Even with planned warning signs, Drexel and Howell avenues still a worry for bicyclists

July 7, 2014

Oak Creek — Even with the planned addition of bike warning safety signs to Drexel and Howell avenues, Jenny Zakovich of South Milwaukee said she is still scared to bike to work since she was almost hit by a car in that intersection lastfall.

Zakovich started biking to and from work since she joined Northwestern Mutual's Franklin campus last summer on South 27th Street and West Drexel Avenue. Her morning commute to NML has never been problematic, she said, since she is on the road at 6:30 a.m. But leaving work is another story.

While Zakovich tries to cross Howell Avenue going eastbound on Drexel Avenue toward Wendy's, cars there are making right turns on red.

"They are looking left and driving right," said Zakovich.

"I was out in the cross walk, and this lady is zipping around the corner, and I thought I was dead in a second. I screamed trying to get her attention, and the next thing I know I'm on the hood of her car," said Zakovich, who was not injured.

Zakovich approached Mayor Steve Scaffidi last fall during his Fitness Challenge to make him aware of the intersection. According to Zakovich, Scaffidi said other bicyclists have also commented on the danger of that intersection and that the majority of the city's motor vehicle accidents happen near Drexel and Howell Avenues.

A spokesperson for Scaffidi said no one has spoken with the mayor recently about the intersection and that most bicyclists are avoiding it now due to construction.

Bicyclists also commented on a signal controller that physically obstructs drivers' visibility of pedestrians and cyclists in the crosswalk, said Brian Johnston in the engineering department.

The common council approved new bike warning signage May 6, agreeing that Drexel Town Square will only increase traffic at the already populated cross streets. The signal controller is also being relocated.

"With all the construction going on, there are going to be challenges in maintaining proper signage and the optimal conditions for bikes, pedestrians and traffic," said Doug Seymour, director of community development. "We'll have to work through and make sure we have safe routes for all those parties. It's a temporary situation."

Zakovich said she would recommend "no right turn on red" at that intersection.

"I'm scared to ride my bike to work," she said. "There's no easy way to cross that street. It's just very frustrating and it's hard to explain it without having someone be there. This was even before the construction started."

According to Wisconsin Department of Transportation, bicycles are considered motor vehicles and have to follow the same rules of the road as cars. But sharing the road is not always easy.

"It is important to make (roads) both safe and accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians," said Larry Corsi, pedestrian/bike safety program manager for DOT. "That would come down to engineering, education of motorists and bicyclists and law enforcement.

"Both motor vehicles and bikes have to have access to that lane and communicate. The problem is the bikes travel slower than the vehicles. It's a lot of communication."

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