Do you ride your bike around Mequon for fun or to work?
The common council debated the creation of a bicycle lane along Donges Bay road to coincide with an upcoming repaving project, however, the plan was tabled with a 6-2 vote to allow more information to be collected.
The council discussed the lane, which would cost $73,000, at its Nov. 9 meeting. The lane would reach from Wauwatosa Road to Cedarburg Road. The reason for the cost was primarily the need to widen the road to accommodate the additional lane to allow for 5 feet of safety, not the current 2 feet.
Director of Public Works Kristen Lundeen said that portion of Donges Bay Road would be repaved with or without the bicycle lane. The resolution on the agenda would have given authority to include the bicycle lane in the road plan, she said. The lane could be removed from the plans later, if desired.
Alderwoman Pam Adams said the public works commission voted 2-1 in favor of the lane being added. However, not all the council members saw the need.
Putting on the brakes
Alderman John Wirth said wider roads cost more money and he’d rather see the city spend money on other improvements. He said before voting he wanted to get more input from residents as well as to see what percentage of the total cost of the project the lane would be, which was not available at the meeting.
Another alderman with some reservation was Dale Mayr. He worried the city would be promoting biking in heavy traffic since much of the industrial area along Donges Bay is heavily traveled by semi-trucks.
The high level of traffic was one argument some aldermen used for the lane. Alderman Robert Strzelczyk said Donges Bay is the main route into Mequon from the Interurban Trail. He added that the city is trying to build a bicycle and pedestrian community.
Because of this, Strzelczyk said this is not an overstep of safety, calling it a “nominal budget amount for the safety of our community.” He added a denial on the basis of a $73,000 cost was “irresponsible.”
“I don’t know how this can’t be a priority for the city,” he said.
Mayor Dan Abendroth pointed out the trail would also connect to the Mequon Nature Preserve.
“Bikes are transportation, too,” Abendroth said.
Alderwoman Connie Pukaite said the Donges Bay project has been on the bikeway and pedestrian commission’s plan since 2010 as its No. 1 priority. The lane would connect to the Interurban Trail.
“We’re going to do Donges Bay anyway,” Pukaite said, adding that if the city is going to have this commission, they should follow their recommendations.
Alderman Andrew Nerbun said the city probably wouldn’t be doing another repaving for 30 years.
“If you don’t do this, there’s a missing piece there,” he said.
Adams said there were other factors to consider, such as the city budget.
“Just because a committee does their work doesn’t mean they have a bottomless checkbook from us,” she said.
An uphill battle
Funding for such projects was taken from the city’s most recent budget, which Carol Leonard, chair of the bikeway and pedestrian commission, called “short-sighted.” She said the commission has a list of 17 items it's considering, some costing millions of dollars.
“I’m bringing this one to you because it seems reasonable,” she said. “I basically only have one shot to do this road.”
Some of the debate also centered on if the extra lane would see a lot of use and whether or not Mequon residents would commute by bicycle in addition to recreational cycling. Leonard said Mequon currently was “not friendly” to commuters.
“There’s nothing wrong with riding your bike to work,” Strzelczyk added.
No exact timetable for when the project would be brought back to the council was given at the meeting. City Administrator Will Jones said the item will be brought back “at the appropriate time when we have the information requested.”