan had been presented at a couple of public information sessions, "not until it really gets into its final form, I think, do people really start paying close attention to it and are able to see things maybe they like and they don't like."

Roznowski said some elements of the earlier version strayed close to statements of policy, which some saw as inappropriate.

One example was the recommendation that urged the adoption of a complete streets program, an element that was removed.

"I'm a firm believer that we need a complete streets policy, for example. ... But let's develop that through the budget process, let's develop that maybe in conjunction with some other initiatives. Let's do that through our committee and policy work," he said.

Skewed representation?

Alderwoman Cheryl Berdan, who represents many residents who live on streets without sidewalks, including 116th Street, was critical of the earlier version, not only for its emphasis on installing sidewalks but also for the process by which the plan was developed.

She and her fellow 7th District alderman, Donald Birschel, said the bike/pedestrian committee was not a representative slice of all Wauwatosa.

"I don't think that we should clog up traffic for bicycles or pedestrians, because we need to get to work," she said. "I need to get downtown, and I can't ride my bike downtown to work."

Focusing on sidewalks

Berdan was involved in the bike/pedestrian plan revision, and said she focused on removing the emphasis on the installation of sidewalks.

While some sidewalk and "pedestrian facilties" installation recommendations do remain — to be considered on a case-by-case basis, generally in conjunction with other infrastructure projects — they are just recommendations, rather than objectives or priorities.

"My whole point was to make sure that the residents of a neighborhood have a say in what their neighborhood looks like, and I believe this plan does that for them," she said.

Berdan said she got want she wanted in terms of sidewalks, but wasn't able to tone down the document's "editorial comments," as she called them, about the benefits of biking — that it promotes public health, economic development, reduced environmental impacts and is less expensive than driving — and the goals in the report that aim for a higher percentage of bike and pedestrian commuting in the years to come.

"Why would we have a goal like that? Because our goal shouldn't be to increase how many people ride their bikes, but to make sure that those people who want to ride their bikes, or who want to walk, are facilitated in doing that."

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