Proposed bike lane on La Crosse’s Northside has some people concerned

A proposed bike lane on La Crosse’s Northside is one step closer to becoming a reality, but not everyone is a fan.

The Judiciary and Administrative Committee voted 4-3 yesterday to turn down a proposal to ban the bike lane on Gillette Street meaning the bike lane would be built.

While many cyclists are happy about the outcome of that vote, some business owners are concerned.

Carolyn Dvorak the southwest region director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed said, “This is really an essential place to have the lane. It’s tight, there is a lot of traffic.”

Dvorak said not having a bike lane on a busy road like Gillette Street could be dangerous.

“Sometimes people on bikes are a little bit unsure where they should be sometimes they ride to close to the side of the road which really makes them sort of invisible. And also their riding behavior could be unpredictable,” Dvorak said.

Dvorak said having a bike lane makes things easier for both drivers and cyclists.

“If there’s a bike lane right there then a cyclist knows exactly where their space is to travel and a driver is not allowed to drive in that space or park in that space. So it just makes it really clear where everybody belongs,” Dvorak said.

Jack Zabrowski an associate planner with the city of La Crosse said six cyclists and six pedestrians were hit by cars on Gillette Street from 2005 to 2018 and something needs to change.

“We do see an issue on Gillette Street because there’s been 12 crashes in 13 years on that stretch of road. A bike lane is actually a proven crash-reduction factor to make that street safer,” Zabrowski said.

The city proposed making the bike lane on the north side of Gillette Street, which would mean cars couldn’t park on that side of the street, but Darrell Dickinson a representative of the Dickinson Family Funeral Homes said that could be a problem for their clients.

“I’m wondering if we’re sacrificing older people for the concerns of a different group of people and I don’t think it’s right,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson is worried if people aren’t allowed to park near the funeral home they may slip and fall crossing the street especially in the winter.

“Funeral homes are very unique. (We) deal with a lot of older people so now we’re saying to older people you can’t park in front of the funeral home. If we’re going to be slipping and sliding and falling I don’t want that,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson would like to see the bike lanes built on a less busy street, but Dvorak said those streets aren’t the problem

“On really quiet neighborhood streets where there’s not as much traffic it’s not as necessary because it’s quieter. We know that we can all share that space right on the street,” Dvorak said.

Other businesses on Gillette St. have also expressed their concerns over the potential loss of parking spaces.

The city said they’re following the Federal Highway Administration’s bikeway selection guide which recommends putting bike lanes on roads like Gillette Street based on its speed limit and amount of traffic.

The City Council will vote on the bike lane proposal next Thursday.

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