Lawrence City Commission approves first step of Mass Street redesign, requests further info on protected bike lanes

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Also: Alvadora Apartments back entrance must be gated, commissioners say

Post updated at 8:57 p.m. Tuesday, April 9:

Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday approved a concept design for a reconfiguration of part of Massachusetts Street, asking city staff members to look into protected bike lanes and bring back more information.


The project is to reconfigure the stretch of Mass from 14th Street south to 23rd Street, which currently has four lanes, into a three-lane section with bike lanes, along with accessibility improvements to sidewalks and ramps. The study included some preliminary design ideas. 

Hilary Carter asked commissioners during public comment to deny the agenda item because it did not include protected bike lanes. She said drivers often drift into painted bike lanes, and physical barriers would be safer for all road users. 

She presented photos from other communities that have installed protected bike lanes and alternatives that they have in place for trash pickup, which city staff said could be a concern with protected bike lanes. 

“​​Kids shouldn’t feel afraid to ride in our streets. If you build it, they will come — it just takes political will to build safe streets for all ages and abilities,” Carter said. 

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times This file photo looks south from the intersection of 19th and Massachusetts Streets.

Nick Kuzmyak, who is chair of the Multimodal Transportation Commission but said he spoke only for himself, said the design in the study favored automobiles and “the way things have always been done,” encouraging the commission to deny it. 

Commissioner Lisa Larsen said she thought Massachusetts Street was a perfect place for the city to start putting in protected bikeways and addressing potential issues head-on. 

Aaron Parker, senior project engineer, said what city staff members really needed to know Tuesday was whether they should plan to take the street from four lanes to three. Further details about the bike lanes could be determined later on, he said. 

The project is also tied to a grant proposal that can still be submitted without the final decisions on a bike path, city staff members said. 

Another concern city staff members shared was that protected bike lanes could complicate snow removal. Vice Mayor Mike Dever said he wasn’t as concerned about potential snow removal issues as he was about trash pickup, but that Carter had shown plenty of examples of ways that trash pickup could be done. 

Dever agreed with Larsen that the location was good to try protected bike lanes. “​​I think a lot of people would use Mass Street more often if it wasn’t so big and busy,” he said. 

Commissioners approved the study on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Amber Sellers was absent. City staff members will bring the project back for further discussion in the future. See the full study (large PDF file) at this link.

The item had been on the commission’s consent agenda, a list of items that are generally considered routine and approved with one vote. Larsen asked to pull it from the consent agenda for discussion at the request of members of the public.

In other business, commissioners denied a request from the developers of Alvadora Apartments, 5555 W. Sixth St., to change a requirement that the complex have a gate blocking the exit on the eastern side of the complex. The small roadway, Winthrop Court, is intended to be for emergencies only, so residents of Alvadora generally must leave through the west exit onto Stoneridge Drive.

City staff members said the property owners had taken the gate down because it fell into disrepair, which put them in violation of the complex’s original development plan. Some residents of the nearby neighborhood asked commissioners to deny the request, citing concerns about increased traffic using the complex’s back exit and driving through neighborhood streets.

Commissioners agreed that the developers should adhere to the original plan, and they will need to have a gate blocking the back exit.

The red pin on the map below shows the approximate location of the gate between the complex and the neighborhood.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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