Moving Toward a new Washington Street

We’ve been working on something pretty exciting for quite a while now: we want to add bike lanes to Washington Street and make it safer and more comfortable for everyone. The first neighborhood that could see some changes is Founders Grove – specifically, the stretch from Kreitzer to Regency could get bike lanes as soon as this summer. Read on for more information.

Our current proposal for Washington Street from Kreitzer to Mercer, which includes an eastbound buffered bike lane on the south side of the street and a parking lane on the north side, which – because of low parking occupancy rates – can serve as a de facto bike lane.

Background

On October 14, 2013, the Bloomington City Council voted unanimously to enter into a contract with the League of Illinois Bicyclists (LIB, now known as Ride Illinois) to develop a citywide Bike Master Plan. As part of the planning process, LIB held a public meeting in the Osborn Room at the Bloomington Police Department on March 18, 2014. Roughly 100 people attended that public meeting. Participants were given maps of the City and asked to mark the streets where they felt bike accommodations were needed. Washington Street received markings as follows:

  • Nord to I-55: 6 markings
  • Brown to Oak: 17 markings
  • Oak to Center: 20 markings
  • Center to Clayton: 21 markings
  • Clayton to Towanda: 24 markings
  • Towanda to Mercer: 25 markings
  • Mercer to St. Joseph’s: 23 markings
  • St. Joseph’s to Hershey: 13 markings

The only street to receive more markings was Lincoln, which — unlike Washington — did end up with recommendations in the adopted Bike Master Plan.

City staff cited several reasons as rationale for not including most of Washington Street in the final plan. The primary consideration from staff was that, as an arterial road, they weren’t comfortable narrowing lane widths or removing through vehicle lanes to accommodate bikes. Other rationale stated at various times included its use as a primary corridor for emergency vehicles, their desire for it to eventually become a four-lane segment through the Founders Grove neighborhood, and its traffic volume.

In October 2015, Bike BloNo held a meeting for cyclists to prioritize projects from the Bike Master Plan. The 30 attendees split into five groups to brainstorm ideas; four of those five groups independently ranked Washington Street as a primary recommendation, despite the instructions to focus on streets in the Bike Master Plan.

With that in mind, Bike BloNo representatives attended the Founders Grove Neighborhood Association meeting at Centennial Christian Church on March 3, 2016, to discuss the concept of bike lanes on Washington Street through their neighborhood. Neighbors in attendance indicated an interest in further discussion in a more focused meeting, so Bike BloNo worked with FGNA leaders to organize a public meeting at Washington Elementary School on April 21, 2016. You can read more about that meeting here if you’re interested, but the gist is that residents wanted to keep parking on the north side of Washington but otherwise liked the idea of bike lanes through their neighborhood.

Bike BloNo then began meeting with Bloomington Public Works to talk about how this project might move forward. Over the course of the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017, we drafted a proposal with city staff and brought it to the City Council on April 24, 2017. The Council voted overwhelmingly to move into a public input phase and see how the rest of the community feels about the idea.

It’s worth noting that everything we proposed on April 24th is still open to change as part of the public input process. If there’s no community support for bike lanes, we won’t move forward. If there’s general support, but a few tweaks have to be made, tweaks can be made. But if you’re interested in seeing the details of what we proposed at that meeting, you can read more – and see some cross-sections – here.

What’s next?

During the month of May (specific dates TBD based on some logistical constraints), we’ll do some temporary “pop-up” bike lanes on Washington, from Kreitzer to Mercer. This will basically just mean that we’ll go out with Public Works in the middle of the night and, armed with boatloads of spray chalk, we’ll add some lane markings. The markings will probably last about a week (depending on weather), during which time we’ll encourage members of the public to go out and experience how the street would feel under this new configuration. Ride your bike, drive a car, take a bus, and cross the street on foot – it’s our hope that, regardless of the modes of transportation you use, you’ll have a better experience with the new bike lanes than you did without.

After the pop-up lanes are gone, we’ll hold a series of public input sessions with Public Works to gather feedback on the proposal from neighbors and the general public. We’ll announce those dates once they’re set. Rest assured that we’ll take the feedback provided at these input sessions to heart; if people bring to the table good new ideas, we’ll absolutely listen to those ideas and try to incorporate them into the proposal. If people are overwhelmingly opposed to the plan, we’ll scrap it. But we think – based on all of the input we’ve received so far – that this plan could be positively transformative for the neighborhoods it passes through and the community as a whole, and we hope you all agree with us.

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to send them to michael@bikeblono.org.