KANKAKEE — Even though the Kankakee City Council overwhelming supported the Schuyler Avenue redevelopment project and construction bids now are being sought, critics of the project remain vocal.
The most vocal downtown business co-owner, Lance Marczak, again pressed council members to rethink the project’s bike-lane plan. He has taken the further step of organizing a community meeting to address the situation. It is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Out on a Limb bar, 139 S. Schuyler Ave.
Marczak also is not a fan of the move to eliminate on-street parking on the east side of Schuyler, and he has addressed the council at least three times regarding this matter. Last week, he once again pleaded for lawmakers to revisit this plan, which was approved by a 12-2 vote on Dec. 17.
The co-owner of Out On A Limb, Marczak has expressed his displeasure with the loss of eastside on-street parking along the 100 block of North Schuyler and in the 100 and 200 block of South Schuyler.
But the point he is most focused on are the bike lanes, which are on both sides of Schuyler Avenue in these three blocks.
Marczak has expressed concern with the safety of bike riders on this busy road, as well as how much it will be actually used by bikers.
“Great leaders are great listeners,” he said to council members this past Monday as he urged them to rethink the bike-lane concept.
Marczak believes bikers would be much safer on East Avenue rather than Schuyler. He said East Avenue bike lanes also would make sense with the city’s proposed Riverwalk development.
Marczak presented statistics from several sources regarding bike lane use and how it sharply declines when people believe their safety is at risk.
At a recent council meeting he said bikers should share the sidewalks with pedestrians rather than being on this stretch of busy road.
The city and downtown developers spent six months conducting public meetings and planning for the redesign of this area. Marczak acknowledged he did not attend any of these public meetings.
After last week’s meeting, Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said planners would not have advanced this project if they felt it was unsafe. She said the plan will advance as it has been designed.
Kankakee 3rd Ward Alderman David Crawford would like to see the plan altered. “The streetscape plan is great, but the bike path in another issue,” Crawford said.
Crawford said other council members would like the bike lane issue discussed further.
Marczak stressed he’s not anti-bike.
“I’m not against bike lanes, I am against doing something that is not safe for families,” he said. “Install bike lanes, but do the safer protected bike lanes.”
Key design points include:
• On-street parking on the east side of Schuyler Avenue in the 100 block of North Schuyler and the 100 and 200 blocks of South Schuyler will be eliminated.
• Striping for bike lanes will be added to these three blocks. Bike lanes will be on both sides of Schuyler Avenue.
• Decorative string lights, which currently exist in the first two blocks of South Schuyler, will be extended to the 100 block of North Schuyler. The lights will be even greater than what currently exists.
• The lights will cross over Schuyler, as well as hanging over the sidewalks. To accomplish this, however, new and stronger light poles will replace the existing light posts.
• Nearly all of the existing sidewalks will be removed and replaced. The bulk of the existing sidewalks are not in compliance with the Americans with Disability Act regulations, city officials noted.
• The project, already out for bid, is expected to begin in March and be completed in July. The goal is to have the project completed before the annual Merchant Street MusicFest begins on July 26.