Public comments, several petitions and a slew of emails for and against the proposed bicycle and pedestrian improvement plan appeared to do little to sway Monona City Council members as they prepared to accept the report Monday night.
Residents voiced their opinions for and against the plan, and Mayor Mary O’Connor summarized several emails received by the elected officials in the past two weeks. After more than two hours of discussion, alders voted 6-0 to accept the report.
Opposition was intense, and residents cited several reasons: not enough opportunity for public input; a proposal in the report to widen the southern part of Winnequah Road that would result in the loss of trees, gardens and walls, as well as installing sidewalks and bike lanes; a wider road would only make traffic speeds worse, which some said was the main issue; using national statistics instead of local statistics; the economic cost of updating the road; and a belief the report was prepared to prove a predetermined conclusion.
“Sidewalks do not equal safety,” resident Sharon Lehrer said.
“This is tearing the community apart,” added fellow resident George Lightbourn. “I don’t think we need a network of connected sidewalks to be a thriving community. This is not a proven need.”
Several alders clarified the acceptance of the report did not equate to endorsing everything in it, and that nothing would change until alders adopted future operating and capital budgets.
Monona’s roads were originally designed in an era when sidewalks and bike lanes were not routinely considered a necessary component of the transportation network. As a result, very few streets have sidewalks or bike lanes.
“No community can thrive without change,” Alder Doug Wood said. “Our transportation network should be equally available to all residents.”
“Change is hard,” said Alder Nancy Moore. “It’s about what’s best for the community.”
The committee was asked to design a plan to develop safe, accessible corridors through the community for everyone, whether in a car, on a bike or traveling on foot. A major focus of the committee’s work was creating safe routes to connect residents to community destinations such as parks, businesses, schools, the pool and library.
“Why do we have to wait for an accident to make changes?” asked Alder Andrew Kitslaar.
The plan was developed over the past 18 months by an ad hoc committee of Monona residents working with traffic engineers from Strand and Associates.