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Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety withdrew its approval for a new striping plan on 27th Street and Home Avenue this week after concerns were raised by school officials over the purpose and message of the new parking lanes.
The plan, approved the week before, would have put white parking lane stripes along portions of the two streets and “sharrow” markings on the pavement, alerting drivers to bicyclists in the area. The city/county planning department mailed letters describing the plan to property owners along the streets and only received two comments, one positive and one negative.
But Brett Boezeman, principal at Lillian Schmitt Elementary School, and Kelli Thompson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s health services director, told the Board of Works that they were unaware of the project before it was approved.
Boezeman said he was concerned that the sharrows would encourage bikers and car traffic to share the same space and put younger bicyclists in the street. Thompson said that the schools encourage elementary school students to ride their bicycles on sidewalks on the way to school. Boezeman said school officials would prefer that bike lanes be installed in the school area, rather than the parking lane markings or sharrows.
“I would like for my kids to be able to ride as close to the curb, if there are no sidewalks available,” he said.
Thompson asked the board to mark the area in front of Schmitt as a bike lane and said the school would find places to park for those who park there.
“We think it is confusing to stripe it as a parking lane but to tell elementary age kids to ride their bike in it,” Thompson said.
Jeff Bergman, director of the city/county planning department, said the original intent of the proposal was to put in lane markings to represent the on-street parking that is already going on in the area and the sharrows to alert drivers to bicyclists.
Mayor Kristen Brown said the only option to add bike lanes along the street would be to remove the on-street parking or to allow drivers to park in bike lanes, neither of which she supports.
“We are here to try to make the kids who are walking and bicycling to school as safe as possible as long as it is practical, without dramatic changes to the use of the streets, in terms of parking and lane reductions and those types of things,” Brown said.
The board voted to hold off on any lane markings until there is a consensus between the educators and the city on how the street should be marked.
However, city officials plan to go ahead as soon as possible with a previously approved plan to install new, wider crosswalk pavement markings in the area of the Schmitt, Northside Middle and Columbus North High schools.
Bryan Burton, manager of the City Garage, said that the striping work had yet to begin on the affected streets.
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