On May 25 the City Council decided what components are “in” and what components are “not in” the Lacy Rd Reconstruction project. The staff proposal considered by the Council included 10’ traffic lanes, 5’ on-street bike lanes, 7’ terraces, a 10 to 12’ multi-use path on the north side, and grading for a future 5’ sidewalk on the south side.
To reduce the project’s cost and environmental footprint the Council decided (by a 7 to 1) vote to limit the multi-use path to 10’ and delete grading for the sidewalk.
However, the Council also decided to add a 2’ striped buffer strip between the 10’ traffic lanes and the 5’ on-street bike lanes. There are 9 reasons the Council should reconsider this decision at their June 8 Meeting and delete the bike lane buffer strips from this project.
1) There will be 24’ of pavement available for bikes and 20’ for vehicles. Having more pavement for bikes than for vehicles is not prudent or reasonable. Taxpayers simply can’t afford this blueprint to be used as a precedent for all of the upcoming road projects in Fitchburg.
2) The on-street bike lanes are 5’ wide and the adjacent multi-use path is 10’ wide. It’s reasonable to assume that less than 5% of people biking, roller-blading, jogging and walking in this corridor will use the 5’ on-street bike lanes — even if there are 2’ buffer strips — when a 10’ multi-use path is adjacent to the bike lanes. Most people feel much safer using a multi-use path than on-street bike lanes due to concerns about errant vehicles.
3) The “extra” level of protection provided to “experienced” bikers by the buffer strips (estimated cost $50K) is minimal. The buffer strips may actually be counterproductive because the road shoulder will be noticeably wider which will likely lead to more “speeding” and use of it to pass “slow” vehicles.
4) There was no estimate prepared by staff of how many trees would be cut down by including the bike lane buffer strips in this project. There also was no estimate prepared by staff of how much it would cost to plant a similar number of replacement trees, some of them up to 6” in diameter which currently cost $3000 each due to covid issues.
5) The vote to add the bike lane buffer strips to this project was contrary to recommendations made by the: a) Lacy Rd Advisory Group on March 31, b) Transportation & Transition Commission on April 14; c) Board of Public Works on May 17; and d) City staff in memos dated April 17, April 26, and May 25.
6) Fitchburg’s Comprehensive Plan does not mandate that buffer strips be installed when an urban collector street like Lacy Rd is reconstructed as per Policies 3.2.1 thru 3.2.9 on pages 3A-13 and 14. As per Policy 3.2.9, Fitchburg’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan contains guidelines and recommendations to be considered, but they are not required.
In addition, wording on page 47 of the Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan suggests that: a) if the Lacy Rd corridor only had a multi-use path, that would be consistent with the Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan and b) a multi-use path plus buffered bike lanes are not necessary.
7) In the interest of transparency, the Council should have voted on May 25 to delay a vote until June 8 on including the bike lane buffer strips in the project so residents advocating for a reduction in the cost and environmental footprint of this project would have time to prepare a presentation for the June 8 Meeting about why the buffer strips should not be in this project.
8) Proponents of including the bike lane buffer strips in this project have failed to demonstrate that the benefits of doing that outweigh the monetary and environmental costs.
9) Over 100 people have signed a Petition that requests the buffer strips be deleted from this project, along with several other components.
If you agree the Council should vote on June 8 to delete the buffer strips from this project, please consider contacting the Mayor or your Alder, or sending an email to Council members at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue Easterday, Jay Hochmuth, Tom Thoresen and Rita Henricks