Legislation to make campus more accessible for all

Story by Nate Beck, Staff Writer

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UW–Eau Claire Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution Monday supporting a plan to revamp campus bike and pedestrian paths.

The Central Campus Bike/Pedestrian Plan will work to divert bike traffic away from the campus mall, establishing bike routes on the outer edges of campus.

The plan aims to re-paint roads and paths, installing signs and implementing covered bike racks by the beginning in the fall semester of 2013.

Eau Claire Facilities Management Director Terry Classen said parts of the plan hinge on approval from the city.

“This next fall I think we’ll see planning for Garfield Avenue redevelopment begin in earnest,” Classen said. “The plan calls for some very practical steps to make us as bike-friendly as possible.”

Bigger bike and walk-friendly plans could take off in the next three years.
The state of Wisconsin approved a plan to widen the Water Street bridge by 2016 to make room for bike lanes and sidewalks. The plan also hopes to limit parking along Park Avenue and establish a bike route running across the Water Street bridge to Park Avenue.

Student Office of Sustainability Director Ellen Sorenson said she is an avid cyclist. She said biking on campus and around town can be a headache. The plan aims to start changing
that, she said.

Sorenson said signs and painted paths will help make biking on campus safer. Under this new plan, Bike “sharrows” – symbols marking roads and trails bike-friendly – will be painted
around campus.

“Hopefully sharrows will ensure bikes get the same rights as vehicles,” Sorenson said.  “It will help make people more cautious.”

Glen Olson, an Eau Claire student, said campus bike routes could be improved.  A bike-only path through campus could cut back on confusion, he said.

Olson said high traffic areas like the t-intersection on the campus side of the walking bridge can be hectic when bikers and walkers mix.

“I’ve definitely had some close calls with pedestrians … swerving to avoid people walking on the campus side of the bridge,” Olson said.

Another potential aspect of the plan would be the implementation of a walk-only campus mall during certain hours of the day deemed “rush hours” for walkers.

Olson said a walk-only campus mall could be inconvenient.  People ride bikes through the mall because it’s a pain to park a bike on one end of campus and walk, he said.

Classen said Eau Claire has been mulling bike plans for years but none of the past plans were detailed enough to fly.

“I think the lack of specifics has prevented us from going any further to make this a bike-friendly campus,” Classen said. “I think the plan … is a very good start to get bikes into the discussion whenever we make any further development on campus.”

Classen said the university met with the city of Eau Claire to talk about installing bike racks on the campus edge of Putnam Drive.

The Putnam Park Commission, part of Eau Claire City Council, tentatively approved building covered bike racks along Putnam Drive, Classen said.

The Central Campus Bike/Pedestrian plan hinges on grants to fund bigger parts of the plan, like a bridge connecting Putnam Drive with the Phillips Hall parking lot.

Sorenson said Eau Claire will need to start securing grants this summer and over the next couple years to put in the bridge.

The university will have to work with the city to establish a bike-friendly route on the outside of campus.

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