Former Lander councilman, Wyoming Pathways exec urges more funding for crosswalk safety

A former member of the Lander City Council testified in front of a legislative committee last month about the safety of crosswalks in Wyoming.

Michael Kusiek is now the executive director of Wyoming Pathways, a Lander-based organization that works to “encourage safe bicycling and walking” in the state, according to the group’s website.

It’s quite a challenge: Kusiek said Wyoming ranks last on the League of American Bicyclists list of safe states for pedestrians and cyclists, and in 2020 there was a 20 percent increase in pedestrian injuries and fatalities in the state, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

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He shared a Wyoming Pathways survey with the legislature’s Judiciary Committee last month during a meeting in Lander, offering feedback from almost 200 people in more than 40 communities who said they want “better, safer crosswalks; safer lanes for people who are not in motorized transportation modes; and more connectivity.”

Lander crosswalks

Lander offers several examples of pedestrian crosswalks that would benefit from safety improvements, Kusiek said, pointing to one area right outside the Judiciary Committee’s meeting room in the Fremont County School District 1 building on Sweetwater Street.

“Where we sit right now … we have a two-block strip of Ninth Street that has four crosswalks leaving the school (and) our aquatic center,” Kusiek said.

Those crosswalks traverse “a street that bends and curves and has become a thoroughfare up to Sinks Canyon,” Kusiek said, “so it’s a highly trafficked route (where) kids are darting to and fro.”

Elsewhere in town, he said, there are “sidewalks that end in someone’s yard” and roads with “parking on both sides,” offering “no opportunity for a bike lane.”

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“I live just up the street here,” Kusiek said. “In the morning I see kids buzzing down Ninth Street on their bicycles fighting morning traffic to get to school.”

The City of Lander has developed a plan to increase pedestrian safety, Kusiek said, especially on school routes, but it would take 10 years to complete the entire project due to a lack of funding.

The same problem plays out statewide, he said, estimating that it would cost $100 million to complete all of the pedestrian safety projects identified in the Wyoming Pathways survey.

About 30 percent of those projects involve crosswalks and safe pathways to school, Kusiek said, describing one plan that would put Baldwin Creek Road “on a diet” between Main Street and Lander Valley High School, transforming the four-lane road into a three-lane street with “a turning lane in the middle and bicycle lanes on both sides.”

More funding

Kusiek encouraged the Judiciary Committee to help increase funding opportunities for pedestrian safety in the state, following the recommendations of the 2018 Wyoming Bicycle and Pedestrian System Report, which was produced by a legislative task force.

“We can fix many of these urgent issues quickly, as opposed to having people apply for a grant one year and be turned down and have to wait another year, just to put a road diet in over on Baldwin,” he said. “Not to mention what it would take … here on Ninth to make it more safe.”

The committee later voted to draft a bill enhancing penalties for motorists who strike pedestrians in crosswalks or school zones.

Committee members also asked that a future meeting agenda include a report from WYDOT about strategies for increasing crosswalk safety in the state.

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