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Wauwatosa could be first community in state to use green-painted bike lanes

April 30, 2014

The Community Development Committee unanimously supported plans for bike lanes on North Avenue, from Wauwatosa Avenue to 60th Street, April 29. The common council would also have to approve the plan for it to go into effect.

With a total cost of about $1.6 million, the project would include bike lanes with green paint and bike boxes — painted marking extending across a lane of traffic at intersections indicating where cars should stop — red crosswalks and median islands at 73rd, 72nd and 64th Streets.

Cyclists voice support

More than 50 people packed the CDA's meeting, with standing room only. Most of those who spoke asked the committee to support all aspects of the project (called alternatives), rather than approving just the base option of white-painted bike lanes.

"Moving this forward without the alternatives is a big compromise," resident Kevin Hardman said. "This is a safety and economic development decision. You make this decision and it's going to send a very strong message that Wauwatosa is the place to be."

Adding green paint behind the 62 bike symbols would cost an additional $347 each, according to numbers from Public Works Director William Porter. But CDA members expressed strong support for the full plan.

Chairman Bobby Pantuso said he thinks adding green paint to bike lanes at intersections would make drivers take notice of them, noting that rain can sometimes obscure white paint.

"I want drivers to see there's a lane there before they hit me," Pantuso said.

Former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, now executive director of the Wisconsin Bike Federation, sent the committee a letter March 29 urging members to accept the full package, saying Wauwatosa would be the first community in the state to have green paint on bike lanes.

Comes at a price

The scope of the project supported by the CDA on Tuesday is about $380,000 more expensive than what Porter and his staff recommended.

Porter said he thinks the city should approve just the base project, which would include bike lanes with white paint, but would not include any green or red paint, bike boxes or medians. He said while the city has the money for the full project now, the additional items would require annual maintenance that would weigh on an already strained capital budget.

Alderwoman Allison Byrne, who voted to approve the full package, first echoed some of Porter's concerns.

"There is nothing I dislike in this plan," Byrne said. "What is making me have some anxiety is that next door is the Budget and Finance meeting where they're talking about how operating costs are going to be reduced every year. ... There will be economic ramifications."

Study approved

The CDA also approved a $20,000 study by Ayres and Associates that would consider the possibility of extending the bike lanes west from Wauwatosa Avenue to the Menomonee River Parkway. Several cyclists also voiced support for this study and extension of the lanes.

"I'd just like to say this is a developing street and I like all the stores, and I'd like to get there safely," 10-year-old Ryder Hill-Zastrow said. "And I don't want my friends or me to get injured. I'd just like to say we need a safer environment for our kids."

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