Madison commission set to discuss Winnebago Street construction

Trade-offs between cars and bicycles
Madison commission set to discuss Winnebago Street construction

The city’s Pedestrian, Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Commission is set to discuss construction on Winnebago Street on Madison’s east side during a meeting Tuesday night.

The city will decide between two options: either narrow the street by 2 feet, leaving everything else the way it is, or take away street parking on one side and create buffered lanes for bicyclists.

The construction would extend from Bashford Avenue to South Second Street, near Players Sports Bar and Block Systems Cleaners.

Grant Foster, a citizen bicycle advocate on the commission and the president of Madison Bikes, said there’s a large grade difference on one side of Winnebago Street.

“By narrowing the street and a few other things, they’ll be able to make some improvements there, be more accessible for people in wheelchairs by the bus stop — so a good reason to narrow it,” Foster said. “Unfortunately, that will also narrow the space that’s available for people that are riding bikes.”

Foster and his family are car-free and ride their bikes everywhere they go. And they’re not alone. Bicycle commuting in Madison increased more than 3 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to a city report from last year.

The same report set goals to help make Madison more bike-friendly. Objectives over the next five years include expanding bicycle networks throughout the downtown area, widening undersized bike lanes and improving bicycle storage.

“As a community, we should be looking to find ways to reduce our reliance on cars basically and to increase our reliance on biking, walking and transit,” Foster said.

The city also wants to create more innovative bike facilities, such as buffered lanes, which create a buffer space in between the bike lane and the lane for cars and other motor vehicles.

In improving the quality of biking life in Madison, Foster said, the city’s main obstacle isn’t cost. Instead, it’s understanding that trade-offs would need to be made between bikes and other types of vehicles.

“We’re at this point where if we want to continue to make progress and if we want to continue to have more people biking, we’re going to have to start making those harder choices, which is trading car parking for that all ages and ability network,” Foster said.

The commission had already started to hear from neighbors in the Winnebago Street area about the proposed construction. Foster said people who live nearby planned to come to the commission meeting planned for Tuesday night to voice their concerns over the possibility of losing street parking.