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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 10.0° F  Fair
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A plan to create a bike-friendly corridor on Sherman Avenue is winding its way through city committees
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Rhodes-Conway: "This will improve safety for all modes of transportation."
Rhodes-Conway: "This will improve safety for all modes of transportation."

Creating a bike-friendly corridor for cyclists coming to and from Madison's north side has been in the works for some 20 years.

Even so, a proposal (PDF) to turn Sherman Avenue from a four-lane road to a two-lane one, with a center turning lane and bike lanes on the edges, does not have complete support.

The Northside Business Association, in a Feb. 18 letter, lobbies against the plan. "The reason the business association is against it is primarily safety," says association president Lauri Lee. "It really doesn't make sense to put all of those things on a street that can't handle it."

Lee also fears the plan will reduce traffic, hurting businesses that depend on drive-by customers. She argues more speed enforcement by police would make the road safer.

Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, who represents the area, says the plan will improve safety not just for cyclists, but also pedestrians and cars.

"It's important for people to understand that this will improve safety for all modes of transportation," she says. "If we were building Sherman Avenue today, there's no way we'd build it with four lanes and no bike lanes.

"Police enforcement is great," Rhodes-Conway adds. "It's effective for 24 hours, maybe a week. It has a very limited impact, and it's a very expensive way to keep the corridor safe. You really have to change the infrastructure."

Amanda White, associate director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, says bike lanes have a proven track record in Madison.

"There are definitely people biking on Sherman Avenue right now, and it's just not the safest option for bicyclists and pedestrians. That makes it less safe for cars as well. Studies have shown it's good for business too. When you slow down traffic, you increase the number of people walking and biking in front of your business."

The plan is now winding its way through city committees -- the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission is slated to take it up at its 5 p.m. meeting (PDF) Wednesday. Rhodes-Conway expects the Common Council will vote on the proposal at its March 5 meeting.

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