Angeline Terry

Milwaukee’s “Active Streets” Are Back

Program selects streets and parkways to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

By - Jun 4th, 2021 04:54 pm
An "active street" at N. 25th St. and W. Hope Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

An “active street” at N. 25th St. and W. Hope Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee’s Active Streets program is back for a second year.

Instituted in May 2020 to create additional outdoor recreational space by slowing traffic on city streets amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the city pivoted to a public-private partnership to operate the program in 2021.

“Our streets are kind of an extension of our front porch,” said Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske. “Kind of an extension of our living room. Just like we want to feel safe in our living room, we want to feel safe walking in the street, biking in the street.”

The city places barricades that partially block streets at intersections, discouraging through-traffic while still allowing local access. A survey found that 72% of respondents favored bringing back the program.

“We want to have that small town experience in a city that’s nearly 600,000 people,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.

This year the city released a request for proposals looking for organizations that the city would pay to program and monitor Active Streets sites. Grants worth up to $5,000 will be provided to each group and an additional grant to partner with Artists Working in Education.

Four community groups were selected for 2021, including the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation. Officials gathered Friday at N. 25th St. and W. Hope Ave., just north of W. Capitol Dr., to unveil the NWSCDC’s “active street” on 25th Street.

Other partners include the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (W. Washington St. from S. 1st to S. 20th St.), United Methodist Children’s Services (W. Galena St. and W. Cherry St. from N. 20th St. and N. 24th Pl.), Metcalfe Park Community Bridges (adjacent to the city-owned Butterfly Park at N. 38th St. and W. Meinecke Ave.).

“These public spaces are for people, not just for cars,” said Department of Public Works transportation planner Kate Riordan.

“None of this could be done without the perseverance of the residents,” said Raymond Monk of the NWSCDC.

Future years could include permanent barriers after a trial of semi-permanent improvements like rubber speed humps and speed tables.

A separate, similarly named program, Active Streets for Business governs the ability of businesses to take over street space for expanded patio seating. Milwaukee County Parks has also partnered in Active Streets, closing off some parkways to vehicle traffic.


Jeramey Jannene contributed to this report

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