New Milwaukee bike path in the works

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Cyclists will soon have greater reign over Milwaukee, with the addition of a new bicycle route this fall connecting the Bay View area with Downtown.

Construction started in late summer on South Bay Street between East Potter Avenue and East Lincoln Avenue to build Wisconsin’s first raised bike lane.

Mike Loughran, chief planning and developments engineer for the City of Milwaukee, said the raised bike lane means there will be a slightly raised, rolling curb separating moving traffic and bikes making it easier for cyclists to ride over and will provide them more protection.

“We recognize bicycling as a viable mode of transportation and are trying to make accommodations for cyclists,” Loughran said.

Loughran said the project would be completed before Thanksgiving this year.

The project will cost $1.3 million, 80 percent of which will be paid for by state and federal funds, and the remaining 20 percent contributed by the city, Loughran said.

Over the last five years, Milwaukee has added more than 50 miles of bike lanes along with increased bike racks and bicycle education courses, Loughran said. Bicycle use is up 230 percent and the number of bicycle crashes is down 75 percent in Milwaukee, according to the American Community Survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The idea for the project came to fruition in the late 1990s when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation decided a route from the Bayview area into downtown was needed.

A planning study found three options to improve this connection and in a state report released in 2002 it was decided that improvements on Bay Street and South Water Street would be made.

Laura Snamiska, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she believes more students would use bikes at Marquette if there were more bike lanes.

“It is so annoying to have to weave in and out of others on the sidewalk,” Snamiska said.

In recognition for the city’s embracing of bicycle travel, in 2006 the League of American Bicyclists designated Milwaukee to its bronze level.

Darren Flusche, policy analyst for the League of American Bicyclists, said the bronze ranking means Milwaukee has taken the first steps to being a truly cycling-friendly city.

Flusche said the recognition program uses the five E’s — engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation — to rank the cities.

With the construction of the raised path and other projects, Milwaukee is trying to emulate the advanced bicycle lanes of Minneapolis and Madison, Loughran said. The organization has designated both cities to its gold level, the second highest.

In addition to construction of the raised path, a painted lane will be added on South Bay Street, from East Lincoln Avenue to South Kinnickinnic Avenue. Bicyclists can continue onto South Kinnickinnic Avenue until Maple Street using a current bike lane.

Within the next year Loughran said an off-road bike path would be built on Second Street between Maple Street and Washington Street.

Plans are also in the works to make improvements to South Water Street by adding a bike lane, making railroad crossings, and removing railroad tracks not in use Loughran said.

The city is also considering adding a bike lane on the Hoan Bridge. Last month a meeting was held for residents to support the construction of a bike path on the bridge. Loughran said a feasibility study is currently underway and the department will make an announcement within the next month.

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