2/18/13 Letter from PPSP to Division/Church Study Project Staff

This is Bob Fisch from Poky Pedaling Stevens Point. I am writing to offer comments regarding the Division/Church Business 51 Improvement Study. This e-mail is the third of several I will send – about one per week – before the February 28 date you indicate on the comment form distributed at the public information meeting of January 22.

In this e-mail, I will focus on the region of the Division/Church corridor north of the railroad bridge.

Division St between Fourth Ave and NorthPoint Dr is the location of a large number of businesses, most of which get plenty of customers who use a bicycle for transportation at least some of the time. The nearby streets already have heavy bicycle traffic, in part because of their proximity to the UWSP campus. Bicycle riders – those coming both from campus and from farther away – need a safe and comfortable way to ride the final block or two on Division in order to access these businesses.

A separated or buffered bicycle lane in each direction on this segment of Division St will attract a lot of bicycle traffic. That bears repeating – A LOT of bicycle traffic. You will see a reduction in car traffic as people choose to ride bicycles to these businesses to spend money. Fewer cars means less wear on the roadway, which means actual municipal dollars that can be saved over the 20-30 years after the Division/Church corridor is reconstructed.

As the saying goes, “Build it and they will come.” Build for cars and you get more car traffic. Build for people and you get more bicycle and foot traffic. The roadway is wide in this area, so you have many feasible options. The choice of what to build is up to you.

Crossings of Division St are particularly problematic in the region north of the railroad bridge. I will highlight many of these problem crossings below.

Fourth Ave: Fourth Ave is one of the worst choices for crossing Division by bicycle, even though it is a signalized intersection. Fourth itself attracts a great deal of motor vehicle traffic. The design of Fourth Ave with left-turn lanes on a narrow street provides nowhere comfortable for bicycle riders. I did a 2-hour bike/ped traffic count at this location two years ago for the Portage County Dept of Planning and Zoning. Counts were very high, but the thing that struck me is that about 90% of the Fourth Ave bicycle riders used the narrow sidewalks and crosswalks to negotiate this intersection. This is plain evidence that bicycle riders do not feel safe riding on the roadway here.

I wish to provide a suggestion for the Fourth Ave crossing. Change the traffic signal cadence to separately give traffic from the east and west their own green light while the other 3 directions have red lights. Left turns from Fourth onto Division will no longer need to wait for oncoming vehicles, so the left turn lanes can be eliminated. This will provide room for bike lanes on the east and west approaches to this intersection. Bike Boxes can be implemented on Fourth Ave to get bicycles to the front of the line. A Bike Box increases visibility of bicycles, makes it easier to turn left from Fourth onto the future bicycle lanes on Division St, and encourages motor vehicle drivers to be aware of people riding bicycles in this area. This implementation will be an enormous step towards making Division and Fourth a safe intersection.

Maria Dr: For bicycle traffic, Maria Dr is not much better than Fourth Ave for crossing Division. I suggest the same traffic signal, left-turn-lane elimination, and Bike Box treatment here that I suggest for Fourth Ave.

Franklin St, Briggs St, College Ave: Because Fourth Ave and Maria Dr are such uncomfortable places to cross Division, the best crossings for bicycle travel between downtown and the UWSP campus area (and neighborhoods east of campus) are Franklin, Briggs, and College. That being said, these crossings have serious issues themselves. Finding sufficient breaks in traffic, which is often travelling in excess of the 25 MPH speed limit, is difficult for people riding bikes.

Infrastructure that slows Division traffic and increases awareness of bicycle traffic will enhance safety significantly. One or more HAWK signals, which crossing bicycle and foot traffic would activate via pushbutton, might be appropriate at these intersections. Such HAWK signals, which stop Division traffic to enable crossings, could be timed with other Division signals to minimize the number of Division vehicles that actually have to stop, thereby avoiding significant increase in stop-go congestion along Division at these intersections. The signage associated with the HAWK signals would also increase awareness of bicycle and foot traffic in the vicinity, thereby promoting safer streets in this area.

NorthPoint Dr: This intersection is too large for a bicycle rider on NorthPoint Dr to feel comfortable crossing Division at this signal. The large scale makes it too easy for a bicycle to be unnoticed by turning traffic (oncoming left turns, same direction right turns, and Division-sourced right turns) while crossing this intersection. With a Culvers about to open just south of this intersection, I suspect the amount of bicycle traffic using NorthPoint Dr to cross Division will increase substantially in the near future. I do not have specific suggestions for how to make improvements, but I hope your eventual redesign of this intersection can make this crossing feel more comfortable for bicycle traffic.

Center St, Pine St, Shaurette St: Making the crossing of Division between Center and either Pine or Shaurette is difficult because of the need to travel along Division for a half-block. Division is a dangerous obstacle in otherwise very good routes connecting the neighborhoods to the east (bounded by Main and the railroad) to downtown and to the railroad crossing on Park St (enabling safe and comfortable bicycle travel south to Church St businesses). Between Pine and Shaurette along Division, a separated or buffered bike lane or a multiuse path would be a key design element – this is true even if such bicycle infrastructure could not be implemented along Division elsewhere in this area. Coupled with safe ways to directly cross Division in order to connect Center to Pine and Shaurette, this overall design would have substantial positive impact on making this crossing feel safe and comfortable for bicycle riders.

Dixon St, Belts Soft Serve: More needs to be done to slow traffic in this area and create awareness of the large amount of bicycle and foot traffic crossing this intersection. A HAWK signal might be appropriate here for the same reasons mentioned above regarding Franklin, Briggs, and College. Customers of Belts, large numbers of which are children, should not be subject to the danger currently present at this intersection simply because they want to visit this highly popular Stevens Point destination on a summer day or evening.

Thank you for taking the time to read my comments. I hope you are able to incorporate my suggestions into the design you create for the Divison/Church corridor.

Bob Fisch
Poky Pedaling Stevens Point