PLANNING COMMISSION WORK SESSION

TUESDAY, AUGUST 30, 2011

COUNCIL CHAMBERS, CITY HALL

CITY HALL; 333 W. ELLSWORTH STREET;

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN

 

Present:    McLaughlin, Mead, Senesac, Stewart, Tanzini and Young

Absent:     Hanna and Pnacek

Vacancy:  One

Staff:      Keith Baker, Planning Director, Debbie Marquardt, Technical Secretary and 19 others

 

1.      Welcome and Introduction of the topics

 

Dr. Mead explained the process of the work session and how they will discuss the Swede Avenue bike path. 

 

Mr. Baker had a presentation in regards to the Swede Avenue bike path.  In 2009 the Planning Commission completed and adopted a non-motorized transportation plan.  As part of this plan, a system of bike routes, lanes and paths have been designated and mapped on the city streets to assist in and encourage safe bicycling within the community.  The milestones to date have included:

o   Local Advocacy Groups 2006

o   Master Plan Provisions 2007

o   Planning Commission Study 2008

o   Local Events 2009

o   Non-Motorized Transportation Plan 2009

o   Complete Streets Policy Adoption 2010

o   NMT fund created at Midland Area Community Foundation 2011

 

Non-motorized improvements include sidewalks, bike lanes, paths, street crossings and accommodations for electric mobility devices.

 

The Non-Motorized Transportation Plan Map shows different colors representing different types of corridors. 

 

Accomplishments to date:

o   League of American Bicyclists workshop

o   Bicycle Friendly Community designation

o   Bike rack survey & ordinance amendment

o   Complete Streets policy resolution

o   Bike/Ped surveys

o   Ashman & Rodd

o   Downtown Loop

o   At Your Service newsletter and article

o   MACF Fund

o   Fundraising

NMT/Complete Streets is an attempting to implement a process to ensure that roadways are designed and operated to enable safe access along and across a street for all users.

 

Why a bike lane on Swede?  Swede Avenue physical characteristics are that it is 36 feet in width, it has two lanes, has parking currently allowed on both sides, speed limit greater than 25 mph but less than 35 mph, approximately 8,000 vehicle trips per day, direct route between Wackerly Street and E Patrick Road.

 

2.   NMT Committee Input

 

Ken Andrews, NMT (committee), he would like to address the Swede proposal in more detail.  For the past two years Midland City Council has enthusiastically supported increasing the momentum for Midland to become a more bicycle and walk friendly community.  The NMT take their responsibilities very seriously.  They found the cyclists are an integral part of a NMT transportation plan.  Bike use is expanding dramatically.  They already have a number of partnerships established.  Not everyone has a car and they deserve a way to get around town too.  If they don’t’ make it safe and convenient for people to travel on foot or bicycle, how can we ever expect them to get out of their cars.  Midland has a long history of leadership.  They would like to continue by adopting a sound solution for Swede Avenue and that is an effective city wide bike/walk friendly environment.

 

Dave Waite, 6013 Emerson and Kerry Irons, 4501 Cruz Drive, there are certain consequences if they receive a no vote.  They would have to revise the transportation plan.  They would not be able to maintain their honorable mention status.  22 Swede Avenue residents would effectively block bike lane implementation.  This is compared to 257 “supportive voices” from respondents/petitioners from all over Midland.  75% of non-Swede Avenue residents support bike lanes with restricted parking.  They may lose donations from those supporting completing the NMT Plan.

 

The bike lanes are for the “type B” rider (average rider, limited experience/skill, adult).  They would do some commuting with limited experience.

 

Justification for the Swede Avenue Bike Lane recommendation.  All bicycle friendly communities have bike lanes as part of their network.  Design standards support the recommended design.  Drivers are used to lanes and so bike lanes fit that model for both drivers and cyclists.  They consider all options and the recommended design is the best balanced choice for the route usage, safety and cost.  Every commuting cyclist using Swede Avenue bike lanes would mean one less car on Swede Avenue. 

 

Issues raised and answers.

 

Kerry Irons, issues raised:

 

Different parking restrictions north/south depending on the time of day.  If there is parking on one side of the street, it will force traffic over the center line.

 

Install bike lanes without parking restrictions and see how it works.  There is no clear way to assess how it works.  

 

Seasonal restrictions on parking.  Bike lane usage will decline significantly during winter months but so will parking demand.

 

Let residents police themselves or install “please don’t park in bike lane” signs.  Where else do we allow residents to self-police or do they wish to self-police?

 

Justifiable parking by general permit application.  Very difficult to determine adequate justification for obtaining a permit.

 

Improved cyclist skills and respect for rules of the road would be better and lower cost solution.

Research shows that increased number of cyclists improves safety for all road users as they learn to accommodate each other.

 

Outsiders are making demands on Swede Avenue residents.  The streets are part of the public common area, and all users have a claim on this resource.

 

Mr. Senesac asked about Davis, California and how their car bike accidents went down.  Mr. Irons stated that the more bikes on the street the more they learn to interact with cars. 

