Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

How to Make a Pedestrian Friendly City

New district-by-district reports on improving city for bicycling and walking.

By - May 3rd, 2017 04:55 pm
Yield to Pedestrians. Yield To Pedestrians. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Yield to Pedestrians. Yield To Pedestrians. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

In an effort to improve Milwaukee for cyclists and walkers, a trio of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups has compiled a substantial amount of data to produce 15 reports filled with recommendations and opportunities. For each of the city’s aldermanic districts, MilWALKee Walks, Path to Platinum and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin have authored detailed, easy to digest reports with recommended improvements.

Action items in the reports range from relatively easy short-term goals such as encouraging participation in the annual Wisconsin Bike Week (June 3rd through 10th) to redesigning intersections, building new trails and installing separated bicycle lanes.

Recommendations aren’t presented as absolutes, but every report includes a “key recommendation” for each council member to improve their district. According to Bike Fed program director Jessica Wineberg, “these are meant as a starting place for the community based on past plans, the Path to Platinum survey, stakeholder feedback and informal comments received from people over the years.”

The reports rank every district based on bike and pedestrian crashes, number of people killed in crashes, miles of bicycle lanes, miles of trails, Safe Routes to Schools routes and percentage of households without a car.

Beyond recommendations and rankings, the reports also include a list of citywide, county and state projects that are already funded and encourages council members to advocate for those funds to be spent in their districts. Funded projects range from a coordinated city/county trail signage plan and the city’s high-impact paving programs to the city’s plan to restart their public bicycle parking program and continue installing pedestrian countdown signals.

Every report includes one stark, citywide conclusion: “The City of Milwaukee as a whole, and in each district, has a pedestrian safety problem. The City of Milwaukee has 10.4% of the state population and 29.1% of the state crashes. People of color in Wisconsin are almost twice as likely to be the victim of a crash while crossing the street (15.5% of population are people of color, 26.8% of pedestrian crash victims are people of color), giving us the 10th highest disparity in the nation (Source: Dangerous by Design, Smart Growth America 2016). From 2011-2015 every district had at least one pedestrian killed, most frequently due to people driving failing to yield.”

The groups hope to continue to gain support for a more walkable and bikeable Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Bike Summit on May 4th. The statewide summit has relocated from Madison to Milwaukee this year, being held at the UW-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education.

The summit costs $45 to attend, or is free after 3 p.m. After 4:20 p.m. a presentation entitled “What’s Next for Milwaukee Bikeways” will be held with speakers Melissa Cook (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources), Jeff Polenske (City of Milwaukee) and Gage Brogan (Milwaukee County Parks).

Those interested in the issue can also a public meeting on May 31st at Villard Square Library from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Free food is being provided. RSVP on Facebook.


13 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: How to Make a Pedestrian Friendly City”

  1. Tim says:

    Weird, so the report didn’t include all the normal “improvements” that are included in UrbanMilwaukee’s intersection fixit articles? You know, eliminate parking… add more lanes… use some green paint so bikes feel safe.

    I wonder who’s got it right?

  2. John Casper says:

    Tim, do you have a link to “Urban(sic)Milwaukee’s intersection fixit(sic) articles” that “eliminate parking?”

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Tim says:

    “My proposal calls for eliminating the parking lane on Water St. starting at the Danceworks building and up the hill onto Brady St. until Van Buren and eliminating the parking lane on the north side of Brady between Van Buren and Water. “

  4. Patricia Jursik says:

    Lack of a bike lane over the Hoan continues to be a big disappointment. On a positive note, the new inner harbor plans offer promise for a bike connection to the greatest collection of bike trails along the lake front and through the connecting south shore parks starting at Cupertino, to South Shore to Bay View to the Oak Leaf Trail along St. Francis lakefront path near Condo development (old power plant, and yes there s a public trail to the east along the lake) to Sheridan Park, to Warnimont, to Grant and on through the Oak Creek Parkway. Our south shore offers the finest contiguous trail in the county and is a great commute to the downtown. The finest this community has to offer.

  5. John Casper says:

    Tim, thanks.

    Did you notice the word, “lane?” No one wants to “eliminate parking.”

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Patricia Jursik A bike lane on the Hoan would have been amazing.

  7. Tim says:

    John Casper, I don’t even know what you’re arguing for. Do you agree or disagree, that turning parking into driving lanes makes a safer street?

  8. John Casper says:

    Tim, I’m against stop-and-go driving.

    It’s bad for vehicles, it’s bad for fuel economy.

    When you take away driving lanes–that’s what a parking lane is–from an already too narrow city artery, people on bikes get to their destinations sooner. Attempts at parallel parking and double parked trucks block traffic completely.

  9. Tim says:

    Interestingly, what makes fast, easy driving possible also is bad for bicycles, pedestrians, and other users of the road.

    Less driving lanes in a feature, not a bug.

    Pedestrians WANT you to be going slower, they die less often when a car is driving 20 mph than 30 mph.

    Cyclists WANT you to be more cautious in your driving and slow down, you can see them and react more effectively at lower speeds.

    You know what uses the least gas? Not driving in the first place.
    You know what car is in the best shape? The one that has fewer miles on it.

  10. John Casper says:


    Sounds like we both support integrated multi-modal transit.

  11. Tim says:

    John, that’s the beauty of it. There can be less road lanes AND more transit.

    Ever drive down MLK Jr. Drive? There’s no reason that it should have 4 traffic lanes, people only drive in 1 lane each way unless passing a turning car. It needs a makeover like south 2nd Street.

  12. Joe says:

    I think the dangers to pedestrians aren’t just an engineering and design issue. Milwaukee has a culture problem. I’ve lived in cities all over the US and have never seen the level of animosity drivers have toward pedestrians as I do here. I see drivers (on a daily basis) slam on their brakes and get visibly frustrated that a pedestrian dare walk across “their” street even though I have the walk sign.

    I’m not sure how you fix this problem with culture – maybe re-engineering streets to make them more pedestrian-friendly is what needs to come first, with people getting more acquainted with multi-modal transportation coming decades later as they get used to it.

  13. Ryan N says:

    Bump outs and protected bike lanes would help pedestrians and bikers.

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