Do we need a special biking lane?
I have to admit that I become befuddled sometimes.
“Befuddled” is an old guy term for “confused.”
And, at Monday night’s Blue Earth City Council meeting, I definitely was a little befuddled.
The council held a public hearing for their proposed four street projects for this summer one block each of Third Street, 11th Street, 12th Street and all of Highland Drive.
They moved the meeting to the Public Safety Building because they expected a large turnout of citizens.
They were right. The meeting room was packed and had some folks standing in the doorway.
City Engineer Wes Brown and City Administrator Kathy Bailey did a lot of explaining on both the scope of the projects and how the work will be paid for. That part includes assessing some of the project costs to the local property owners.
While not many persons at the meeting expressed being upset with the assessments, there were plenty of other concerns and issues that were voiced.
Many were very real concerns. Tearing up all the boulevards, removing good sidewalks and driveway aprons, taking out trees, dust control, watering the replaced sod, having access to one’s property during the construction period were all brought up.
On Highland Drive, access will be a real concern, as it is not a through street and ends in a cul de sac.
But, city engineer Brown says the contract will call for the contractor to keep access open during the construction period. Although he did admit it will be difficult at times.
The befuddlement came when the discussion continued on for a long period of time about the type of construction for Highland Drive.
It became apparent that some residents on the street wanted to not have curb and gutter and wanted the street to resemble a country road, not a city street.
They say they moved there because of the country atmosphere and they love living there because of it.
That is hard to disagree with. It is a beautiful area, a very pretty neighborhood, and a much desirable place to live.
It is also inside the city limits of Blue Earth. And there lies the rub.
Because it is a city street, the City Council is treating it like any other street inside the city.
When it is being reconstructed it is getting necessary underground utilities replaced, and the new street surface will include curb and gutter. Much like any other street in the city.
While I?can see the residents’ desire to keep that country look, I guess I feel that curb and gutter is just going to add a finished look and will be an improvement to the overall look of the neighborhood not a detriment.
Obviously many of the folks who live out there disagree. But at least one of them spoke up at the meeting and said he had been wanting curb and gutter for all of the 20 years he had been living there.
He was tired of the storm water washing into his yard along with the gravel and pieces of pavement that came with it.
But my real befuddlement came when some of the residents were dead-set against a sidewalk or a walking/biking trail. Why?
I can understand the sidewalk thing sort of. That would probably spoil the look of being in the country especially if a sidewalk had never been there before. Besides, the residents would be saddled with snow removal like the rest of us city dwellers.
But, the concern was unfounded because the council had already decided to do away with the sidewalk/trail and just have a walking/biking lane designated on the street surface itself.
However, some residents spoke against having such a thing, saying they could walk or bike on the street without a painted designated lane.
One even said the residents preferred to walk down the middle of the street.
My befuddlement arose over why a walking/biking lane would be a bad thing. It wasn’t going to cost the residents any additional cost, and if no one wanted to use it, just ignore it.
Or still use the middle of the road if they preferred.
A group concerned with walkability and bikeability is working toward getting designated biking lanes around and through the city of Blue Earth. A lane on Highland Drive would be a part of that system.
But, the City Council agreed to do away with the special lane, despite the fact that the street will remain wide enough to have one.
Seems like a shame.