 

Mr. Senesac is concerned with high volume of traffic on a narrow street.  Are there any other high volume streets?  This street is a low volume street compared to bigger streets. 

 

3.   Options Discussion

 

Mr. McManus and Mr. Dearing – Mr. McManus showed a chart regarding the volume, width of the street and parking restrictions.  Swede Avenue from Patrick Road to Wackerly Street has a daily traffic volume of 8,000 cars and a 36’ wide street.  Parking generally allowed except in the intersections.

 

Sugnet Road from Saginaw Road to Swede Avenue has a daily traffic volume of 3,000 cars and a 36’ wide street except 32’ wide between Saginaw Road and Eastman Avenue.  There are restrictions in the school zones and near some intersections.

 

Eastlawn Drive from Abbott Road to Jefferson Avenue has a daily traffic volume of 5,000 cars a day in the Midland High Area and a 36’ wide street and has restrictions at ball diamonds, Midland High area with center turn lane and near some intersections.

 

Orchard Drive has a traffic volume of 5,600 cars a day and a 36’ wide street and parking is allowed in that area.

 

Mr. Dearing, traffic consultant, they pulled crash data for three years from 2008, 2009 and 2010 basically January 1 through December 31.  Swede Avenue had the most crashes, at 69 crashes.  Most of the crashes occurred when the pavement was dry.  The time of day was during the peak hours of crashes which were 7 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon.  There was only one crash involving a bicyclist.  The bicyclist was on the side walk and entered the roadway in front of the car.  Most of the crashes occurred at intersections.

 

On Sugnet Road in the same three year period there were 47 crashes.  The bicyclist crash showed up in the Sugnet Road data but it is the same crash.  The crashes were on dry pavement and were daytime crashes.  Daylight hours and noon time was peak with some of the crashes.  The crashes were mostly at intersections and nothing really unusual about the crash statistics. 

 

Eastlawn Drive had a few crashes, which totaled 60 and 3 were involving bicyclists.  Two of them occurred at intersections.  One of the two that was at an intersection and the bicyclists was on the road and coming across the sidewalk and ran a red light and hit a vehicle.  The same intersection the car had stopped for the red light and was blocking the pedestrian walk. The bicyclist was walking across the street and when the bike was in front of the vehicle and then the vehicle turned right on red.  Along Eastlawn Drive away from the intersection and the bicyclists was attempting to cross the road and the approaching vehicle was unable to stop to avoid colliding with the bicyclists.

 

Orchard Drive had far fewer crashes. It had only 15 in that period of time and there were no crashes involving bicyclists.  The total was 190 crashes in 3 years and 4 involving bicyclists.

 

Mr. Mead stated that most crashes occurred at intersections.  Mr. Senesac asked if the number of bike accidents were average.  Mr. Dearing doesn’t have a study on bicycle crashes.  He doesn’t think it is an unusually high number of crashes.  Are there concentrations of crashes involving bicyclists?  No.  

 

Mr. McManus showed the typical city street, which is 36’ wide.  They stripe the road for two lanes.  A higher volume they would divide it into three lanes instead of two with 11’ lanes.  Then when you need a left turn lane on a 36’ street you have to bump out for the left turn lane.  In general you can see how there is not a one size fits all. 

 

There are generally four options.

 

Sharrows, share the road with bikes and cars with lane parking permitted.  No perceived change for drivers. 

 

Bike lane with no parking allowed.  They feel that is the safest option and that would be the option recommended by the state police, city attorney, MDOT and local traffic engineer.

 

Bike lane with no parking and widening the intersection.  It is very expensive to widen out the intersection to allow that lane to go through. 

 

Bike lane with parking permitted.  Local residents approve.  Least safe option.

 

Do nothing, it is legal to ride your bike out there now but it doesn’t promote the NMT preferred bike route.

 

4.   Public Input

 

Charles Vaughn, representing the Christian Celebration Center Church, which is located on the northern part of Swede Avenue.  If parking was not allowed, it would impact certain events during the year.  They have a large parking lot but there are times when it is full.  During Christmas they have performance where they do pack their parking lot.  They have seasonal concerns and what would it do to pedestrian safety?  These are some of their concerns. 

 

Kent Southworth, 3409 Swede Avenue, he is aware of the bicycle accident.  There are 7 major intersections where there is a left turn lane.  The number of bike accidents shows that they are watching what they are doing.

 

George Yost, 5533 Swede, he heard of one accident in three years.  It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.  At Swede Avenue and Wheeler Street you will notice bicyclists coming up to the stop light and going around the red light.  If they would have started over on Orchard Drive and made that permanent no parking, they would have said no street parking on any streets in town the people would have changed their mind.  Stopping garage sales with no street parking would make many women unhappy. 

 

Josh Stevens, 5320 Siebert Street, he rides to work every day.  He is opposed to the bike lane on Swede Avenue because of the safety.  Riding on the road is safer than riding on the sidewalk.  It adds a layer of rules and confusion if there is limited parking.  Residents don’t like it and bicyclists don’t like it and to do it right they would have to have the bike lanes at all times.  He can go around cars if they are parked there. 

