Glendale - The crowd of more than 50 people at Glendale City Hall on Monday, Nov. 28, were originally divided on a proposal to replace parking lanes with bike lanes on Bender Road, but after hearing 35 people speak during the public hearing, the room seemed hopeful that a compromise could be reached.
The proposal, which would add a bike lane and remove parking lanes from Green Bay Avenue to Jean Nicolet Road, was proposed by Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy. Kennedy held three listening sessions this summer, and out of those conversations came several requests to make Glendale a more bike-friendly community, he said.
Kennedy chose Bender Road, which he said is the only east-west road in Glendale that does not have a freeway on-ramp or off-ramp. In addition to connecting the east and west sides of Glendale, it would also connect Nicolet High School, Parkway Elementary School and Glen Hills Middle School. It would also provide access to Kletzsch Park and the new Richard Maslowski Community Park on the far west end of Bender Road.
The wide, unmarked lanes on Bender Road cause many drivers to incorrectly assume the road has two lanes. Many drivers speed and pass on the right, despite signs telling them not to. Kennedy said the delineation of bike lanes would cause traffic to slow down, be aware of bicyclists and discourage passing on the right.
Kennedy also reasoned that Bender Road does not have much street parking, but that point was contested by a number of residents who live on the street. One of those residents was Jeanne Wesley, who has a "save street parking" sign in her front yard. She has collected 54 signatures on a petition opposing Kennedy's plan to replace parking lanes with bicycle lanes.
"There is not a lot of street parking on Bender day to day, but there are times (when people park on the street)," she said. "I have a holiday party every year. I'm a senior citizen. My friends are in their 70s. It's 581 feet between the two side streets where my house is located. I have to ask my friends in winter to walk down there and cross the street, and I'm a taxpayer."
Bender Road resident Nancy Herrick was worried the elimination of parking would make it impossible to sell her house.
“I’m paying taxes to live in my house, and we can’t park on our street,” she said. “That’s not right.”
Jim Poehlman said the elimination of parking on Bender Road would affect parking for soccer and lacrosse events at Kletzsch Park.
"Just within the last month, Milwaukee County Parks has eliminated all northbound parking on Milwaukee River Parkway," he said. "That means all the parking that was in the park will now be shifted onto Bender Road. If you eliminate parking on Bender Road, that means all those people will end up parking on my street (Bridgewood Lane)."
On the opposite side of the issue, Glendale resident Mike Spanjar said bicyclists should be given equal consideration as cars, and that bicyclists in Glendale and across the area have no way to connect to the other side of the city.
"If it doesn't happen on Bender, we need an east-west way to ride our bikes because right now there is no safe way to do it," he said. "Good Hope, you'll get killed. Silver Spring, you'll get killed. Bender is the most sensible way that I know of, unless you can come up with a way to make it safe on Silver Spring."
Andrew Mishlove said the needs of the community should not be ignored in favor of Bender Road residents. He supported bike lanes on Bender Road, which were included in the design of the roadway before the sidewalks were installed.
"We are dealing with the needs of an entire community here, and it's been proven beyond a doubt, that being a bicycle-friendly community helps the entire community," he said.
Mike Borst said he was disappointed that Glendale didn't have bike lanes when he moved to the city nine years ago, and he thinks it's important for bicycle safety to create a safe space for children and adults on bicycles.
"It would be great if cars regarded me as the traffic I am whenever I ride my bike; however, that often doesn't happen," he said.
Residents and city officials alike seemed hopeful that a compromise could be reached between bike lanes and parking lanes.
When asked if the road was big enough for both biking and parking lanes, Kennedy said an engineering firm advised the city that the 44-foot-wide road is about 2 feet shy of the required width for two parking lanes and two biking lanes. Furthermore, City Attorney John Fuchs claimed that state statutes prohibited bicycle lanes from coexisting with parking lanes, despite the fact that Humboldt Boulevard, Oakland Avenue and many other streets have sandwiched bike lanes between traffic and parking lanes.
When asked whether parking could be limited to only one side of the street, City Administrator Rachel Reiss said engineer consultants advised against shifting the center line due to the crown or slope of the roadway.
The council did not take any action on the bike lane issue Monday night, and instead voted to refer the issue back to city staff for further research. When Kennedy asked for a show of hands, no Bender Road residents said they would be opposed to limiting parking to one side of the street.
Another issue that both sides could agree on was the issue of speeding and reckless driving on Bender Road. Some residents reported cars passing them in the non-existent right hand lanes at speeds of more than 70 miles per hour.
"I think one of the reasons there is so much speeding on Bender is because it's so wide," Eric Zentner said. "People get on that road and they feel like it's the interstate."
Bender Road resident Peter Roller said the speeding and reckless driving has been happening on his street for the more than 25 years he's lived there. He said his children were afraid to get the mail from the mailbox at the end of the driveway, due to drivers speeding in the shoulder of the road.
"They try to make two lanes out of that road, and when it narrows at the bridge, look out. They're playing chicken," he said. "I'm in favor of clear lines. I think it will help safety for all, and I hope we can explore compromise."