Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.
Bicyclists might want to remember that this summer as they’ll need to improvise their way around a popular route that will be shut down during road construction in downtown Eau Claire.
During Tuesday’s review of this year’s upcoming road work, city engineer David Solberg made an observation about how construction will affect people who get around on bicycles.
“It’s going to be very difficult to get from Phoenix Park to Owen Park on a bike,” he said.
While it might sound insignificant — it’s just one piece in a big network of trails in the city — it is a pretty key section.
Beyond linking two popular parks, it’s also a convenient way to get from rental housing near UW-Eau Claire and the Water Street area to events happening downtown such as the farmers market and weekly concerts. It’s also a section included in routes many people take when simply going for a bike ride in Eau Claire.
The half-mile of paved recreational trail will be intact this summer, but it will be entirely blocked at one spot by barricades. After Memorial Day, two blocks of West Grand Avenue are slated for construction, plus a plaza area on the west end of the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge. (This area was a bit of a tight squeeze last summer with major work at that pedestrian bridge, but it was still passable.)
Normally an alternate route would be biking among slow-moving downtown traffic and crossing the Lake Street bridge, but that also will be closed off while a couple downtown blocks also are under construction this summer.
Looking at a map, likely detours will mean just going a couple blocks west of the affected trail section and sharing the road with cars. It’ll be a bit of a shift for those of us who have become accustomed to the ease and safety of the trails, but it should only last for a few months. And after this year’s city construction projects, bicyclists will get an additional route between Owen and Phoenix parks.
On this year’s slate of city projects is turning the mishmash of earthen trails behind buildings on Graham Avenue along the Chippewa River into a proper paved trail for pedestrians and bicyclists. That will link up to the trail that skirts the Pablo Center at the Confluence and Haymarket Plaza, leading to the new pedestrian bridge installed last year to Phoenix Park.
Trail users will then have their pick between routes on either side of the Chippewa River to go between Phoenix and Owen parks.