In talking about the death of a man on the Hoan Bridge Tuesday, Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. staked out his position on the proposal to add a bike lane on the elevated roadway: an emphatic no.
Clarke called it the "dumbest thing I ever heard" during a news conference.
"Bikes in heavy traffic is not a good mix," he said. "I don't care what kind of safety barrier you're going to put up."
State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said the sheriff is wrong.
"He should probably get that foot-in-mouth disease checked out soon," Larson said. "He's commenting on something he doesn't know about."
Larson said there are numerous examples of safe routes, separated by barriers, on similar bridges. The Wonders Way Bike Path on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in South Carolina is one of them.
Neither Clarke nor a sheriff's representative spoke in August at the town hall meeting organized by elected officials and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to gather input on the prospects of a bike and pedestrian route on the bridge. The DOT is studying the cost and feasibility as part of its planning for a reconstruction of the bridge deck, expected to cost $275 million to $350 million.
A consultant's report on the bike lane is expected to be completed this fall.
Larson said he expects the report will say a bike and pedestrian path could be added to the Hoan safely and affordably.
Clarke made his comments about the bike lane proposal while discussing the death of Bobby E. Jiles, 39, who was hit by a car while tending to his disabled vehicle in a southbound traffic lane. The collision knocked Jiles off the bridge.
The roadway on the Hoan has been severely restricted during work to repair crumbling concrete on the roadway. With the emergency lane closed and the traffic tightened, motorists have little room to maneuver or check their vehicles if necessary.