One Percent. It’s a Start.
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.
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?