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Madison traffic lanes to close to help cyclists and pedestrians keep social distance

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison city officials plan to close traffic lanes on certain streets to alleviate crowding on city paths and give bicyclists and pedestrians more room to socially distance.

The city's Traffic Commission Wednesday discussed the parameters of the closures.

Robbie Webber of the advocacy group Madison Bike says bicycle volume on city paths was high before the pandemic. People are now seeking an exercise outlet in the face of significant restrictions in an effort to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.

"You throw in the need to stay six feet or more apart and you have a real problem," Webber says.

Bicyclist Tom Bush says with schools closed and people working from home, lower volume on the paths is rare. "Especially on week days, you'll find so many people out," he says.

"We have people going to the hospitals, to grocery stores, all sorts of essential businesses...we have delivery drivers, so there are still people who are using the paths for walking and biking for those essential services," Madison Bicycle Coordinator Renee Callaway says.

Callaway says planned lane closures are limited at this point, with some lane conversions to facilitate extending popular bicycle routes such as the Lake Loop. She says barrels or barricades will separate lanes, with bicyclists receiving direction to the new access. Callaway says for motorists encountering the modified roads, it will feel familiar. "Sort of as if it was a construction project," Callaway says.

Callaway says closing a lane on John Nolen Drive is being considered. "We have been looking at the more concrete barriers there," she tells 27 News.

Webber says with vehicle traffic significantly down with work-at-home and rising unemployment, more bicycle access is welcome. "We want it comfortable for families," Webber says. "We want it comfortable for people who have just hauled out the bike from the garage after fifteen or twenty years."

"I think it's a great idea," Bush says.

Callaway says the motoring public is curious about planned lane closures.

"I've heard a little bit from motorists, concerned about what that means for them," Callaway says.

Callaway says lane conversions are select and should not significantly impact drivers.

She identifies portions of these streets for lane closure:

  • Atwood Avenue
  • Clyde Gallagher Avenue
  • East Miflin Street
  • Monterey Drive
  • Sherman Avenue
  • South Shore Drive
  • Trailsway Street
  • Vilas Park Drive

Callaway says no timetable has been established for the duration of the lane closures. She says the value of the initiative will be assessed.

Some medical experts say even people on bicycles are vulnerable to spread of the coronavirus. Bush says crowded paths concern him, but not the distance between him and other cyclists.

"I think the proximity, if you go fast enough won't make a difference."

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Tony Galli

Reporter, WKOW

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