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Friday, October 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 49.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Madison bike committee weighs in on draft Downtown Plan
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Credit:City of Madison

Whether traveling on foot, bike or vehicle, maneuvering the many one-ways, odd intersections and often-congested streets of downtown Madison can be a pain. That's why the city has made transportation improvements a priority in the recommendations proposed in its draft Downtown Plan.

"The 'Big Ideas' of the draft plan are some of the larger, more visionary ideas and there's a few of them that really are transportation-related," Rebecca Cnare of the city's planning and development department, at a meeting Tuesday night.

Speaking to the city's Pedestrian, Bicycle and Motor Vehicle Commission, Cnare highlighted some of the new transportation options the city is looking into, including bike path expansions.

One such path would connect the Lakeshore path running from Memorial Union to James Madison Park. This proposal was received skeptically by committee member Ald. Paul Skidmore.

"These are all private properties of frats and sororities along that area," Skidmore said, wondering how realistic it would be for the city to obtain those parcels for expansion.

Cnare replied that she has heard more positive than negative responses from these private landowners along the lake, and hopes students will come out in support.

Another recommendation in the Downtown Plan is incorporating more bike lanes on one-way streets to help guide traffic and keep bicyclists safe. The plan also recommends changing some one-way streets into two-way streets if possible.

This recommendation spurred discussion on switching Broom Street from a one-way to a two-way, with committee member Robert Holloway raising concern that traffic flow will inevitably increase on that street.

"[The two-way] is going make it more challenging for pedestrians and bikes going through there," Holloway said, adding the city needs to think carefully about how best to ensure safety.

Committee chair Robbie Webber agreed, saying it is much easier for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross a one-way street than a two-way since one-way traffic has uniform breaks in flow.

Cnare said the city's department of planning and development is working with the traffic engineering on the draft plans to ensure safe options for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Parking -- or there lack of -- was another concern raised by committee member Susan De Vos. She noted that certain areas, especially in the UW campus, do not provide parking areas, and asked whether more parking options would be considered in the plan.

Cnare said the details of future downtown parking areas are still not quite certain, as the city is looking into possible public-private partnerships between itself and downtown businesses.

Webber said the parking issue extends beyond motor vehicles, as there are numerous bicyclists downtown. She said it may be wise to seek more permanent solutions, like including bike parking in motor vehicle ramps, instead of just adding more outdoor bike racks.

And Webber identified another large pedestrian and motorist problem: the lack of adequate signage around the Capitol, which is especially challenging for visitors to the area. She suggested including a "colored-quadrant" for each corner street coming off the Square, which could help tourists find their bearings easier and help traffic flow more smoothly.

Cnare heartily agreed.

"I think that totally fits in with what we were trying to get at in simplifying the various ways to get around downtown," she said, "whether you're coming in, going out of or through the area."

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