GObike News

July 30, 2019

Tonawanda Rejects Bike Lanes on Englewood Avenue

The Town of Tonawanda rejected a traffic calming proposal for Englewood Avenue last week after a handful of people rejected the design due to parking and speed concerns. The proposed design would have increased accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists to the Tonawanda Rail-to-Trail. 

The proposal outlined a street redesign for Englewood Avenue between Kenmore and Highland Avenues, which included dedicated bike lanes, a reduction of travel lane width to 10 feet, and eliminating parking on the south side of the street (note—parking would have still been available on the north side of the street). 

The street redesign was proposed for the following reasons:  

  • The Town of Tonawanda adopted a Complete Streets policy in December of 2017, which requires the safety and comfort of pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities to be considered in any new street design, instead of just vehicular speed and capacity;
  • Speeding is a notable problem on Englewood Avenue, thus best practice traffic calming techniques, including the reduction of the travel lane to 10 feet wide, was proposed to decrease speeds (see the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ design guide for more information on correlation between street width and speed). 
  • A large volume of bicyclists are accessing the Tonawanda Rails to Trails bike trail via Englewood, leading to increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the street. 
  • Englewood Avenue is primarily a residential street, and the few businesses in the corridor have private parking lots, thus removing parking  on one side of the street to accommodate the increasing volume of pedestrians and bicyclists seemed like a no brainier. 

Prior to the public meeting and town board vote, the Tonawanda Traffic Bureau distributed 387 surveys via mail to all potentially affected residents asking if the resident agreed, disagreed, or had no opinion on the removal of parking. Of the 102 respondents, 62 percent agreed with the proposed changes, 37 percent disagreed, and 9 respondents had no opinion. 

Despite the support of residents, as the Buffalo News reported, “residents came out in force” to reject the street design, citing speeding vehicles and lack of parking on Englewood. The Ken-Ton Bee reported about a dozen people spoke against the proposal. Either way, it was enough to cause the town board to reject the design. 

Some of the reasons cited, per the Buffalo News and the Ken-Ton Bee

“You take the parking away, and they’re only going to go faster. I see a lot of bicycles now on the sidewalk. I know it’s illegal, but it’s a lot safer. I’ve seen cars go by 55 mph."

Parking can be used as a traffic calming device as well as bike lanes. Currently, parking on both sides is not slowing down traffic. However, reduction of travel lane width to 10 feet is considered best practice in speed reduction per NACTO and AASHTO national street design guidelines. 

Also, sidewalks are for pedestrians. Sidewalk biking increases conflict between bikes and pedestrians, and is not safer—turning and cross conflicts between drivers and cyclists are aggravated when one bikes on the sidewalk. 

“We need stop signs, speed bumps. You need to do something about the speeding or else you’ll find yourself in the same situation on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Someone is going to get killed.”

This commenter wants more traffic calming. Yes, we like this idea. Additional curb bump-outs and crosswalks would be helpful. Better yet, why not remove parking altogether and install a protected bike lane? 

“Until we educate them I don’t think we need to provide any more public roads to let them use that they don’t know how to use.”

We agree with this, too, kind of! Assuming “they” refers to motorists, who double park, stand, load, and erect valet signs in bike lanes, we absolutely need education and enforcement to teach motorists how to interact with bike lanes. But what better way to do so then to build more?! 

“Our credit union has eight employees, and some or all park in the street each and every day. If these employees have to park across Englewood, it will inconvenience all the people who currently use those spots to park their cars.”

Translation: employees will be inconvenienced by  parking across the street from their workplace instead of directly in front it. OK. 

Though the Englewood Avenue proposal is nixed, you can still do your civic duty

Contact the Town Board to let them know you support complete streets. We'll keep you abreast of further opportunities to voice your support. 

Here is the contact information for the Town Board Members:

Joseph H. Emminger, Town Supervisor: jemminger@tonawanda.ny.us; (716) 877-8804

John Bargnesi, Jr., Deputy Supervisor, Councilman: jbargnesi@tonawanda.ny.us

Daniel J. Crangle, Councilman: no contact information listed

William Conrad, Councilman:  wconrad@tonawanda.ny.us

Tonawanda Rejects Bike Lanes on Englewood Avenue