Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

More Trails, More Plowing and Better Maps

An update on all the improvements for biking both locally and state-wide.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Jan 23rd, 2015 02:41 pm
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The side path along the east side of S Water begins just north of Washington Street. here you can see how the City designed the crossing of the oblique railroad track to be at a safer angle. I remember red lining these plans when I still worked for the City!

The side path along the east side of S Water begins just north of Washington Street. Here you can see how the city designed the crossing of the railroad track to be at a safer angle. I remember red lining these plans when I still worked for the city!

This is an update on projects for those who couldn’t make it to the last Milwaukee area members meeting . Most of this information comes from the updates we get at  the Milwaukee County Trails Council and City of Milwaukee Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force.  Both these meetings have some cross over, and are attended by Chris Squires, the SE Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator from WisDOT,  Melissa Cook, the WDNR Regional trail manager, staff from SEWRPC, representatives from the Metro Mountain Bikers and representatives from the Rolling Dice Riders, the Milwaukee County member of the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs.  Local government staff at the Task Force Meeting includes Kristin Bennett, the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and Ramsey Radakovich, the Deputy Regional Trail Manager for Milwaukee County.

Click the image for a larger view.

Click the image for a larger view.

Oak Leaf Trail Extension North: Phases 1-3 of this project are complete. Phase 4 is the final 3.1 mile link between where the trail currently ends in Estabrook park (where it dumps you out onto Wilson, just south of Hampton Avenue) and the newest segment of trail that begins at Sydney Place.

The staff from Milwaukee County Parks are still negotiating to purchase the right of way from the railroad. Real estate purchases using federal funds are always complicated and take quite a bit of time, and purchasing railroad ROW complicates things further. The project has been advertised, and they should be opening bids soon. If the bids come in on budget (not guaranteed), the Milwaukee County hopes to have a contract signed and start construction this year!

Given the project includes four bridges, I would think it will take at least a couple years to complete the trail, if not more. The good news is this project is moving forward and will fill in an extremely important missing link in the incredible network of trails along the Lake Michigan shore.

New Trails along the Milwaukee River: Some mountain bikers and hikers have asked who has been building new trails along the Milwaukee River near Estabrook Park. Those trails were bench cut in by members of the Friends of Estabrook Park (and some members of the Metro Mountain Bikers) to provide an alternative to the section that floods every year closer to the river. Note, these are hiking only trails, as mountain biking is technically forbidden along the Milwaukee Greenway.

Menomonee River Parkway Reconstruction: The Wisconsin Bike Fed is part of the consulting team on this project. Our role is small, but important as we review bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.  Anyone who has ridden on the Menomonee River Parkway knows it is in dire need of reconstruction. This project will include a separated multi-use path, better on-street accommodations for bicycles as well as rain gardens and bioswales to collect stormwater runoff and cleanse it of silt and pollution. There also will be new LED lighting, improved pedestrian crossings and some minor traffic calming to keep motor vehicle speeds down and help reduce cut-through traffic. The overall goal of the project is to restore a parkway feel to the road — oh, and to fix the pot holes! The project has a website with more information here,  but the update is that phase two of the project planning has started. This is the section from Burleigh to Church Street. Construction on Phase One should begin this spring.

The first phase, from Capitol to Burleigh, was designed last year and there were a number of public information sessions. As I said, design work is beginning on the second phase. The county has budgeted about $3.1 million for the first phase, which will cover about two miles of the parkway from Capitol Dr. to Burleigh St. A second phase would be funded in the 2015 budget, includes another 2.5 miles of parkway from Burleigh to Church St. in the Wauwatosa Village, likely to cost about $3.8 million.

Construction on the project will be done in 2015, and it includes a new section of trail along with improved bicycle/pedestrian and storm water facilities on the parkway itself.

Beerline Trail Extension: The city has hired a consultant to begin acquisition of the abandoned railroad right of way needed to extend the Beerline Trail north from Keefe Avenue to Capitol Drive. The project will also include elements from The Artery. This has the potential to be one of the most unique trails in the state because the project has one numerous large financial awards to include art and interactive amenities.

Click to open a Google Map of the final phase of the Bay View to Downtown Connector WisDOT Preferred Alternative.

Click to open a Google Map of the final phase of the Bay View to Downtown Connector WisDOT Preferred Alternative.

Bay View to Downtown Connector: Construction on this project is pretty much complete, but Kristin Bennett said she plans to add better way-finding signs. This segment begins where the Kinnickinnic River Trail ends at East Washington Street and is planned to continue north along S. Water Street to Erie. The project includes a combination new pavement, removal of some abandoned railroad tracks, improved track crossings for the active rail lines that remain with a side path to get people over the oblique crossings at a safe angle, new bike lanes, and anti-slip places on the Pittsburgh/Young Street bascule bridge over the river.

