CHAMPAIGN — Residents near a portion of South State Street are petitioning the city to save 10 on-street parking spaces in lieu of extending bike lanes south to Fox Drive.
The debate is a classic clash between parking and bicycling, one which is becoming more frequent as Champaign and Urbana build out their bicycle infrastructure.
The Champaign city council this week decided to push forward with the project, which is scheduled to be completed within the next couple months. The striping will extend State Street bike lanes from where they end now at Hessel Boulevard south to Fox Drive.
The Urbana City Council experienced a similar debate this spring when officials decided to swap parking for a bike lane on Kinch Street between Washington Street and Florida Avenue.
The State Street project in Champaign will add a half-mile of bike lanes to the city's existing six miles on State, Randolph, John and First Street. Officials will add another half-mile this month when they stripe bike lanes on John Street between Willis Avenue and Kenwood Drive.
That number will continue to grow as the city dedicates an average $75,000 annually to bolstering its bicycle infrastructure, which includes features like lanes, "sharrows," and street signs.
Neighborhood residents, however, are asking the city to consider using "sharrows" instead of bicycle lanes between Hessel Boulevard and Buena Vista Drive. "Sharrows," which are road markings indicating that bikes and vehicles are to share the lane, require less road space than separate bike lanes.
City officials say the State Street bike lanes are a key route as the city continues to build its bicycle transportation network. As proposed, the striping project would eliminate about 10 on-street parking spaces on the east side of State Street but maintain about 24 parking spaces on the west side.
"The parking issue is primarily when there are visitors in the area, and we have a fairly large family," said Al Rehberg, who lives at 1306 S. State St. "They come home to visit. And the elimination of parking on State Street will wipe out any overnight, two-, three-day parking while our family is visiting us."
Parking in that area has been a problem for a while, according to city documents. During daytime hours, some University of Illinois employees tend to use free on-street parking rather than buying passes for university-owned parking lots.
In 1997, the city posted signs prohibiting parking on Buena Vista Drive between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Recently, those signs were changed to allow 3-hour parking between those hours to accommodate daytime visitors. City officials believe that will relieve some of the area's parking issues.
Marie Rehberg said the Buena Vista parking does not fully address the issue, especially for people with limited mobility.
"We do have an older community, but we also have a lot of people that are in the apartments across the street," she said. "There are eight of them. There's a lot of coming and going."
City officials say visibility at the intersection of Buena Vista Drive and State Street has long been a concern — and has been responsible for a number of accidents — and bike lanes as opposed to sharrows are the only way to ensure everyone's safety.
"It's hard to balance the wants and needs of people whose home is there with the wants and needs of the other 75,000 people in the community who want to get from point A to point B and along the way have to drive by your home and want to do it in a safe way," city council member Tom Bruno said.
The council unanimously voted to continue the project on Tuesday night.
"We all must share these roads," Bruno said. "They belong to the community."