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Shawnee Mayor: Broadway bike lane project dead

Vicky O. Misa
Many signs adorned Broadway lawns last Fall, rallying for — and against — a proposed bike lane project.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the following information was gathered from Shawnee News-Star archives.]

This week Mayor Richard Finley made it clear that the controversial bike lane project proposed along Broadway is now dead.

During board comments at this week's City Commission meeting Finley announced that Shawnee City Manager Chance Allison sent a letter to the Avedis Foundation in April telling them the Broadway project was off. Avedis was a funding partner of the endeavor through its award of a matching grant to the city.

“Their board acknowledged that letter and they since have allocated those funds somewhere else, Finley said. “So it ain't coming back; so you can put that to rest.”

Even though the project was in the works for more than two years, it increasingly became a controversial one — especially last fall when bike lane yard signs started popping up and down Broadway Street. As weeks passed more Shawnee residents began voicing concerns and opposition to the potential changes the project would bring — one major issue that kept coming up was curbside parking.

A town hall to discuss the proposal was requested by residents the last week in October; the informational/feedback-only meeting was set the first week in December; no action was taken.

The proposal, though it had several elements of improvements in mind — such as pedestrian lighting and a street design aimed at slowing traffic — appeared to get most of its opposition from the suggested bike lanes, because they could replace the area along the edge of the street many homeowners now use as parking.

Of the complaints and support, those sounding off were not just those who would be directly affected — about half of the speakers had Broadway residences and half did not.

The town hall hosted a full gallery and 17 residents addressed city leaders, whether it was to voice concerns, ask questions or extend kudos.

Afterward, the Commission offered its take on the push for premiere treatment of one of the city's oldest historic roadways.

By the close of the December meeting there was a distinct divide among speakers, even among city leaders — between those pushing for progress in the name of health, safety and economic development, and those dedicated to keeping their street and their lifestyles as they enjoy them now.

Project supporters were excited about the safety issues that could be addressed, as well as showcasing the street in an enticing manner common with other thriving cities.

The clear concern of the opposition was the potential end to the homeowners' ability to park on the street.

Family get-togethers, holidays and truck deliveries were cited as situations that would cause major inconveniences if street parking was taken away and — more importantly — lengthy walks from the car being forced on the elderly or infirm.

Still other speakers were torn; while they said they approved of or appreciated the proposal's intent, they did not relish imposing a hardship on their fellow residents.

The Blue Zones Project has been a driving force for approval of bike lanes on Broadway.

One of the objectives of Blue Zones Project is to put policies in place that support active transportation and focus on moving people — not exclusively cars.

One strategy to improve the opportunity for the community to utilize active transportation, such as bicycling, is to add bike lanes.

Background

In the Fall, after green, “Insert Bike Lane Here” signs began adorning lawns along Broadway, gradually more yellow “Save My Street Parking” signs popped up in opposition to the proposed project.

A few of the Broadway residents against bike lanes voiced their concerns to commissioners and requested a meeting with everyone who would be impacted by the plan.

Talk of the possibility of bicycle lanes along Broadway Street have been in the works for more than two years.

Several workshops discussing comprehensive plans for Shawnee's future have been focused around what potential there is for special treatment along Broadway, such as mini-circles, medians and/or bike lanes.

In past workshops led by RDG Planning and Design, Broadway was brought up as an easy example for creating design changes with minimal cost attached.

Adding bike lanes was just one of the ideas introduced.

Since Broadway, one of the oldest and most well-traveled streets in town, is wider than most — boasting a width of 40 feet across — certain amenities could be added or adjusted with minimal cost and/or disruption of the street, as it is now. Narrower streets would have to be widened to make adequate room for bike lanes. Other ideas were also brainstormed at the workshops, such as putting a median down the center of Broadway (to slow traffic by narrowing the street), but could potentially feature parking spaces.

Nothing was determined or chosen as a specific plan moving forward, all the suggestions were just that — suggestions.

Shawnee Planning Director Rebecca Blaine said the City of Shawnee was pursuing a beautification project on Broadway that could potentially include bike lanes.

She said the idea's focus followed in partnership with the Blue Zones Project and Avedis Foundation goals.