 

Dennis Wolf, 2813 Swede, now that he has been at the meeting he is against the bike lane.  The accidents happen at the intersection and there won’t be a bike lane there.  There is a lot of Dow traffic and most people riding bikes know that.  Making a bike lane won’t solve the safety problem.

 

Larry Hert, 3400 Swede Avenue, they are not in favor of the bike lane.  He would like to raise the safety issue at the intersection.  The traffic studies need to be extended into the fall.  With the school consolidation they might have more traffic in that area.  There are safety issues.  The traffic builds up in the mornings.  The traffic has increased in the turning lanes.  If there were lanes put in, leaves would build up and narrow the street.  Consider looking at the intersection of Swede Avenue and Sugnet Road with some kind of warning system that might help.

 

John Geminder, 2215 Hillgrove Parkway, he has lived there 33 years and is just off of Swede Avenue.  This NMT plan with the bike lane is like putting the cart before the horse.  They are trying to encourage the type B cyclists to get out where the type A is operating safely.  They should increase the number of type A riders with education and if bike lanes are necessary look at those.  Unsafe is unfriendly.  You would say sidewalk riding is less safe than out on the road because the people on the sidewalk are very confident.  The ones in the road are usually more confident on their bikes.  The roads are safe because they operate with one set of rules with bike lanes there will be another set of rules.  If there is a bike lane there shouldn’t be any parking and it should be a full time bike lane.  Midland is already bicycle friendly.  Where the section that is 35 mph should be lowered to 30 mph to make it bike friendly. 

 

Dan Dickerson, 5209 Swede Avenue, appreciates the planning commission working hard to get it right.  Now communities are doing more listening to their people.  He supports the bike lanes and he opposes the restricted parking.  There is not a need.  There is a balance of quality of life.  They are sensitive to the needs of the community.  The statistics show they are currently safely going around the parked car.  If you have bike lanes, should have markings.  Other communities have reached a balance of resident’s needs and bike safety and listen to the people.

 

Mike Stein, 5600 Swede Avenue, he thinks there should be bike lanes and make people aware of what is going on.  This is about Midland Michigan.  There is no need to have restrictive parking.  They did a survey and safety doesn’t seem to be an issue.  If there is a lane, be careful of bicyclists.  The safety issues they are concerned about don’t exist.

 

Mr. Waite, showed how to treat the transition between the bike lane and the intersections.  When you come out of the bike lane, there will be a shared line marking and then transition the bicycles to go straight or turn left.  If you are going straight, you would then see the shared lane marking and start to shift the bike lane traffic over to the bike lane. 

 

5.   Planning Discussion of Options

 

Dr. Mead stated that they have discussed this a number of times.  What parts are you pleased with or are you struggling with?  Mr. Young looking at the pictures stated that the sharrows help drivers know that there will be bikes and cars together. 

 

Mr. Stewart thinks that the bike lanes may encourage people to get out there.  He appreciates that to get all the education first is probably impractical.  Without the education you have a higher safety issue.  The sharrows do give a much better vision.  He appreciates the comments about the parking on Swede Avenue and being restricted year round.  A compromise situation is probably workable.

 

Mr. McLaughlin is concerned about the parking being removed for a bike lane.  He is a biker and puts himself in the A category.  On the other hand it will give people more confidence to get on that street and ride it.  If you look at the restricted parking in the mornings and evenings, there may be a safety concern and the bikers will have to work their way through the parked cars.  Is there really a problem?  It is an important quality of life issue and they do something for Midland that serves the property owners on Swede Avenue.  They live on a busy street and should not have to have their parking removed.  Maybe they can regulate the parking restrictions.  One person made a comment if we are going to do it, do it right and that includes a five foot bike path on both sides of the street with limitation of parking.  There is a little bit of room for compromise but not sacrifice safety.

 

Mr. Tanzini agrees with Lowell.  He thinks bike lanes are good for the community.  Restricted parking is a safety issue.  The bike lane and the sharrows will increase awareness in the seven intersections.  He is unsure about parking.  What percentage of Swede Avenue does allow parking?

 

Mr. Senesac looks at the two one way streets and the bike lanes there works great.  It would be great to have more bike lanes around the city.  When you look at Swede Avenue he is concerned about the safety aspect.  Nobody parks there because somebody might hit your car.  A bike lane with restricted parking is not recommended.  Bike lanes say to people get out here and ride your bikes and this is a bike path and bike riders that aren’t proficient could really have some problems.

 

Dr. Mead classed himself as a "type A" bike rider and he rides his bike a lot.  He thinks the bike lanes are good.  Where the bike lanes are marked with a line the bikers think there is an entitlement.  Sharrows have both bikes and cars.  You would have a large pavement marking and also a very visible signage. 

 

Adjourn

 

Adjournment at 8:55 p.m. was unanimously approved. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

Keith Baker, AICP, CFM

Director of Planning & Community Development

 

MINUTES ARE NOT FINAL UNTIL APPROVED BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION