Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

25 March, 2013

Will Customers Flee Fordem/Sherman Avenue Businesses?

Isthmus reports today that Gumbogate has been resolved. As was reported last week, John Roussos, owner of New Orleans Take Out on Fordem Avenue, decided to ban Alderwoman Marsha Rummel from his establishment because she voted in favor of a plan "to add bicycle lanes, pedestrian islands and a center left-turn lane to North Sherman Avenue, turning it from a four-lane street to two lanes."

Roussos along with the Northside Business Association argued that the resulting traffic jams would repel customers. So, who are these people that would stop frequenting businesses on Sherman?

When I read about the plan, the first thing I thought was good for those bicyclists, including a friend of mine who lives on the north side. Here are some things that I didn't think:

"Well, I guess I'll never go to that Frugal Muse again."

"Well, I guess I'll never go to New Orleans Take Out again."

"Well, I guess I'll never go to Cafe La Bellitalia again."

"Well, I guess I'll never go to Warner Park again."

It's not like the changes will eliminate parking. I think the people who will avoid Sherman are the ones who drive 45MPH down it now to get to Northport Drive and they'll just be moving over to Packers Avenue where they belong. The idea that eliminating a lane in a residential/commercial area will drive away customers seems to assume that potential customers have a really small town attitude - as if it's not worth going anywhere unless the traffic is the same as it is in Lone Rock. Madison is a city of around 240,000 built around lakes. Traffic is just a way of life. Deal with it.

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|| Palmer, 3:58 PM


I'll be taking Packers instead of Sherman two or three times a day until I can get out of this town. I imagine that most of my neighbors will be doing the same. That's a lot of lost business for an already struggling corridor. I can't believe you have to have that explained to you.

Also, I think you've got your small town analogy backwards. This kind of nonsense would not happen in a real city. I see a biker two or three times a week on my twice daily commute. You rubes are getting hustled.
Anonymous Ninja, at 10:59 AM  
A friend who lives on the north side is looking forward to the changes and thinks he'll probably be stopping by businesses more often.

Why would you avoid Sherman?

No, in a real city there would be 1 lane of traffic and one lane of parking each way. Go down to Chicago and tell me how many 4 lane streets there are with no street parking. It's Sherman Avenue, not Sherman Drive.

Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
Blogger Palmer, at 1:09 PM  
What about this situation would facilitate stopping by businesses on Sherman more often? Because there will be so much less traffic? Because the stores will be so much less busy? That makes no sense.

I'll be avoiding Sherman because driving in this town is already a nightmare. People can't handle four-way stops and one-way streets so I can already predict how giant (empty) bike lanes and a center turn lane will go.

And FYI, Sherman is one lane of traffic and one lane of parking during non-rush hour, just like a real city. What we're talking about is converting that into a cheesy, superficial attempt to appear bike friendly.

And it's not a coincidence that it's the northside that's victim of this nonsense. I see tons of people biking on streets like Monroe and Regent. Streets with absolutely no bike lanes, unlike Sherman. Streets where it's illegal to bike on the sidewalk, unlike Sherman. I understand why my neighborhood was singled out and it's a symptom of a much larger problem in Madison, but I'm done with this place so it's not my problem.

I do feel bad for the businesses that will close, but I don't feel bad enough to alter my behavior in a vain attempt to save them. Anybody want to buy a house in a struggling, soon to be dead part of town?
Anonymous Ninja, at 9:29 AM  
Re people stopping by businesses more often: My friend said he'd probably stop more often at businesses because he'll be biking in the bike lanes instead of off in no-man's land. I haven't read Speck's book but it doesn't seem like a done deal to me that people are going to abandon the stores in droves:


I don't find driving in Madison to be a nightmare. Are there doofuses behind the wheel here? Sure there are - just like everywhere else. Coming from Chicago, the only traffic situation that approaches nightmare status to me in Madison is Regent Street on gamedays. Otherwise, from my perspective, traffic in Madison is a snap in contrast. Most of the people I hear bitching about traffic in this town are from small towns and rural areas.

What part of Sherman is one lane of traffic and one lane of parking during non-rush hour?

You say here that won't alter your behavior yet that's exactly what you said you plan on doing during your final days here in your first comment. to wit: "I'll be taking Packers instead of Sherman two or three times a day until I can get out of this town." Is driving a nightmare here everywhere except Packers Avenue?

At the end of the day you don't know what the end result will be. And neither do I. You think the sky is going to fall and I don't. You are going to hit Packers while I am not going to let a little potential traffic deter me from hitting the businesses I like to frequent.

Best of luck to you wherever it is you find yourself when you move out of Madison.
Blogger Palmer, at 11:47 AM  
As far as I've noticed, all of Sherman from the Fordem split to Northport permits parking at designated times in the right lane. People park there so rarely that it suprises me when do see it, but it's legal.

As for traffic, I'm not talking about congestion, I'm talking about incompetence and safety. Packers is a nightmare too beacuse people can't seem to maintain a single lane for more than 100 yards at a time, but I'm guessing that will be the lesser of two evils when compared to the chaos I forsee on Sherman.

And maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this will go off without a hitch and drivers will handle it wonderfully. I really doubt it though, based on my experiences elsewhere in town with bike boxes, roundabouts, traffic islands, center turn lanes and dual turn lanes, all of which seem to baffle a critical mass of the driving population here.

