by Frances Edstrom, columnist
The city of Winona is planning a million-dollar-plus total remake of Broadway, and people aren’t happy about it.
Apparently, the idea is to take the street from four lanes down to three: two one-way traffic lanes, and a turn lane in the middle. The rationale for the remake is that it will cut down on car-pedestrian accidents, which are already lower, and make more room for bicycles.
From my observations, there aren’t a lot of bicycles on our streets. Most people, especially from November to April, commute by car. Some people commute by bicycle in the nicer months, but the number is not great. There are a very few hardy souls who commute by bicycle in the winter.
Most cyclists, it seems, prefer to use the bike path around Lake Winona, or to bike the many interesting valley roads leading out of Winona.
If the intention of the city is to encourage more people to bike, they have an uphill battle. Making driving around Winona more difficult does not translate into people abandoning the automobile and taking up biking.
The remake of Broadway will definitely make it more difficult to drive in Winona. I also think it will make being a pedestrian trying to cross Broadway more difficult, too.
I have seen the effect of the city’s plan in action, on Maryland Avenue in St. Paul, which is the main artery to get to my daughter’s house there. All the traffic is in one lane, making traffic more congested, causing many cars to miss the green lights, which they would have made if there were two lanes.
This leads to frustrated and angry drivers, which is a hazard to pedestrians and bikers. It also encourages drivers to use side streets, which are lined with parked cars, making it harder to see cars and pedestrians, and bikers (who rarely stop for stop signs).
If the city wants to do something with their millions, they should look into smart technology streetlights, which can sense the approach of pedestrians, and automatically brighten to make it safer for the pedestrian to cross the street. There are other advantages to such lighting, as well.
Of course nothing will prevent bicyclers from breezing through stop signs and red lights, or pedestrians from dressing all in black, and covering their heads with hoods while they use their cellphones as they cross the street.