Cycling advocates in Milwaukee are looking to put some air back in their tires after the Department of Transportation punctured the proposal for a bike and pedestrian lane on the Hoan Memorial Bridge.
The lobbying effort gained momentum throughout the year, and more than 5,000 people signed a petition supporting the addition of a non-motorized pathway in an upcoming rehabilitation of the bridge over the Port of Milwaukee.
The DOT, however, decided the bike lane on the two-mile bridge was too expensive and would create too much congestion for motorists.
With the path over the Hoan blocked, here’s a look at the patch kit (map) for cycling commuters and recreational bikers looking to travel between Bay View and Downtown.
First, the bridge will once again be open for special events.
Organizers of the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts and the Summerfest Rock ‘n Sole confirmed they have secured permission to use the Hoan Bridge in 2012.
The bike ride and the run provided the first legal access to the bridge for non-motorized traffic in decades, and more than 10,000 bikers and runners seized the opportunity.
“We’re delighted to be able to offer cyclists over Southeast Wisconsin the opportunity to ride on the beautiful Hoan Bridge,” said Linda Edelstein, chief operating officer of the United Performing Arts Fund. “We’re excited the DOT has offered that opportunity to do that again.”
Could more events utilize the Hoan?
In comments on the bike lane proposal, advocates suggested the Hoan be opened for more events similar to the Ride the Drive in Chicago and the walks held over the bridge in the years after it first opened.
Emlynn Grisar, a DOT spokeswoman, said the department would continue to cooperate with community sponsors for special events.
For daily travels, cyclists will have to make do with the improvements scheduled to be made along the on-street route from Bay View to Downtown.
It’s a stripped-down version of the bikeway plan selected by the DOT in 2002, when it also rejected the Hoan Bridge proposal. Work on the route languished for nearly a decade but is now on track to be finished in the next two years.
A combination of two projects totaling $3.45 million will create the north-south route for bicycles, with two southern starting points: South Shore Park; and the intersection of S. 6th St. and Rosedale, in Bay View. The end point will be Erie St. in the Third Ward.
The first segment, a raised bike lane or cycle track on a short section of S. Bay St., opened in October.
In 2012, work will begin on several elements of the bike route along Kinnickinnic Ave. and S. Water St.
The bike lane on Kinnickinnic from Bay St. to Maple Ave. will be painted and non-slip plates will be installed to make the ride safer on the bridge over the KK River.
At Maple Ave., the route will link to a path built in the former Union Pacific Rail Corridor. The off-street path will extend for roughly six blocks, to Washington St. There, the route will turn east and follow a bike lane installed as part of the reconstruction of S. Water St., in an industrial corridor.
As part of the Water St. reconstruction, more than a half-dozen railroad crossings will be removed or repaired to make the route more ride-able north to the marked bike lanes on Erie St.
At that point, cyclists can follow the marked lanes leading east to the Henry Maier Festival Grounds and the Lakeshore State Park.
The Water St. route is scheduled to be completed in 2012, according to Mike Loughern, coordination manager in the Milwaukee Department of Public Works.
Other than the rail corridor and a short off-road segment along Water St., there will be no raised bike lanes or barriers separating cyclists from motorists.
Construction on the Kinnickinnic River Trail segment is also set to start in 2012.
An off-street path will be built on the rail corridor from 6th and Rosedale to E. Lincoln Ave., just east of S. 1st St. A bridge, scheduled to be completed in 2013, will carry cyclists and pedestrians over S. Chase Ave.
From Lincoln, cyclists would return to the street and travel on the bike lanes marked on the rebuilt S. 1st St., and join the Bay View to Downtown Route at Maple Ave.
“This will be a great improvement and a logical route for cyclists,” Loughern said.
William Sell disagrees.
The route being built for bicyclists is convoluted at best, with limited segments of pathway separated from traffic, he said.
The Bay View resident was a citizen member of the advisory committee that started studying the various routes, including Hoan Bridge, in 1997. Since then, Sell has maintained a website promoting a bike path on the Hoan and helped collect more than 5,000 signatures on a petition calling for the high-rise route.
“I think it’s a vision of what we can do for our city,” Sell said. “Instead we get these convoluted bikeways, and a raised bike lane that’s only four blocks long.”
Sell remains committed to the pursuit of a bike lane on the Hoan, even if it’s merely painted on the roadway.
Kevin Hardman, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, will follow a different route.
The proposal to put a bike lane on the Hoan drew support from 40 local business leaders, including top managers at Johnson Controls, Robert W. Baird & Co. and Rockwell. The Bike Fed will work to build on that mainstream support for cycling as it pursues more investment in bike routes and support for a vulnerable user law, Hardman said.
Below is a map of the Bay View to Downtown route.