Complete Street: cyclists invited

New bike lanes and flowering trees at 2nd and Oregon.

Smooth pavement, bike lanes, grass, flowering trees, music, food and beer – now that’s what I call a complete street.  Pedal over to get a taste of all those things when the City of Milwaukee cuts the ribbon on the completion of the S 2nd Street reconstruction project along with the Walkers Point Association.

Click to open a larger image of invitation

South 2nd Street is one of two complete streets makeovers the City did last year.  From Pittsburgh to National, the street was narrowed from a 60 foot wide cross section with four motor vehicle travel lanes, two parking lanes and 5 ft wide sidewalks to a 50 ft wide road with wider sidewalks, only two motor vehicle travel lanes, bike lanes and parking lanes.  At the request of the businesses and members of the Walkers Point Association, the City also added a grass, street trees, count-down LED pedestrian heads and decorative street lighting. 

The before and concept photos below are from a post on Urban Milwaukee.  I made the existing conditions photo immediately below yesterday.

S. 2nd at Oregon, after the project. Note the old street lights still need to be removed and the street trees will eventually grow to be as large as those in the concept image below.

S. 2nd at Oregon, before the project


This was the concept rendering. We were unable to put in bump outs because of the bus stops and the number of emergency calls due to the proximity of the fire station. We were also not able to afford the stamped colored concrete in the crosswalks or the bike lanes.

The old cobra lights will be removed by the contractor and only the new historic Milwaukee pendant and harp lights will remain.

It is a little unfair to compare the artist rendering with the final as-built design because some of the electrical work, which is being done by a private contractor as required by the ARRA funding, is still under way; the street trees are smaller, and although we looked at it, we could not put in the curb extensions or colored bike lanes/crosswalks. Even without those items I think this is a very successful and important project for the City. It is pretty rare that we remove a motor vehicle travel lane on any reconstruction project. Any time we take space away from automobiles, give that space to people walking and riding bicycles, and green a street, we are doing good work. 

 I really like the new street, and its connection to the other recently finished complete street road diet on S 1st from Mitchell to Lincoln.  That street went from a four lane pattern to a three lane pattern so we could add the bike lanes. Between the pothole free ride and the freshly painted bike lanes, I think it is a really nice route.  In the couple times I visited to take some photographs, I saw quite a few people using the new bike lanes, walking dogs along the new grass, using the bike racks on the No. 19 bus route, and of course driving cars.

Using it!

One unexpected thing I noticed was that many people on bicycles turned off 2nd to go east at Florida.  That surprised me a bit since the newly redone intersection at Pittsburgh is pretty bike friendly.  The bike lanes continue down Pittsburgh all the way to the Young Street bridge.  Maybe some people who don’t read my blog (?!) still avoid it because they don’t know the traffic signal has been tuned to detect bicycles and the loop-detector pavement marking was recently painted.

Getting all multi-modal under the watchfull eye of the Polish Moon.

I still see many people riding on S 1st Street from Pittsburgh all the way to KK. I know the complete streets are one block out of the way, but I am curious if the only reason why people are not riding on the new streets between Bay View and Downtown is because the 1st/2nd route is two blocks off the most direct route of KK/1st.  I’m a pretty assertive urban cyclist, but I sure prefer the reconstructed streets with bike lanes to the bumpy ride one block to the east. Is there something else that I am missing about the newly redone route or are the fresh pavement and bike lanes not worth shifting over a block?


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
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30 Responses to Complete Street: cyclists invited

  1. Lance says:

    It sounds crazy, but I think people bike on 1st St/KK rather than 2nd because that is where the cars are. Our culture teaches people to view life from behind a windshield. So often better bike routes are available, but cyclists instead take the route that most of the cars take. Sort of a mob mentality. It’s the same reason you can have the Ozaukee Trail running parallel to Green Bay Road up in Cedarburg, but cyclists will ride down the dangerous, gravelly, and bumpy highway instead of using the trail that is visible 10 feet away.

  2. Eric Wagner says:

    That before picture looks like Bagdad. That’s really what our city streets have come to? Yikes.

  3. PF says:

    For myself, I had taken 1st because (not being familiar with the area’s bike lanes) Google’s bicycle layer shows 1st as being a preferred route, and doesn’t have the bike lanes indicated on 2nd street.
    I’ve been working to fix that, through Google’s Map Maker ( In fact, the bit of 2nd street’s bike lane was put there by me. I’ve been trying to slowly add bike lane info from the 2011 Milwaukee By Bike map to Google’s bicycle layer to help with this.

  4. David Coles says:

    Is that asphalt or cement on the new S. 2nd St.?

