Milwaukee’s First Protected Bike Lanes
Two bridges receive special infrastructure for bicyclists.
Normally Friday Photos is all about bricks and mortar, but this week we’re taking a detour to something that is simply paint and plastic.
The city is installing protected bicycle lanes on the E. North Ave. and E. Locust St. bridges. The lanes include a striped section that creates more space between bikes and cars, as well as plastic barriers. The plastic barriers aren’t enough to stop a car if hit, but are a highly visible barrier between the two lanes.
The lanes will be welcomed by cyclists, who will now be separated from motorists speeding over the bridges. In addition, vehicle speeds will be reduced because both bridges will go from two vehicle lanes in each direction to one. The change will put the bridges in alignment with the nearby roadways that also include just one lane in each direction. The city is creating turn lanes at major intersections to avoid backups.
A Department of Public Works report indicates that one in five cars on the Locust Street bridge were measured going over 40 miles per hour. That means an average of two vehicles a minute fly by at more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.
A city fact sheet on the project states: “from 2012 to 2016, there were 221 crashes resulting in 80 injuries on E. Locust Street and 120 crashes resulting in 54 injuries on E. North Avenue, including 23 pedestrians and 23 bicyclists struck.”
The bridge reconfiguration is intended not only to be safer for cyclists, but also for pedestrians and motorists by reducing speeds and the number of lane changes required. The project has the support of area alderman Nik Kovac, who enthusiastically endorsed the project at a press conference in early June.
The North Avenue bike lanes are in place, while the Locust Street lanes are in the process of being installed. Lightly used parking lanes were removed on the North Avenue bridge to accommodate the project. Both projects include “road diets” or lane reductions on the roadway just beyond the bridge as well.
The project is the second time the city has experimented with separation for bicycle lanes. The first time was in 2011 when the city installed raised bike lanes on E. Bay St. in Bay View. Motorists (and snow plows) can still drive up onto the bicycle lane, but feel a bump and rumble if they do so.
The next step for the city will be expanding the quality of the lanes beyond the bridges. The safety of those lanes, especially on E. North Ave., effectively ends once you’re off the bridge.
Oh, and if you’re concerned about the large pothole in the eastbound bike lane on the North Ave. bridge, I’ve reported it. Let’s see how long it takes for the city to fix it. Until then, use caution as you approach the bridge.
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