Oak Street Bike Lane
Oak Street Bike Lane (Onalaska)

If you read the La Crosse Tribune or follow the some of the local velo email lists you might think that La Crosse is now suffering a deluge of bike lanes. We went out and looked and there was not a single new bike lane! What gives?

First let me say that we are not trying to be cynical or derogatory here, but cautionary. The City of La Crosse did paint some shoulder stripes on several roads in La Crosse recently. But from our perspective, these do not add up to bike lanes, yet.

There are several criteria that must be met before something can be called a bike lane. There are the physical requirements as outlined in the Wisconsin Bicycle Facility Design Handbook (it’s an interesting read), basically they have to be 5 feet wide from the curb, to the inside of the white line. They must also be signed. This includes the bike lane marker painted on the road surface and can also include road side signs. Not of the projects painted this year in the City of La Crosse meet these standards, again yet…

Ranger Drive in La Crosse and Oak Avenue in Onalaska are good examples of properly configured and marked bike lanes. Why this cautionary stance? Earlier this year the city striped the shoulders of La Crosse Street between Losey Blvd and West Ave. It didn’t seem to take more than a few minutes before people were calling them bike lanes. If you look at these shoulders you will see that they could never meet the criteria for a bike lane. This could lead to confusion and actually place inexperienced riders in situations they are not ready to handle. Also after talking with advocates in other cities we have discovered that often municipalities with lay down the white stripe and then not follow through with the proper signage.

The most recent spate of painting as outline in the Tribune article seem to meet the physical requirements, but still lack the signage. It is our understanding that the city plans on completing the paint job and signage in the spring after the snow clears. We hope this happens in a reasonable time frame. It was interesting that in some of the circulating emails, what we originally called bikes lanes were reclassified as “bicycle accommodations.” We will keep an eye on these lanes and encourage their completion.

This recent effort was paid for by a federal grant and most of these projects are listed in the BPAC ‘s 2035 Coulee Regional Bicycle Plan which was adopted by the La Crosse Area Planning Commission earlier this year. It should be noted that the City of La Crosse should be starting the development of their own/local bicycle and pedestrian plan which may add even more recommendations for additional bike lanes.

Here are the actual 2035 Plan recommendations for these Streets:

  • 33rd St between Ward Ave and Mormon Coulee Rd
    • Install bike lanes between Ward Ave and Meadow Lane Pl. Parking is already restricted.
    • Install sharrows with parking between Meadow Lane Pl and the bend before Mormon Coulee Rd and curbside sharrows from the bend to Mormon Coulee Rd
    • Sign as part of the MRT.
  • Bike lanes and curbside sharrows would be provided on 7th St between La Crosse St and Main St and on La Crosse St between West Ave and East Ave. (Curbside sharrows would be provided on 7th St through the segment planned for pedestrian bumpouts.)
  • There are no recommendations for Vine Street in the 2035 Plan that we could find.

As you can see there are some differences between what was announced and the 2035 plan, not that we would complain about more bicycling infrastructure, and the announced “bike lanes.” That’s why we will be keeping an eye on the projects.

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