AMA: Improving an awkward intersection for bicyclists

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East Third Street in Bloomington. The signalized intersection of Third, High St. and Bryan Ave. has been complicated for a while, and is the subject of a developing city plan to improve it.

Q: There are places that have never gotten a handi-friendly remake. I’m thinking any of the corners of Third Street, Bryan Avenue and High Street. This is a choke point for cyclists as all of a sudden there is no room on the street and no easy way to get up on the sidewalk that doesn’t send you into a wall or light pole. The solution is to “find another street” but it that really a solution? It is probably easier for someone who is handicapped and moving on foot. — Eastside Wheelie

A: I discover something new every day I write on this blog. Today I discovered the list of all the transportation infrastructure projects currently being carried out by the city’s Planning & Transportation Dept. Unfortunately, Wheelie, you’ll note that the corner of Third, Bryan and High isn’t the subject of any renovation project.

But it likely will become one.

Ordinance 16-28 is a proposal for a bond to fund improvements at five different intersections around town. It’s one of a baker’s dozen of bond requests from the Hamilton administration that Council heard in committee last Wednesday, and will likely decide on this Wednesday (tomorrow). Altogether, the requests are for almost $20 million in projects. One of the intersections they’re planning to address is indeed Third, Bryan and High.

For those of you not familiar with this intersection (picture above), the signalized “intersection” of these three streets has been a challenge for years. Bryan and High do not meet, although many people attempt to traverse Third this way; hence the signal. West of High, Third narrows from four lanes to two, creating a vehicular bottleneck, even as Third is reaching a high point, making it difficult to see oncoming traffic in either direction. Motorists west of this intersection attempting to gain access to Third find it challenging, especially those on Union north of Third trying to turn left (eastbound).

With respect to bicycling, Wheelie, I first technically have to chide you: you shouldn’t be trying to ride on the sidewalk, right? Side”walks” are for pedestrians only; only side”paths” are for pedestrians and bicyclists. Otherwise, bicyclists are supposed to use the street, and there are bike lanes west of High.

But practically speaking, I agree with you: this intersection is problematic for every mode of transport. Third being a major arterial, traffic goes fast enough to intimidate bicyclists, especially when it narrows west of High and the car traffic doesn’t really slow down enough. The sidewalks on all these streets have no buffer of trees or parked cars; pedestrians walk right next to cars going 30 mph or more. There aren’t sidewalks on Bryan at all.

So, you’ll be happy to know that this intersection is getting a makeover soon. Uncharacteristically, there are very few specific plans to show you, as the administration hasn’t redesigned the intersection yet. Land will probably need to be acquired; Transportation Engineer Andrew Cibor said that they’re planning to talk to all the property owners at this intersection, including St. Charles’ Church on the southeast.

One thing I know: when jackhammers finally do go into the asphalt here, all the sidewalks will become ADA-compliant, with appropriate curb cuts. This is done at every intersection once it’s up for renovation. You may be happy to know that the administration is also requesting bond money (in Ordinance 16-29, also under consideration) to make 25 other intersections around town ADA-compliant.

The hardest part for us as councilmembers is knowing how many infrastructure projects there are around town that ought to be done, and knowing that we can’t do more than a fraction of them each year. Council has an annual budget, currently $280,000, just for building new sidewalks, but it’s a drop in the bucket considering the demand for them all over town. These bonds will go a long way to addressing many that have gone unaddressed for years — like Third, High and Bryan.

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