BATAVIA – Mayor Jeff Schielke is asking the Batavia City Council to reconsider its plans for bicycle lanes on both sides of South Prairie Street.
Citing safety concerns and the loss of on-street parking, the mayor told aldermen at a recent council meeting that he has conferred with the Illinois Department of Transportation and believes the design plans can be altered.
South Prairie Street extends six blocks from East Wilson Street south to Pine Street. Next year the thoroughfare will be completely reconstructed from a point just south of the BNSF Railroad crossing all the way to Pine.
When the $2.45 million project is complete, the roadway width will remain the same but the surface restriped to create four-foot-wide bicycle lanes on either side of the two motor vehicle lanes, which will measure 10 feet in width.
To accomplish this, the on-street parking currently permitted on the west side of the roadway is to be eliminated.
“I’m not overly impressed at all with the design of South Prairie Street with these two readily available bike lanes,” Schielke told aldermen.
“We’re going to get somebody seriously hurt or killed down there the way people drive down that street on bicycles,” the mayor said.
Schielke said he recently witnessed an incident in which a motorist was forced to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a bicyclist traveling on South Prairie who ignored the stop sign at the intersection with Laurel Street.
“He went right into the path of this car…this guy just kept right on going. I’ve seen this before,” Schielke said.
“There’s different ways that street can be designed, and we can have bicycles on it. My personal opinion is I think you’re making a big mistake if you let that thing become an open bike lane on both sides of that street.”
Schielke said he would prefer a shared lane for parking and bicycles on one side of the street, similar to the design that will be implemented with the reconstruction of Main Street from Water Street to South Van Nortwick Avenue this year.
The mayor said the loss of on-street parking is an issue the council ought to consider.
“There’s a bunch of folks at the end of South Prairie Street that are very dismayed about all the parking coming off,” Schielke said.
One of the arguments from the residents, Schielke said, is that the designated lanes are not likely to be used much for four months out of the year, when the on-street parking is useful for holiday season party guests.
Schielke told aldermen he will forward to them information from IDOT about alternative street design strategies.
“You can do with this what you want, but you know where I stand on this thing,” Schielke said.
Aldermen do not appear to be inclined to change their policy decision.
“I think we have embarked on a path to make Batavia more bicycle-friendly and we should move forward,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Alan Wolff, who soon will become chairman of the council’s committee of the whole.
Abby Beck, who next month will be sworn in as the new alderman for the 5th Ward, where South Prairie Street is located, said she supports the plan for the two bike lanes.
“I’d like to see the project move ahead as designed,” Beck said.
The design for the two bicycle lanes on South Prairie also is supported by the Batavia Bicycle Commission, a group appointed by the mayor to promote ridership and bike safety in the community.
Members of the commission said the South Prairie lanes will provide a critical link from the downtown to outlying neighborhoods and for the community’s bike route system.
Bicycle commission member Steve Ericksen is working on a series of informational videos promoting bike safety to be shown on Batavia Access Television and the city of Batavia website.