Way-finding Signs: Milwaukee County has purchased 200 new signs for the Oak Leaf Trail and hired Keith Holt to review the existing signs along the trail. Last year they replaced, realigned and installed 90 signs. They will finish that project with the rest of the signs this year. The county and city also have a grant to study all the bikeway signs in Milwaukee County and come up with a plan for a more consistent and better plan for facility and way-finding signs for all bikeways.

Milwaukee County Trails Map: Parks Department staff are working on the GIS and design for a new map of all trails in Milwaukee County.  The maps will be printed, distributed and sold by volunteers who put together the Oak Leaf Trail Discovery Tour. They are considering printing the maps on waterproof, tear-proof paper. The maps will be sold with a Oak Leaf Trail Discover Tour Passport this spring. They will include hiking trails, the Oak Leaf of course, and perhaps water trails and birding trails. The money raised by the sales will help purchase more trail counters.

City of Milwaukee Bike Map: Kristin Bennett told me she had someone working on updating the GIS for a new map and was 90 percent sure she would have funding to reprint the map in 2015, hopefully done in time for the Wheel & Sprocket Bike Expo in April.

State Bike Map: The state map is generally updated every five years. WisDOT is almost done with the GIS update and the UW Madison Cartography Lab is almost done with design. I have to confess, the Bike Fed is holding up the project at this point. We maintain the GIS of all the bike shops in the state and the mountain bike trail heads. At this point, we have to update both those files and send them to the state. Our staff have not prioritized the completion of the GIS updates. We are looking at hiring a consultant to do that unless there is a GIS savvy volunteer out there!

It seems that the company that previously printed and sold the map to us is no longer interested in printing maps. While digital maps are probably making it harder for for-profit companies to print maps, as a non-profit, we can build the limited sale of maps into our budget. We are thinking of trying to offset the cost of printing by offering sponsorship on the map, and then sales would cover the cost of distribution.

Mountain Biking: The Metro Mountain Bikers are interested in revisiting the Memorandum of Understanding with Milwaukee County that defines their role building and maintaining mountain bike trails in the County. We are talking about the possibility of legitimizing the social trails that connect the official trails at Hoyt Park with the other set of official trails at Harley Woods and Oak Hill. There has also been work defining a route on the north side of the Menomonee River just west of the Village of Wauwatosa. This new route would be used to encourage people to stop riding illegally along the railroad tracks to access the trails behind Hoyt Park Pool.

Winter Snow Plowing of Trails: Milwaukee County has been doing a better and more consistent job of plowing the more heavily used segments of the Oak Leaf Trail. Ramsey Radakovich has also been doing an inventory of what does get plowed and trying to create a map. There is no rule of thumb for all the trails, as different parks and park managers have different histories of winter maintenance. Once Ramsey has a map done, we will look at sharing it so people have a good expectation of what is usable in the winter and when.

The City of Milwaukee has for the first time included winter maintenance of the KK River and the Beerline Trails in their contract to have private contractors clear snow on city properties. This is a great new policy and both trails should be plowed within 24 hours of a major snowfall. City Dept. of Public Works crews are also plowing the Hank Aaron State Trail from Freshwater Way to Selig Drive by Miller Park. They do this even though the Hank is a state trail, not a city trail, because the state will not maintain it. This section functions as a sidewalk along Canal Street, and the pedestrian connection to Freshwater Way. It is very nice of the city to do this given the state is really supposed to do it.

I noticed the New Berlin Rec Trail is being plowed this winter. I was not aware that it was plowed in previous years. I have been told the Bugline Trail and the Lake Country Trail are not being plowed. If anyone has any different information, please let me know in the comment section.

Rock River Trail Initiative: Cue sheets and maps are almost done for the official bicycle route portion of the Rock River Trail. I hope to be able to announce this spring that all those are available online and maybe even in a printed version. About half of the 150 or so miles of the Wisconsin portion of the Rock River Trail are on bike paths, the rest are on low-volume roads or highways with wide shoulders. This trail initiative has been interesting to watch over the last few years. Much of the work is being done by volunteers, but with cooperation from WisDOT, the WDNR, the National Parks Service as well as local and county officials. I am very excited to try riding this trail this summer. I am considering doing it with a folding bike and folding kayak so I can paddle and pedal!

Manitowoc now grooming trails for fat bikes: Thanks to George Kapitz, owner of Broken Spoke Bike Studios, for letting us know that Manitowoc is now grooming fat bike trails at Silver Creek Park. There are an increasing number of trails being groomed specifically for fat bikes around the state. They typically requite 3.8 inch or wider tires.

The new groomer behind a sled.

The new trail groomer behind a sled.

Sorry for the very long blog post, but there is a lot going on. If you are working on something of interest in your part of the state, please let me know and I will try to share it.

