Milwaukee by Bike plan heads to council

Check out item 9 from the agenda for the Sept. 16th meeting of the City of Milwaukee Public Safety Committee:

If you are interested in going, the meeting of the Public Safety Committee will take place in room 301-B of City Hall at 9am , and this item should be heard around 9:30 am.  The meeting is open to the public and you can speak in favor of the plan or just show up for visual support. As you can see, the resolution to adopt the updated bicycle master plan has four sponsors.  That bodes well for success, but it can’t hurt to contact your alderperson and voice support for the bike plan. If you don’t know who your elected representative to the Common Council is, check here.

If you do call or email your alder, be sure to thank him or her for all the improvements that have been made for cyclists in Milwaukee to date before you ask for support for the new plan. Stay positive and remember that Council members are forced to make many difficult decisions.  There are many more good things to do in Milwaukee than there is money to do them.

This is a pretty big deal.  Yes, it is just a plan.  Yes, every recommendation in the plan that has a fiscal impact on the City will still need approval from the common council. But this plan helps frame future conversations about transportation in the City.  It builds on the previous bike plans and is closely aligned with the recently adopted Citywide Plan.  In previous posts I have discussed a few of the choice bicycle facilities proposed in the updated bike plan, but the plan also tries to sell cycling and make the case for investing in programs and infrastructure.

Why invest in cycling?

Reduce congestion: Half of all trips in Milwaukee are three miles or less, a distance that can be easily traveled in less than 20 minutes on a bike, and 28% of all trips are less than one mile. Despite the fact that these trips can be easily made on a bicycle or walking, motor vehicles are used for over 80% of these short trips. In order to manage the congestion caused by so many cars making these short trips, we have to pay to build and maintain wider roads and remove parking in front of businesses during peak hours. Converting some of these short car trips to bike trips could mean narrower streets, more parking for businesses, and less congestion.

Keep and Attract Talent:  Like many other Midwestern industrial leaders of the past, Milwaukee is in the process of reinventing itself to attract new businesses and a creative, talented and well-educated workforce. The Wall Street Journal lists Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and Austin among the top “Youth Magnet Cities” in the country. These are places where young college educated people move for the urban culture and recreational opportunities rather than for a job; they then look for employment after they relocate. It is no coincidence that these popular cities are also among the best cities for cycling in the country. Certainly other factors like climate, economy, transit, arts and culture help these cities keep and attract young, talented workers, but bicycles are a common indicator species of these youth magnet cities.

Reduce Cost of Healthcare:  Recently, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce released a “Blueprint for Progress” that emphasizes personal lifestyle changes to decrease local healthcare costs to businesses. According to an article by Tim Sheehy of the MMAC, “When 20% of the population accounts for 75% of
health care spending that can be impacted by lifestyle choices, wellness and prevention are the place to start.” Not everyone is going to bike to work or the store, but many car trips can be replaced by a bike trip. In fact, almost half of all trips made by car in Milwaukee could be replaced with a 20 minute or shorter bike trip. More people will ride bicycles for exercise if they have attractive and convenient places to ride in their own neighborhood. Creating an attractive and convenient bicycle network is part of becoming a “Well City.”

The city of Milwaukee is already a good place to ride a bike. The city has done much to improve bicycling conditions since the adoption of its first bicycle plan in 1993. These improvements have led to increased bicycle ridership and increases in safety for bicyclists. However, many potential improvements for bicycling in Milwaukee remain. Milwaukee by Bike recommends extensive facility and program improvements to improve bicycling in the city. These recommendations focus on all aspects of bicycling: improved facilities, education of road users, encouragement and enforcement efforts, evaluation of the programs being implemented and promotional efforts. Getting the Milwaukee by Bike plan approved and implementing even some of the recommendations could truly make Milwaukee a world-class city for bicycling.

You can read the final draft plan here: Milwaukee by Bike 2010 – Plan

See the maps here: Milwaukee by Bike 2010 – Maps

And read the full appendix here: Milwaukee by Bike 2010 – Appendix


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
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5 Responses to Milwaukee by Bike plan heads to council

  1. Lance says:

    This excellent post explains why cycling helps people who swear they will never ride a bicycle. Everyone wins when someone rides. Those of us who want to convince others should memorize these talking points, so we can speak in terms of their interests.

    Too many people forget to talk about how bicycles help people who are not on the bikes, which is a very effective way to go about it.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Lance (the Lance?),

      Thanks for the comment. You clearly understand the intent of what we wrote in the introduction to the Milwaukee by Bike plan. We still need to sell cycling to non-cyclists. There are many difficult decisions to be made. Firefighters and librarians are on the chopping block. Providing for bicycles might be seen as a nice extra we just can’t afford right now. But we need to remember that providing for bicycles saves precious transportation dollars, improves health and is good for the economy. The simple bicycle might just be a silver bullet.

  2. Casey Foltz says:


    I live in Bay View, and I don’t believe my alderman isn’t part of the Public Safety Committe. Is this something that ends up going for approval before the entire council, and would it be better for me to wait for that before emailing my rep? Or am I better off emailing early and often? I’m happy to voice my opinion, but would like to make sure that I’m being as effective as I can in my communications.


    • daveschlabowske says:


      Sorry for the slow response. It is always a good idea to say the word “bicycle” to our elected officials. As I mentioned in a previous post, our elected officials hear from their constituents about plowing, parking tickets, speeding and other complaints, but they rarely hear about bicycle issues. If you are willing, it would be a help to call or send an email yto your alderman in support of the plan. He will have a chance to vote for or against the plan when it goes to the full council after the Public Safety committee.

      Thanks for reading.

  3. Catrine says:

    Just wanted to drop a line and let you know this write-up was super useful to me today in preparing for a bike plan workshop — we’re worried a project or two could cause enough controversy to slow or stop the adoption of our bike plan . This is so well written and helps me to remember how to carefully explain to the public that they are not approving or adopting specific projects, but the larger plan and support for cycling infrastructure and programs. The community will have their chance to discuss the minutia of a project at a later date. So, thanks!!!

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