Monday, March 17, 2014

What you may not know: Week of March 17

The Appleton Common Council will hold its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday night at 7 pm, and it could be an interesting night with the following items on the agenda:

Bike lanes

Last Tuesday the Municipal Services committee voted 4-1 to approve a plan calling for bike lanes to be installed on Fremont Street from Oneida Street to Telulah Avenue, which combined with a "bike route" east of Telulah would form a pretty significant east-west passage in the city's developing bike lane network.

As has typically been the case, installation of bike lanes has been a hot topic because it requires the removal of some on-street parking in front of homes on this route. The committee heard from residents of this street and others for multiple hours last Tuesday, and may of the concerns expressed will sound familiar to anyone who followed last spring's debate on bike lanes on Mason Street.

If you haven't been following the debate, here are some frequently asked questions about bike lanes:

  • Do they really make a difference? Adding a stripe of paint to concrete may not seem to add a lot of safety for bicyclists, but statistics show it does. Raising driver awareness of the possibility that a bicycle may be nearby has a significant impact on driver behavior.
  • Why do bike lanes have to be installed on busy streets/my street? Major streets are often the best place for bicycles to operate because they have controlled intersections when they cross other busy streets. Take the intersection of Fremont and Lawe Streets, for example. It's a four-way stop. It's much safer for a bicycle to cross Lawe Street there than it would be if the bike route was a block north on Harrison Street or a block south on Maple Street.
  • I don't see anyone riding a bicycle on this street now, so why do we need bike lanes? The bike lane plan isn't just an accommodation for current bicyclists, it's also an effort to make potential bicyclists feel more confident using our streets. Bicyclists may not feel safe using busy streets now, but by adding infrastructure the hope is that we can open the door for more people who may be interested to start taking opportunities to bike.
  • What's the difference between a "bike lane" and a "bike route?" Bike lanes are an actual stripe on the pavement marking an established space for bicycles to use. A bike route is a street that has been identified as a street for bicyclists to use, but has not been striped. Bike routes are ideal for streets with lower traffic, but don't add much for safety on a higher-traffic street. In this case the Fremont bike lane will become an unstriped bike route east of Telulah Avenue, where traffic on Fremont becomes much less.
Fox River House

On Wednesday morning the city's Board of Health will meet in special session to consider a noise variance request for the Fox River House, a bar located near downtown on S. Walnut Street. At least one neighbor has complained about the volume of noise produced when FRH has live bands outside on their patio.

As a result of the complaints, Fox River House has requested a variance from the city's noise ordinance allowing them to have outdoor music on the following dates:
  • Friday and Saturday nights from 7-11 pm from May 23-September 6.
  • Wednesday nights from 7-10 pm during the same timeframe.
  • Saturday, May 17, Thursday, August 7, Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27.
Since this issue came to light members of the council have received well over 100 emails from neighbors and customers in support of this noise variance. It's clear that FRH is offering a service that brings people to our downtown. Over the same period I've seen two emails from neighbors with concerns. I'm sure we'll hear more about this topic at Wednesday morning's meeting and again Wednesday night.

Compensation adjustments in the Utilities Department

Last week I wrote about an effort to respond to a salary issue in the utilities department which has led to the departure of several long time city employees. The matter appeared before both the Human Resources and Finance committees last week and both agreed to an adjustment that brings around 20 employees at the Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants back into a competitive pay scale. This comes at a cost, of course, but I think most involved are in agreement that the cost of losing these employees, their experience and expertise would be much greater.

You can see agendas for all of this week's meetings and the full schedule at the city's Legistar page.

Keeping you informed on issues that may impact you around the city is one of my primary goals as an alderman. Making the council's activity as accessible as possible to as many people as are interested is part of my goal to make it easier for more people to get involved with issues that matter to them.

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