This story was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Categories: Bike Czar

11 thoughts on “Bike Czar: More Trails, More Plowing and Better Maps”

  1. Alan says:

    Great update, Dave! A lot going in in the Milwaukee metro area and statewide. Great to hear of the initiatives to connect and expand the urban trails and right-of-ways in Milwaukee and the suburbs. Regarding the state and regional bike maps, couldn’t these be made available as PDF’s if printing is becoming too costly? Printing on waterproof/tearproof paper makes sense. Didn’t realize that the Milwaukee River trails were illegal for mountain biking. I’ve been riding them on and off for 20+ years. Why can’t they be officially changed to legal routes? Improving access to the Menomonee River trails from Wauwatosa’s downtown would be great. The shale along the tracks has never been safe to ride on even without the danger of the trains. Lots of great things happening!

  2. Paul says:

    How will biking on downtown streets be affected by this proposed streetcar plan, seems like the tracks will make it almost impossible to safely ride.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Paul Downtown Portland has both streetcar and light-rail tracks, and Portland has the highest bicycle communing numbers in the country. Is it perfect? Probably not. But the two can and do co-exist.

  4. Paul says:

    @Dave, A simple Goggle search this morning “Portland, bikes vs streetcats” tells me that there are many problems, one survey states that 67% of respondents reported they have crashed their bikes on the tracks. Another says they are still trying to figure it out and looking to Europe still haven’t found the answers.

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Paul And yet, Portland still maintains the highest bike-ridership in America. So an issue, but apparently not such a big one as otherwise you’d see it hurting ridership. And yes other countries (take a look at transit and bicycle numbers in Copenhagen for example) integrate the two modes as well. Quite frankly, if anything, it will push for better designed bike infrastructure like the amazing cycletrack heading to the South Waterfront in Portland.

    Also despite the concerns, Portland is very safe to bike in:

    “But the number-one reason Portland is the country’s best big city for biking is that this is, compared to any other large U.S. city and lots of the smaller ones, an extremely safe place to ride a bicycle.

    This isn’t a new feat for Portland: the city also avoided any bike-related fatalities in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010. [and 2013]” -Bike Portland
    http://bikeportland.org/2013/12/31/the-4-biggest-portland-bike-stories-nobody-wrote-in-2013-99291

    I just noticed that same survey said:

    Most respondents regularly use TriMet or Portland Streetcar in addition to bicycling, both with and without their bicycle

    And

    Most respondents report that they value TriMet and Portland Streetcar as transportation options

    Finally, It is not to say this isn’t a consideration, but you can still have high and apparently very safe bicycle ridership and great fixed-rail transit.

    PS I’ve ridden all over Portland multiple times (even put my bike on the light-rail when I was tired) and look forward to Milwaukee taking a cue from Portland with better bike infrastructure and a streetcar. Maybe even one day full light-rail like the MAX. (Portland has both a streetcar and full on light-rail).

  6. Paul says:

    @Dave, Reading up on it, it does pose a problem that is not even being talked about in Milwaukee, the safest solution seems to be an island down the center of the road for the streetcar and separated lanes for bikes, not doable on our streets. Are separate bike lanes going to be set up and enforced or are bikes going to be banned on some streets. How is the city going to protect itself from liability.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @Paul There are no plans to ban bikes. And if fact in certain locations it might be setup with an island in the middle (though I should say I’m not sure if that is the mix with some of the tweaks that have been made or not). Not all of our streets but many of our streets have plenty of room for cycletracks. As a year round bike-rider, and someone who has actually biked Portland, it is just not that concerning.

  8. Tom D says:

    @Paul, the streetcar’s Environmental Assessment Document discusses bicycles on pages 88–90, 114–115, and 142.

    Specifically, all existing bike lanes will be preserved and 1,200 feet of new bike lane will be added on East Wells. When the full 3.6 miles of streetcar is complete, 18 blocks of the streetcar route will have bike lanes. It looks like they plan to site most bike lanes just left of the parking lane (meaning that bikers would have potential dangers on both sides—the streetcar on the left and being “doored” from the right). They may have put the bike lanes there to protect the streetcar from being “doored”.

    On one-way streets, existing bike lanes may be moved to the left of the traffic lanes, away from the streetcar and buses. Being on the left side also means that bikers are less likely to be “doored” since most cars have no passengers and their right-hand doors are opened less often.

    If you don’t feel comfortable riding on the same street as a streetcar, you can always use another street.

  9. Dave says:

    Something tells me Paul has little knowledge of bicycles or streetcars…something quite common with Milwaukee’s CAVE community.

  10. Aaron says:

    What is the plan for the northwest portion of the trail? How will it go from where it ends currently (AC Hanson Park in Brown Deer) to Kohl Park? I see it is marked as ‘Other Future Oak Leaf Trail and heading to Kohl Park. Will that area connect to the existing trail on the Northwest side (91st/Bradley rd)?

  11. Paul says:

    Dave…I’m here trying to get a discussion going on problems that might occur with a streetcar and bicycles sharing the same road, then add in motorcycles and I foresee major problems. And your answer is to call me names. Real classy there Dave

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