Dave Reid

One Percent. It’s a Start.

By - Sep 23rd, 2009 09:47 am
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Bike Racks

Bike Racks

Tom Held of the Journal Sentinel reports in his article, Census says: more bikes on the road in Milwaukee, that “The number of Milwaukee workers who bicycled to their jobs more than doubled from 2006 to 2008, and now accounts for more than 1% of the total commuter traffic.”  What’s significant about the 1% ridership is that it has a doubled recently, and is actually above the U.S. national average of .5%, so progress is being made.  Although, still small, it is a start.

Of course there will be some who say “one percent who cares” or “why spend money on such a small number of people.”  But encouraging more ridership is good for Milwaukee as it can, in the long run, reduce congestion and parking needs, improve the health of our residents, and raise the quality of life for all of our residents, not just bicyclists.  To see these ridership numbers continue to rise it is important to recognize that to some extent it is the infrastructure priorities that sets the mode choice.

Cities around the world have been able to obtain higher ridership numbers by overtime implementing small incremental infrastructure improvements.  For example, Portland has seen its ridership numbers top 5.9% (or more), and Copenhagen has hit heights of 37%.  Here in Milwaukee the addition of new bike lanes, bike racks on buses, and a variety of awareness programs have all contributed to this increased ridership, but as these other cities have shown much more can be done.

In the area of infrastructure there are a variety of options that could be invested in to further increase Milwaukee’s ridership numbers.

  • Bike Racks.  The addition of a second bike staple wherever the city has an existing one would go a long way to alleviate concerns of securely locking ones bike once they have arrived at a destination.
  • On-Street Bike Parking.  This should be offered as an option to business owners that want additional bike parking, but don’t want to use up sidewalk space.
  • Cycletracks.  A cycletrack physically separates bike traffic from automobile traffic on the street.  Although this design raises concerns among some riders,cycletracks have been widely successful in attracting ridership in cities such as Copenhagen, and now New York City.
  • Bike Boulevards.  This improvement simply reconfigures neighborhood streets to discourage automobile traffic, while at the same time reducing stop signs to facilitate bike access.
  • Bike Lanes.  The painting of bike lanes is a low cost measure that helps bicyclists stake a claim to the road, and at the very least indicates to drivers the presence of bicyclists.
  • Bike Trails.  In some areas of Milwaukee bike trails act as arterial streets and facilitate long distance travel.  Additionally, these trails create a safe and fun environment for new riders to get their bike legs.
  • Complete Streets.  By designing a street for pedestrians, while including bike lanes, the end result is slower automobile traffic and a safer more enjoyable experience for riders.
  • Bike-Sharing.  Bike-sharing systems allow people to securely rent, or borrow, a bike and return it to another station within the city.  Systems like these can introduce new riders to the possibility of using a bike for a short trip.

Do you have any other suggestions?

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23 thoughts on “One Percent. It’s a Start.”

  1. Nick says:

    More bike racks in the 3rd Ward. For some reason there is a disproportionately low density of bike racks here compared to downtown and the east side and it baffles me.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Nick Yes. I noticed the other day that for example at the Public Market they have one rack at one end of the building with no staples the rest of the way around. Hopefully, we can get many more staples in the Third Ward.

  3. Nick Aster says:

    Bravo. Here is San Francisco it was 1% a few years ago, now it’s at least 2% and rising, despite really lousy infrastructure. I think higher numbers for Milwaukee are absolutely realistic!

  4. Jeff Jordan says:

    More bike racks in the UWM area and on campus.
    More residential bike trails for UWM students, instead of putting them on Oakland, Maryland and Downer
    More bike lanes on the East Side not less. The redesign of the Oakland and Locust intersection calls for a reduction
    Traffic lanes on Lake Drive should be better marked and in some cases created.
    Bike lanes on Lincoln Memorial are not as effective because of intermittent parking zones.
    Allowable traffic speed on Lincoln Memorial is creeping up over 40MPH

  5. dan says:

    it would be nice to see a bike lane on national ave. – maybe from the stadium to 1st street. i notice more and more riders using it to get downtown or to the 3rd ward, but it can be a dangerously busy street during “rush hour”.

  6. Dave Steele says:

    We comprise one percent of all traffic, but somehow I suspect that spending on bike facilities comprises, far, far less than one percent of all transportation funding – it might be interesting to find out that figure.

