APPLETON - A packed house came out to debate bike lanes in Appleton Tuesday night. The lanes would go in on Mason Street, which runs north and south.
About 70 people attended Tuesday's Municipal Services Committee meeting in Appleton. Of those, dozens spoke during more than three hours of debate. When it was over, the committee voted 3 to 2 to approve the proposal for bike lanes on Mason Street.
"It was a very impassioned, persuasive argument that came from both sides of that audience," said Ald. Greg Dannecker.
The plan would add bike lanes on both sides of 30 blocks on Mason Street, but it would remove street parking from all but two of those blocks.
Many citizens worry this will hurt homeowners, businesses, churches and schools on that street.
Pastor Paul Schuler with St. Matthew Lutheran Church says parking is already an issue for his congregation on Mason Street. He told FOX 11 the bike lanes will make it worse.
"I'm concerned for the elderly and the handicapped, that they can't get close enough - and I really don't want to see, 'well, I can't find a place to park,' to keep somebody from coming to church," said Schuler.
But bike lane supporters say while they do sympathize, they agree with the plan.
"Parking is really the storage of private property on public land. It's a privilege. It's not a right," said Tom Walsh, president of Fox Cities Greenways.
Walsh said the bike lanes will help bring more tourism and business into Appleton. He said they will also make cycling safer amongst drivers.
"They can see the bike coming down and not not see them where they'd be behind a car. So you greatly enhance safety by putting a bike lane along the curb," said Walsh.
Schuler said he fears the bike lanes will actually be dangerous, especially at intersections where the lanes would end."
"Which means they are going to blend with traffic and yeah, that's a concern. I have a feeling there's going to be accidents there," said Schuller.
But while the committee passed the plan, it's not a done deal. The full common council needs to vote on it.
"It's a recommendation for the council. (The) council doesn't have to accept what we've recommended," explained Dannecker.
The council's next meeting is May 1, so both sides will have more time to voice their opinions.
The Mason Street proposal is part of Appleton's overall 20-year bike lane plan, which was adopted in 2010. Tuesday night, the Municipal Services Committee also voted to review the entire plan before June 26 this year. That means if the common council approves both measures, no work will go forward until after that date.
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