Construction of Milwaukee’s first raised bike lane will begin at the end of June. As part of what was the Wisconsin DOT’s Bay View to Downtown Bike Route project, the City of Milwaukee designed a project to resurface Bay Street and construct a raised bike lane from Potter to Lenox. This will be the first raised bike lane in the Midwest and one of very few in the country. The only other raised bike lanes in the Northern Hemisphere I am aware of are in Vancouver, British Columbia; Eugene and Bend, Oregon.
As I mentioned, this is part of the WisDOT’s “preferred alternative” to the path over the Hoan Bridge. In 2002 they decided not to build a path, but still had funding to do a bike project to improve the route from Bay View to Downtown, so they asked the City of Milwaukee if we would design and implement it. Milwaukee agreed and this is the first part of the project. The second part of the route will be constructed next year when the City will resurface S Water Street from National to Pittsburgh will add bicycle accommodations. To be clear, the City still supports a bicycle path over the Hoan as part of the future redecking project, but this funding was available, it paid to resurface some very rough streets and add bike accommodations where there were none.
The motor vehicle traffic volumes on this street don’t justify four travel lanes, so when Milwaukee DPW resurfaces the street we are able to put it on a “road diet” and remove those unnecessary lanes and use the remaining space to add bicycle lanes. You can see in the enlarged image below, that the bike lane is raised about 3.5 inches and separated from the motor vehicle travel lane with a 31 inch wide rolled or “mountable” curb. This will serve to keep cars from driving in the bike lane, but still allow them to get into the curbside parking lane.
We did not continue the raised bike lane west of Lenox, which is where the ramps to the Lincoln Ave Viaduct are and the traffic volumes increase quite a bit. Instead that section will just get a standard bike lane next to a wide motor vehicle travel lane. If this route proves to be very popular, perhaps we can look at creating a buffered bike lane in that section from Lenox to KK, maybe even try using the soft-hit bollards like Chicago’s Kinzie St will get (see yesterday’s post for more details on that design).
Remember this raised bike lane is just a pilot project to see how effective and well liked it is. If it is effective, we may tweak the design before we use it anywhere else. That said, it is not totally new; there are other examples of raised roadway sections and rolled curbs in the area. Wauwatosa has a raised parking lane on State Street just east of 68th. We consulted with their plowing operations chief and he said they did not have any trouble plowing that section. In fact, he said the rolled curb made it easier to plow than a typical vertical curb face.
So now you have my permission to run outside and shout it from the rooftops “Milwaukee is getting the first raised bike lane in the Midwest! We are number one! Up Milwaukee!”