Milwaukee needs a few big ideas to take bicycling to the next level. While our own local surveys told us this, my trip to New York City convinced me that regular bike lanes and trails in recreational corridors are nice, we need some really innovative bicycle facilities in key transportation corridors if we want to get a lot more people riding bicycles.
Don’t get me wrong, Milwaukee has come a long way in recent years and added a lot of great bicycle facilities. Consider:
- Hank Aaron State Trail
- Marsupial Bridge
- Hank Aaron Extension and Valley Passage
- Beerline connection
- 53 miles of bike lanes
- Bike racks on buses
All great things, and they have all helped increase the number of people on bikes. And there are a few good things in the works: the extension of the Oak Leaf from Estabrook to Brown Deer, the KK River Trail, the Bay View to Downtown connector route, and even marketing programs like Smart Trips and Share and Be Aware. Again, all great and all will help continue to grow cycling.
I certainly have not forgotten the recently updated and approved (YEAH!) Milwaukee by Bike plan, which adds quite a few new innovative bicycle facilities to the potential Milwaukee road building tool box. So we have the tools, when do we get to use them on some really cool new project?
We really don’t have any concrete (pun intended) plans yet, with one exception. We are in the 60% design stages for the Bay View to Downtown Connection, which includes a raised bike lane on Bay Street from Potter to Lennox. If the final designs are approved by WisDOT, this will be the first of our new innovative treatments from the bike plan.
This is just the kind of big idea that could inspire envy in others to ask for something similar in their neighborhood. That is awesome, except it is a little bitter-sweet given this is the WisDOT preferred alternative to a path over the Hoan Bridge. So although it is a good start in the big idea category, I think we need something not tainted by disappointment.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition recently announced a bold new campaign called “Connecting the City” to add bike facilities that have proven so effective at attracting more timid cyclists in New York City. I encourage you to read the campaign information on the SFBC linked page above.
Milwaukee now has a good new bike plan that explains how to design such protected bike lanes, but we don’t have the political will to say right out loud that we want to change the face of the city and put people above cars. It is my hope though that we can find the political will and public support to say we want a specific catalytic project somewhere.
We need some outside group, a local business, a neighborhood, or a powerful local champion to say “We want a bicycle boulevard/green bike lane here/cycletrack here, on _____ street in our neighborhood.” If that is said with enough clarity, with robust public support, with aldermanic support and with the understanding that there will be local costs, it could happen. Ideally the project could be tied to an upcoming resurfacing, but if not, and it is done as a stand-alone project, the residents who ask for it might need to pay for it, or at least give up resurfacing a different street in their neighborhood.
Before we can get to the point that this imaginary power block of idealism demands a project we need to come up with some ideas. Local readers, you have seen what they have done in NYC, what they are proposing in San Francisco, now I ask you, where could we do what? Give me a few really key blocks somewhere that would really make a statement. Describe to me a project where your design vehicle is a bicycle ridden by a 60-year-old woman with two shopping bags. Tell me what you want or at least what you thing somebody should ask for? I have a couple of ideas of my own, which I will share in another post, but first I’d like to hear from you.