City Advancing Riverwest Bike Boulevards
Open house in Riverwest to discuss proposal planned for July 11th.
The Department of Public Works is advancing a plan to build two bike boulevards in the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods. The proposal, first introduced in 2017, would include design changes to N. Fratney St. and E. Wright St. to make the street safer and more attractive for cyclists.
The proposed design changes are centered around reducing automobile speed with signage, pavement markings, speed humps and traffic circles.
The proposal would redesign approximately 2.1 miles of city streets, N. Fratney St. from E. Keefe Ave. to E. Meinecke Ave. and E. Wright St. from N. Palmer St. to the Beerline Trail along the west bank of the Milwaukee River. The corridors were first identified as candidates for improvement in the 2010 Milwaukee By Plan, a plan adopted by the Common Council.
“These two roads are an ideal starting point for creating a grid of bicycle boulevards through the city because they both run parallel to several busy streets. Fratney Street is located between Humboldt Boulevard and Holton Street, while Wright Street is located between Center Street and North Avenue,” says a city report.
An open house to solicit resident and stakeholder feedback on the proposed changes is planned for July 11th from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at The Vibe at 518 E. Concordia Ave. Brief presentations are scheduled at 4:30 and 5:30 p.m.
A March 2018 open house drew approximately 70 attendees. My colleague Graham Kilmer reported that feedback at the meeting was largely supportive. “Anything that discourages cars from using it as a very fast through route” is good, said avid cyclist, Riverwest resident and area Alderman Nik Kovac.
Rick Banks told Urban Milwaukee in 2018 that he bikes to work every day down the route proposed for the boulevard. And Banks was not the only such user; several attendees at the last public meeting said they already bike the proposed route regularly.
Banks and other riders said the route is already reasonably safe, and its proximity to the Beerline Trail makes it a good location for bicyclists. But they also said that intersections along the route can be dangerous, like the Locust and Fratney streets intersection, and the Center and Fratney streets intersection.
DPW Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator James Hannig said the boulevard wouldn’t be a “radical change” to the existing streets, but “a new flavor” designed to allow cyclists and vehicles to go the same speed. This mirrors the city’s Complete Streets policy that was adopted in October 2018 which requires the city to accommodate all users in any street redesign or rebuild.
The project, as of early 2018, was estimated to cost approximately $800,000. A federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant would cover 80 percent of the cost.
The bike boulevards would build on the protected bicycle lanes added in 2018 to the E. Locust St. and E. North Ave. bridges over the Milwaukee River that connect Riverwest and the East Side. The lanes, according to city data, have increased cycling by at least 104 percent and reduced excessive speeding (vehicles traveling in excess of 40 miles per hour) by at least 50 percent on both bridges. The boulevards and protected lanes, however, would not be directly linked.
Construction is planned for summer 2020.
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