“Active Streets” Will Close City Streets, Parkways In Favor of Pedestrians, Cyclists
This campaign aims to create more public space in Milwaukee, closing off parkways and some city streets to traffic.
Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee formally unveiled an “Active Streets” campaign Friday afternoon that will limit or block automobile usage on 10 miles of streets in favor of pedestrians and cyclists.
The program will close city streets and county parkways to thru traffic, creating more space for individuals to be outside while maintaining social distancing guidelines of being six feet from others.
“We are trying to be creative and give people more outlets,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.
“The object of Active Streets is for continuous movement,” said interim Milwaukee County Parks director Jen Francis. The partners don’t want to see groups form to play games in the street. “Keep moving, keep to small groups of family members.”
Individuals are allowed to walk, bike, run or wheel in the spaces.
The closure comes in response to crowding on trails. Usage is up over 45 percent according to some automated trail counters. “We know that parks can become crowded,” said Francis.
“The county’s selection was based on which parkways had no access for residents or businesses,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. He said the locations cover the entire city and represent the first phase of a potentially bigger plan.
The city will also close a number of streets to all but residents and deliveries in the coming weeks. Parking for residents of the streets will still be allowed. Those closures include:
- W. Washington St. from S. Water St. to S. 20th St. in Walker’s Point
- W. Custer Ave. from N. Sherman Blvd. to N. 64th St. near McGovern Park
- N. Fratney St. from W. Meinecke Ave. to W. Keefe. and Wright St. from the Beerline Trail to N. Palmer St. in Riverwest
- W. Galena St. from N. 14th St. to N. 40th St. and N. 14th St. from W. Juneau Ave. to W. Galena St. connecting King Park, Tiefenthaler Park and Washington Park on the city’s west side
Cross-traffic will be permitted at major intersections.
“We really recommend strongly that you wear a facemask when you’re using public park spaces,” said Francis. “We encourage you to walk to your county parks instead of driving.” She said visitors could help the short-staffed parks department by bringing their waste home.
Playgrounds remain closed under the program, and tennis, basketball, soccer and other team sports are prohibited by the state’s Safer at Home order.
At each park where street closures are in place, the county is providing marked Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking spaces.
Parking restrictions remain in place along N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. near the lakefront through at least this week and could be extended in the future. Streets within Grant Park are also closed. “That’s been really important as a tool to reduce crowding,” said Francis. “These are fluid choices, they’re not permanent.”
Barrett said the Active Streets program could be instituted long term. “I look at it as being an experiment, an experiment we hope will go very well.”
The Wisconsin Bike Fed launched an advocacy campaign for the closures in early April and briefed city and county officials on suggested strategies including creating loop routes and ensuring equitable closure distributions.
Streets in Humboldt Park were closed Wednesday as Urban Milwaukee reported, but then reopened later that night. The barriers used to mark the closure were back in place Friday morning with signage explaining why they were in place.
The Common Council still needs to approve the city street closures.
More information on the program can be found on the Active Streets website.
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