  5. Nick B says:

    I’ll have to ride down there and see everything this week! I imagine a lot of people still use 1st street due to lack of information and being creatures of habit. 2nd street used to be a mess and was a further distance….so unless someone says to them, “Hey, 2nd street is awesome to ride on now!” They will continue in their old ways of riding 1st street!! My 2 cents.

  6. CK says:

    This is my daily route and I have to admit, the majority of my ride has been on 1st as opposed to 2nd. So here’s my top 10 reasons I prefer 1st to 2nd:
    10. I like to surf the wind wave that breaks at 1st and Greenfield (generated by the vortex that is Allen Bradley)
    9. Issues of unworthiness of smooth pavement due to eight years of avoiding craters
    8. I know all the 1st St potholes by name
    7. More drivers wave at me and yell helpful suggestions on 1st
    6. 1st is always better than being 2nd in a variety of situations – words of wisdom from my dad
    5. A buddy of mine was swallowed by a 1st St pothole (pothole named Bruce) – still hoping he resurfaces
    4. Club Paradise palm trees are strangely alluring
    3. I like comparing gas prices between Mobil and BP
    2. 1st is the only street that gives me the opportunity to punch the Comedy Sports parking attendant/ballerina – I don’t like men who wear pink
    1. I would have to change the name of my blog – 1st Street Steel Waffle – along with all of my merchandise (t-shirts, stickers, lingerie), manuscript/book/movie title, etc

  7. Dave Steele says:

    1st Street seems like the most direct route when you’re traveling from the East Side to Bay View, since Water Street flows right into it (pun intended) and it seamlessly turns into KK at Mitchell Street. A lot of bikers figure why should they have to go a block west out of their way to get from one side of town to the other – just use the same straight shot that drivers use… Water Street > 1st Street > KK.

    I’ve always preferred 2nd to 1st Street, even back when 2nd Street was like riding on the surface of Mars. I’m a West Sider, so on those occasions I go to Bay View taking 2nd Street is not taking me out of my way. I also work on 2nd & Wells, so when traveling South from work it’s a nice clean shot down 2nd to St. Paul, a block over to 2nd across the River.

    After roughing it out on 2nd Street all these years, the reconstruction is like biking in a dream. Smooth pavement, generous bike lanes and hardly any cars. I love it.

  8. Jake Newborn says:

    when people call the bike fed asking about routes i tell em take 2nd st all the time. #doingmypart

  9. Tim K says:

    Great work Dave!

  10. Will says:

    I take 2nd st due to the lower traffic volume and the bike lanes, and when I cross over at Maple I can wave to all the Outlaws!! Maybe some signage would help direct people to the bike friendly-er 2nd st?

    Any idea why the bike lanes stop on Howell by Humboldt park?

  11. Sam Dodge says:

    My route depends on my mood. If I’m in a hurry I’ll ride on 1st because I’m encouraged to keep up with traffic, even though there is somewhat more danger and I have to deal with potholes. Otherwise, I’ve been trying to take 2nd as much as I can. It is slightly annoying to go over a block, but the quieter street and smooth road is usually worth it.

    I do seem to have to stop for more traffic lights on 2nd, which can be annoying. And last week there was a mounted officer (as in, on a horse) in the bike lane I had to ride around.

    One thing I liked about Madison’s bike lanes is how they interact with right turn lanes. Here’s a graphic example. Having that signage and lane markings made me feel a lot safer when approaching intersections. It would have been nice to see that on 2nd, though I know there are only a couple instances it could work and there might not be enough street width to make it possible. But it’s something I’d like to see in future projects.

  12. Barry Stuart says:

    I actually prefer S. 2nd St. to S. 1st because of the lack of car traffic, however, if there’s an extremely windy day, the area near Rockwell International/Allen Bradley can be a wind tunnel. Hang on tight to your bike through there!

  13. Tom Held says:

    I tend to take 1st St. because it seems to be the more direct route from work to home and home to work. 2nd St. requires a few extra turns.

  14. D'nardo says:

    I used to take 2nd until the reconstruction. Then I w
    as forced to take 1st. Now I take 1st about 75% of the time. Go figure. But to be clear, I’m only on either starting at washington ave and south. North of washington, I ride along the harbor – zero traffic.

    I really like the remake of 2nd though. Now if we can just have the next Local 52 meeting at Tony’s Tavern featured in the photos!

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Cube steak sandwiches? Shots measured to the bottom of the meniscus? Hot nuts? Decent juke box? Perhaps…

  15. Bill Sell says:

    1st Street to Bay View for me. Of course, I’m happy that 2nd has been refurbished, and is smooth. 1st is not actually that bumpy. Once you know where the bumps are it’s like habit to avoid them. I will give 2nd some more chances to win me over, but now it’s out of the way unless I did a post office drop after work.