Maybe it won't be a total waste of space and the bike lanes will be widely and frequently utilized by the bikers who are currently hiding in the shadows.

Maybe it won't hurt business because nobody else will change their driving behavior, and all those bikers will make up for my commuter shopping.

I doubt it, but it could happen. I'm not going to wait for the only concentrated economic activity in the area to dry up before I bounce though. I was on my way out anyway, this was just a coffin nail.

I also have to note how hilarious it is that both of you throw around "small town" so pejoratively. I've noticed how effective that is here and I imagine that's because there are so many people who are so desperate to escape and deny their rural roots. That's not something I've ever experienced in a big city, and I think it explains a lot of the silly, Napoleon complex nonsense that goes on here.

And thank you for your well wishes on the future. Right back at you.
Anonymous Ninja, at 3:53 PM  
Also I find Cieslewicz's references to Speck's book to be disingenuous. As far as I remember the case studies in the book are exclusively focused on changing established, economically healthy downtowns into more pedestrian/bike/mass transit hubs.

That's not Sherman, and that's not the change that's being proposed for Sherman. Not even close on either count.
Anonymous Ninja, at 4:05 PM  
I'll have to look at the signs next time I drive down that stretch of Sherman. I have never seen parking there. You'd think people would park there during Mallards games, for instance, but I've not seen it.

I guess I don't see how the changes to Sherman would make it less safe. One can argue it'll be more safe since people won't be able to do 45 in their hurry to get to Northport.

I'm not sure why you say anyone other than myself is using the term "small town". It's just me; the blame is mine and mine alone. I've lived in Chicago (the city proper) and I've lived in rural Wisconsin (in the country). I don't think that being from a small town is a bad thing or makes you a lesser person. (I have been in Madison for 20+ years and have never noticed the term being effective at anything. What do you refer to?) I have certainly experienced people in big cities use the term "small town" pejoratively.

My point was to show perspective. To me, Madison traffic is and the idiots behind the wheel here are nothing compared to that in Chicago. Family and friends who have come here to visit from Chicago have remarked on how different and easy it is driving here in contrast to Chicago. Conversely, my experience has been that people from small towns and rural areas see the traffic here as being horrible. Different experiences, different perspectives. I've encountered the same thing with bad neighborhoods. I've been to the south side of Chicago by the projects. Madison has nothing like those areas used to be. But, again, I've met many people from small towns who've come to Madison and get this impression that the Broadway-Simpson area was something out of Escape From New York or Robocop. (Any newer films you can add?) But the people from Milwaukee and Chicago see it simply as a poorer neighborhood.

To be clear, I'm not calling anyone a racist or trying to minimize the problems here in Madison. Just emphasizing perspective.

Personally, I think it's bullshit that the north side seems to always get the shaft by the city. I don't see traffic lanes on Sherman having much of an impact either way. Having someone like Gene Parks for an alder in its corner to really advocate for it would be a good start. Right now the city's emphasis is on East Washington so I suspect the north side is on its own for a while longer. I was happy when Cieslewicz lost because he spent way too much time and effort on stroking Richard Florida. Soglin doesn't do that but he doesn't seem much better. Madison government needs to stop worrying about the creative class and worry about working class.
Blogger Palmer, at 4:40 PM  
As far as Speck's book goes, I haven't read it but I wouldn't be surprised if Dave mangled it. Like I said above, he drank the Richard Florida kool aid.

I try to understand these issues by reading but that is really a full time job so I'm perpetually behind.
Blogger Palmer, at 4:42 PM  
To respond to your questions in my own weird, disjointed order:

To be clear, I'm definitely calling this town and a lot of the people who live here racist as fuck. It's real fancy 2013 racism (with a little of that old Jim Crow thrown in a couple summers ago at the University Ave bars, with full approval of city government and PD) but it's still super racist, from the institutional to the individual.

There's no parking allowed in front of the mall across from Warner Park, which is very typical of that kind of setup. And I'm not actually sure that the southbound lanes of Sherman allow parking but the northbound lanes definitely do.

Both you and our blog host used the phrase "small town" as part of your arguments. And I've certainly heard it thrown around as a pejorative before, but I've never seen it be so effective in getting people to jump.

And lastly, you seem to deliberately be avoiding that this seems quite unecessary on Sherman (in spite of what people who are paid to say otherwise say - which is one of Speck's major points in his book that former Mayor Dave didn't see the need to mention) and on the otherhand it would seem to be quite appropriate for the neighborhoods that a lot of the people who are clamoring for this actually live in and drive through. Please see point one.
Anonymous Ninja, at 10:28 PM  
Another disjointed reply...

I agree that there is definitely racism in Madison. My significant other is a woman of color so I have become aware of some of the more subtle incarnations of racism here. But you're not going to move to another place where there is no racism. My point above was to not broadly label people from small towns or rural areas as racist. Were you saying previously that the north side gets the shaft because of racism? I don't recall the word "racism" having been used prior to my last comment.

I am the blogger here to it's just me using "small town". You're the lone commenter on my post.

I guess I just can't recall instances of "small town" getting people to jump. Can you provide examples?

I have avoided talking about whether the changes on Sherman are necessary or not because they've been approved. My post takes that as a given and addresses the idea that people are going to avoid the area once the changes have been made.

I'd have to read more about the intentions of the people who proposed the changes and more about that corridor before I am willing to label them unnecessary.
Blogger Palmer, at 7:27 AM  

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