Concerns raised over Water Street Bridge bike safety

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Just days after a new Eau Claire bridge opens to traffic concerns over bike safety are now being raised.

Traffic on the Water Street Bridge appears to be moving smoothly but some are saying the new bike lanes are confusing and could potentially lead to an accident.

“There is a little bit of concern about understanding how the bicycle lanes and the automobile lanes integrate,” said owner of Bike and Sport, Terry Hintz.

Hintz says since the bridge opened on Sept. 2nd there's been some confusion on how to navigate the new bike lanes.

In smaller cities like Eau Claire Hintz says “we're kind of used to bike lanes just being against the curb and having to move out and be a little exposed seems to concern people.”

The bike lane on the Water Street Bridge moves towards the middle of the road instead of hugging the sidewalk but the city says with a little driver education the layout should be beneficial.

Transportation engineer Leah Ness explained, “The vehicles should yield for the bicycle that is traveling in their lanes and allow the bicyclist to go ahead and then the motor vehicle should turn in the right turn lane.”

For the most part Ness says the about 6-foot bike lane stays near the right hand side of the road until it travels in between the right turn lane on the west end of the bridge.

“This is definitely new to our area and some bicyclist may feel uncomfortable traveling in between two travel lanes of two motor vehicles traveling faster than they are going but it is something that's very common in bigger cities around our area,” said Ness.

Ness says as long as drivers and bicyclists pay attention the new layout should be safer for both.

“Having the bike lane in between the two travel lanes really eliminates some conflict points between the bicyclist and the motor vehicles,” added Ness. “So we're really trying to eliminate locations where bicyclists and motor vehicles may have collisions.”

Ness does say for cyclists who are uncomfortable riding in the road there are extra-large sidewalks on the bridge or they're able to legally travel on the right hand side of the street without going in the middle.

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