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Marquette City Commision attempts to overrule bike lanes

Tue, Jul  7, 2009 - By Noquemanon Trail Network

The City Commission held a meeting July 1 to consider reversing the Planning Commissions decision to make Wright Street safer by reducing the number of driving lanes from four to two with a center turn lane and adding two bike lanes. The Commission voted against the safer street by a 4-3 vote. Despite the 4-3 vote state law requires a 5-2 vote to reverse the original decision. In other words, if lines were painted on Wright Street today bike lanes would be installed. However….This does not mean that the City Commission will not try to take bike lanes off again. For anyone attending the meeting it was clear that for certain reasons certain City Commissioners do not want Wright Street changed. It is likely that another attempt will be made to take bike lanes off probably at the July 13 meeting to be held at 7:00 p.m. in Commission Chambers.

Please continue to show your support for safer streets in Marquette. Please continue to email the City Commissioners and remember to thank the Commissioners that voted for safer streets - Beth Linna Bob Niemi and Fred Stonehouse. Encourage the Commissioners to believe the experts and serve their constituents. Please consider attending the July 13 meeting and keep spreading the word! We will keep everyone informed of any updates or changes. Below is a summary of the meeting.

Twenty four members of the public spoke in favor of bike lanes on Wright Street. The Mayor stated that every hour he received more emails supporting bike lanes. Testimony from all ages was heard including those that bike as commuters those that bike out of necessity and those that bike recreationally or for fitness. One person spoke against bike lanes. No truckers were present.

Despite evidence that the new lanes would provide a safer mode of transportation for bikes and vehicles four City Commissioners voted against the new lanes. They were John Kivela John DePetro Don Potvin and Don Ryan. Voting in support were Beth Linna Bob Niemi and Fred Stonehouse. John Kivela repeatedly stated he was concerned about truck traffic and questioned if the reconfigured Wright Street could handle increased truck traffic. He was provided evidence that the reconfiguration would handle increased traffic. Evidence included Washington Street which handles twice the amount of traffic. Despite the fact no one from the trucking community spoke and despite repeated assurances and evidence that trucks would be accommodated Mayor Kivela stated he isn’t sure the street would accommodate trucks and voted against the safer street. He questioned why he hadnt heard from the biking community about safety concerns on Wright Street until now.

After listening to twenty adults state that they ride in traffic on Wright Street and hearing evidence that bike lanes save lives John DePetro stated he was concerned about the children. He presented a hypothetical situation in which a four year old not wearing a bike helmet could get hit on the head by a stone kicked up by a passing vehicle.

Earlier in the week Mr. DePetro voted against installing sidewalks when the gravel streets are paved this year. He voted against making Wright Street safer and concluded his statements by noting that the public came into the meeting better informed of the proposed street configuration than he was. Don Potvin initially stated he would vote for the safer street then voted against it. Don Ryan voted against the proposed reconfiguration noting he would reconsider his vote provided he was assured the street could accommodate trucks and bikes safely.

Beth Linna voted in favor of the safer street stating that she preferred to accommodate the residents of the city not necessarily truckers that use city streets to pass through the city. Fred Stonehouse voted for the proposed lanes noting that if the reconfiguration did not work it could be put back to four lanes. Bob Niemi also voted for the new lanes.

In addition to the 24 people that spoke in support of safer streets there were countless people that emailed the City Commission expressing their support. Additionally the concept was supported by the City of Marquette Planning Commission Planning Department Engineering Department Public Works Department Police Department and Fire Department. The concept was also supported by the Marquette County Health Department Marquette Board of Light and Power NMU MGH Superior Bike Fest Superiorland Ski Club and the NTN. One person at the meeting spoke against the safer street. No truckers were present.

Mayor Kivela is up for re-election this November