Winona City Council member Paul Schollmeier (left) argued for the creation of bike lanes on Huff Street while council member Pam Eyden and city manager Steve Sarvi listened.
The council approved the proposal, which requires eliminating on-street parking on Huff Street.
by CHRIS ROGERS
After a split vote, the Winona City Council approved a plan to create bicycle lanes and eliminate on-street parking on Huff Street.
The changes on Huff Street were approved as part of a bigger proposal that will also add bike lanes on Fifth Street in central Winona and paint share-the-road symbols on Seventh Street, Gilmore Avenue, Clarks Lane, and Lake Boulevard. The new bike lanes will be the first dedicated bike lanes on city-controlled streets in Winona, joining the existing bike lanes on state-controlled Main Street/Highway 43.
Among council members, proposed bike lanes on Huff Street were controversial because they require eliminating on-street parking on Huff Street where parking is scarce near campus. Huff Street is so narrow there is not room for two vehicular travel lanes, parking lanes, and bike lanes.
“I think there’s a real fear of loss of business if this goes through,” City Council member Al Thurley said, echoing the concerns some Huff Street business owners expressed about losing parking.
Huff Street is an important bicycle route for transportation and recreation, City Council member Paul Schollmeier said. “I really think we have two jewels in our system now. We have the levee and we have the Bluff Traverse system,” Schollmeier stated, referring to Levee Park and a big, yet-to-be-funded expansion of the city’s bluff trails. “And linking those is instrumental in enhancing their impact on outdoor recreation in our area, not just transportation in our community.”
Thurley and council member George Borzyskowski cast the only votes for a failed motion to preserve on-street parking on the west side of Huff Street. Their motion would have approved the bicycle striping project except for the southbound bike lane on the west side of Huff Street.
“I’m for everything but Huff Street,” Borzyskowski said.
“I’d really like to see the bike project, the striping be successful, but I don’t want to do it at the cost of the existing businesses that are there and serve the community by their presence,” Thurley stated.
Thurley and Borzyskowski did not specify how retaining on-street parking would mesh with the bike lane proposal. However, Thurley suggested, “Maybe there’s another route besides Huff Street that could be used for bicycle traffic.” City staff had also presented an alternative option that would create a dedicated bike lane on the east side of Huff Street, preserve a parking lane on the opposite side, and add “sharrows” directing southbound bicycles and vehicles to share the travel lane on the west side.
Assistant City Planner Luke Sims defended his proposal, saying that there was adequate parking for Huff Street businesses on side streets and citing data from a publicly-shared GPS app used by cyclists and runners that indicates Huff Street is a major route for bicyclists.
There should not be parking on Huff Street to begin with — at least not at King and Howard streets where the parking lanes are so narrow parked cars stick out into the travel lane, City Council member Michelle Alexander said. “Put the bike path on another road, that’s fine with me … but the parking on that two-block interval is just not safe.”
City Council member Pam Eyden agreed: The city should get rid of parking on Huff Street anyway. Cars park so close to the intersections that it makes it hard for students and other pedestrians to be seen by motorists when entering the crosswalk, Eyden explained. “I think it’s far too narrow for parking,” she stated.
Council member Eileen Moeller said she supported the bike lane proposal while remaining “wary” about the accessibility of businesses in the area. “I think that part of making our community more friendly to alternative modes of transportation also means taking into account people who have challenges in navigating the city. We’ve had conversations before about curbs and some of our sidewalks and getting through crosswalks for people with walkers and wheelchairs and things like that. So I hope that we’ll be really diligent about that and consider our community members who are more mobility challenged. I don’t want to make it more difficult for them to access businesses or services or church or anything like that,” she said.
Moeller, Eyden, Schollmeier, and Alexander voted to defeat Thurley and Borzyskowski’s motion. After Thurley and Borzyskowski’s bid to retain parking on Huff Street was defeated, they joined the rest of the council in voting for the original proposal.
The changes on Huff Street will not happen immediately. The City Council needs to pass an ordinance change to officially eliminate parking.
Also on Monday night, the City Council approved changes to the zoning code that will allow new apartment developers to provided covered bicycle parking instead of the normally required off-street vehicular parking. That change could potentially allow buildings with up to four apartment units to provide zero vehicular parking spaces.
The City Council also approved new rules for homeless shelters. Eyden cast the lone dissenting vote against those rules, saying the rules went too far by prohibiting new homeless shelters in residential districts.