I’m continually amazed that more people who ride bicycles for recreation still don’t take advantage of the awesome stress-free commutes available on our state trail systems. About 49% of Wisconsin residents ride bicycles for recreation, yet only about 1% use them to bike to work. While I understand that trails don’t go everywhere everyone needs to go, but they do offer very pleasant and convenient routes to many places for many more people than use the trails. The Hank Aaron State Trail is a good example of a trail that connects hundreds of thousands of people to thousands of jobs.
The new westerly extension of the Hank Aaron State Trail from Miller Park to 94th Place puts a bit over 400,000 people within a 10 or 15 minute bike ride of the trail. The Hank Aaron trail runs nearly the full length of the City of Milwaukee from east to west and serves as a direct link between all those people and thousands of jobs in heavily populated business parks in West Allis and the Menomonee Valley. I have been commuting on the older section trail through the Menomonee Valley since before the extension was paved, and I have noticed a definite increase in trail users as a result of the extension, but not the numbers I would expect.
Bicycle commuting is up about 250% in Milwaukee over the last 5 years. That rapid growth can be directly tied to the increase in bicycle lanes and trails in the area, especially in the City of Milwaukee. But even with the rapid growth, the percentages still hover just above or below 1%, depending on if you look at the 2008 or 2009 American Community Survey results. So three cheers for the rapid growth in cycling, but I can’t help but wonder why even more people don’t give it a try, at least those who live close to wonderful facilities like the Hank Aaron. No pot holes, no congestion, no exhaust, no traffic light, no stops at the filling station and it’s great fun. What gives?
Does the trail needs more publicity? Are people in the Milwaukee Metro area are still stuck in the mindset that bikes are toys? Are driving and parking is still just too darn easy and cheap in Milwaukee? What do you think?