  16. Max says:

    I’ve tried 2nd St a number of times going both North and South – I’m sticking with 1st St probably until either the Hoan opens up or more cars start to park on 1st.

    For most of 1st, there is plenty of room to ride without feeling like you are in the road with cars, fewer lights, better timed (for my cadence), etc. I’m not necessarily looking for the quickest route (I usually add on to my route by riding through Lakefront State Park), I look for the route where I have to step down the least with decent pavement. As Bill said above, 1st is pretty good in terms of being smooth….

  17. Dave F says:

    While I do not ride south too often, I have been looking forward to the completion of 2nd street. It’s great to see it has been completed. I hope it is the first of many such projects.

  18. MaryWynn says:

    I didn’t know about the 2nd St. makeover until just now, but I doubt I’ll change my route to work which is a straight shot up KK-1st-h2o Streets for me. I might be persuaded to check it out if there was an easy way to turn left on Maple. Left turns are prohibited at Mitchell which is the next opportunity and then the street becomes 2 lanes, further complicating a left turn. The bike lane just vanishes just before Maple street going up the hill from the KK bridge, so I tend to be focused on not being splattered all over the street.

    I’m a dedicated but nervous biker and left turns are my least favorite maneuver. I often will move to the sidewalk and walk my bike across with the light rather than attempt one.

    Also worth noting is that the intersection at 1st and Maple is a two-way stop and it’s tough for wimps like me to get across during busy traffic. It used to be a four-way, I don’t know why they changed it.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      I find these responses from people who still take S 1st to Water interesting. By comparison, I take a very out of the way route (the Hank Aaron) to work downtown from my home in Washington Heights just because it is so nice. And I have bike lanes to ride, even bike lanes and new pavement on State Street, on my route. Certainly to each his own, everyone has the right to ride where they want, but personally, since biking to work or store is typically my only bike ride I get in during the week, I like to make it as pleasant as possible. For the same reason and since the most direct route from home to work is only 5 miles, I don’t mind adding a bit of distance to my commute. I guess we will just have to improve Water and S 1st as well…

      • Max says:

        @Mary – agree about the left turns to get to 2nd – I don’t like them either

        @Dave – I don’t mind adding distance either, like I previously stated, I typically add on, going under the Hoan and taking the Lakeshore State Park path b/c that is a very pleasant ride. For me, 2nd is not that much more pleasant than 1st. And since I don’t like the hassels on 2nd (getting there and additional stop signs/lights), I don’t regularly ride it.

      • daveschlabowske says:

        Thanks, not trying to be critical, just looking for a sense of what people prefer for planning purposes.

  19. Dave Steele says:

    Mary – whenever I go to Bay View (which is rarely during rush hour, admitedly) I like to use 1st south of Maple south to either Becher or Lincoln, then up the hill east to KK. Going back then that’s Lincoln or Becher west down the hill, right on 1st, left on Maple, then right on 2nd north to Downtown.

    I like this route because even though the pavement isn’t the greatest on Lincoln, or Becher, 1st Street south of Maple is freshly paved and has relatively little traffic. It’s also nice to avoid the railroad trestle on KK north of Becher. It also makes getting over to 2nd a lot easier going north because a left turn from 1st onto Maple is lot nicer than one from KK.

  20. Sam Dodge says:

    This is a relevant blog post I just saw: Folks riding along at 8mph

    Makes good points about how we view bike infrastructure, and speaks to what MaryWynn was talking about.

  21. Angela says:

    I’m a KK->1st St->Water St commuter, but I’ve only been keeping that route because I didn’t realize 2nd St. was completed. I took 2nd today & it was so much nicer than dodging potholes & mopeds on 1st. Thanks for providing the information.

  22. Will says:

    Left for work WAY early yesterday, due ot nice weather, and happened upon the 2nd St ground breaking celebration thingy…it was nice to see all the bikes there. And since it was so nice my 11 mile, one way, commute turned into about 18.

  23. Rick says:

    It’s not on my commute, but we checked it out over the weekend. 2nd street is now on the Tosa-Walker’s Point/Bay View route.

    It’s a much better use of time and resources than the Hoan would be.

  24. Katy S says:

    I take 1st mostly out of habit, but also because I expect to see more cyclists on it. I like the social aspect of it. That said, I’ll try to use 2nd more often to support it, and I think the redesign of 2nd is important for more than just cycling. I live close by and can see the area’s value has gone up with a nicer road and more pedestrian and cyclist options. I think it’s probably a lot less intimidating to out of towners, etc, than it was.

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