  7. Jesse Hagen says:

    As far as extra bike facilites, it never hurts to contact places directly. My bank installed two after I mentioned it in an email and made them aware of a city program.

    http://www.city.milwaukee.gov/router.asp?docid=14181

  8. Dave Reid says:

    @Dave I was wondering about that number as well… I think you’re probably right that bike infrastructure spending is less than 1%

  9. Dave Reid says:

    @jesse great point….

  10. Andrew says:

    Having just moved here from bike-friendly Minneapolis, I would like to see shower stations built in downtown and other high bike traffic areas. We have one of these on the Greenway bike trail in Minneapolis and it’s awesome. I can bike to work and take a shower while my bike gets a tune-up!

  11. Dave Reid says:

    @Andrew I take it what you’re suggesting is more than say locker rooms in office buildings? But some facility? Do you have a link I’m curious… Thanks!

  12. Bryan says:

    I’ve noticed a lack of bike racks around the Milwaukee County courthouse, and I commented on that on my new blog:
    http://mkebikecommuter.blogspot.com/2009/10/bike-parking-at-courthouse.html

    I’ve bike commuted in a lot of different cities, and I have to say that Milwaukee is a really nice place to ride to work. The traffic is relatively light and there are quite a few bike lanes, racks, etc. I think the main barrier to getting more people to ride to work here is not so much a lack of infrastructure but rather the perception that the weather here sucks too much for cycling (which it sometimes does).

    I’m not sure how to address that, but year-round cycling here isn’t really all that bad, provided you have some half-way adequate clothing and you just get out there and see for yourself that’s it’s doable. It’s disconcerting to already see a dip in the number of cyclists on the road in early October when the weather is still really nice! Encouraging those who already bike to work in the nicer months to try cycling further into the winter months would result in more cyclists on the roads during winter, thereby creating a perception to those who don’t bike commute at all that Milwaukee is a groovy year-round bike commuting town. I guess Minneapolis has already done that.

  13. Dave Reid says:

    @Bryan First thanks for finding us… I love your new blog.. added it to my reader right away. To me improving the infrastructure isn’t for the regular rider it is to get new riders on the road. It is to break that fear, or change the culture…. Oh I’d add that weather is a concern for people too, and you’re right people shouldn’t be afraid of riding right now, it is actually a great time to ride… Planning on getting 10 miles in tonight.

  14. Bryan says:

    I’m glad I found your blog, Dave. I agree with you about infrastructure being a good way to break people’s fear. Enjoy your ride tonight!

  15. Davey says:

    Has anyone noticed that the official 2010 Milwaukee County Transit System Map & Guide contains NO mention of the bike racks on buses?

    MCTS keeps reporting on low usage but make no effort to promote or popularize the racks, even though they could help drive ridership. It wold have been smart to at least describe the racks in the publication, and better yet, indicate where bus routes intersect the Oak Leaf Trail system.

    Clearly, Walker wants that program to fail, along with MCTS itself.

  16. Dave Reid says:

    @Davey I wasn’t aware of that… Interesting.

  17. Joyce Tang Boyland says:

    Actually, the Guide does mention the bikes on buses. It’s on the “Welcome” page, as well as in items #4 and #6 of the “Riding the Bus is Easy” page. It’s not necessarily easy to find or marketed very thoroughly, but it is there. I do think promoting them could increase ridership, since so much more is now possible with a bike than without. There is the problem though that as buses become less frequent, the misfortune of a full rack grows in cost, because you may have to wait so long for the next bus with an open rack that you’ll be late to work.

  18. John P. Hefter says:

    When folks ask why this elder bikes everyday and nearly everywhere, I reply, “I live in this neighborhood. I have to breathe this air.” I am retired now but when I was employed, I always biked to work.

  19. Dave Reid says:

    @John a friend of mine said it much the same way. It is about feeling the weather.

  20. John P. Hefter says:

    I mention to merchants that if there were a bike staple/rack outside your store, I would be very likely to return and shop at your establishment. It’s all about raising bicycle awareness one bit at a time.

  21. Dave Reid says:

    @John thank you. And this is a topic I have been planning on writing about as, I bike to get around a lot and there are far too many place without staples…

  22. John P. Hefter says:

    Okay, so my derailleur and chain, gunked with crud, doesn’t sparkle in the day light but the damage done to the frame from locking my bike to signage posts is annoying. Parking lots are for cars and bikes. Am I sounding militant?

  23. Dave Reid says:

    @John No no at all. I believe adding bike staples is a small, affordable, way the city can make Milwaukee a better place for all residents. Auto drivers (as more people might bike), and bicyclists as we’d have places to securely lock up in front of retail establishments. This is definitely a topic I’ll be writing on in the future.

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