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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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A separated bike path on the Hoan Bridge would move cyclists out of the way of heavy moving vehicles and other dangerous situations.
A separated bike path on the Hoan Bridge would move cyclists out of the way of heavy moving vehicles and other dangerous situations.
Senator Chris Larson and Representative John Richards address the group before the ride.
Senator Chris Larson and Representative John Richards address the group before the ride.
The Hoan Bridge multi-use path was supported by a wide assortment of individuals
The Hoan Bridge multi-use path was supported by a wide assortment of individuals
The black vehicle featured in this image veered into oncoming traffic and made an illegal turn around the group, causing confusion and honking.
The black vehicle featured in this image veered into oncoming traffic and made an illegal turn around the group, causing confusion and honking.
A small cross section of the various people who rode in support of the path.
A small cross section of the various people who rode in support of the path.

The final days: Will the Hoan Bridge redevelopment include a multi-use path?

The days of waiting for a decision on whether or not to include a bicycle and pedestrian path on the Hoan Bridge are nearing an end.

In an effort to display the inadequate connector between the north and south portions of the downtown Milwaukee Oak Leaf Trail, Senator Chris Larson and Representative John Richards invited members of the Department of Tranportation to meet with a group of cyclists - some even riding in all the way from Johnson Creek - at the Humboldt Park Pavilion. Members of the DOT did not show up for the ride, but a group of around 50 cyclists took to the streets anyway and rode the trail as described by the DOT.

But really, calling it a trail is a bit of a stretch. This part of the trail is a trail in name only. It starts on Russell Avenue in Bay View, heads south via mostly industrial roads such as Bay Street, Kinnickinnic Avenue and Second Street then curls around the Third Ward and back onto more industrial roads before finally reconnecting at Lakeshore State Park or the Milwaukee Art Museum.

"This route is complicated and it’s dangerous," said Senator Chris Larson. "The traffic contains a lot of heavy construction vehicles, it’s faster moving, and portions of the road narrow at dangerous intersections. This is a 40-year opportunity. If it doesn’t happen now, we would have to wait until 2050. We likely wouldn’t see it happen in our lifetime."

Visit Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s official convention and visitors bureau, believes that an attraction such as this would be great for visitors. Imagine being able to walk up the bridge and get a look at a unique perspective of Milwaukee’s skyline, an overhead view of Summerfest, a breathtaking, expansive view of Lake Michigan and a straight line down the Menomonee River Valley.

"You could practically see Miller Park Stadium from up there," said rider Sam Dodge.

Former Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and current Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin Communications Director Dave Schlabowske added a different perspective.

"The Hoan Bridge path is a two-mile gap in a 163-mile trail. With the exception of a few small, but easily solvable, gaps in our state’s trails a bike rider could travel from Chicago to Oostberg, Wis. without having to use city roads."

Furthermore, by the time the Hank Aaron trail is connected to the Glacial Drumlin Trail this November, the Hoan will be a two-mile gap preventing cyclists from getting from Chicago to Madison via Milwaukee, around 168 miles.

"Really," Schlabowske added, "You could get from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi on our trails."

But the final decision is coming down to the wire. According to Representative John Richards, the feasibility study is set to be completed in mid-October, and it doesn’t get more mid-October than today.

"We’ve been fighting for more than a decade. Back then the DOT did not listen and they proposed an alternate route that, quite simply, is inadequate," he said. "The entire connector is on very busy, industrial streets and passes through many dangerous intersections."

Larson added, "Ten years ago the DOT said they could not open the bridge to a multi-use path, citing projected traffic increases. Today it’s been shown that prediction was incorrect. Instead of trying to explain the current alternate route, it would be so much easier to tell residents and visitors to just 'Go over the most beautiful bridge you can see.'"

So who is on board now? Bill Sell of bikethehoan.com has mentioned that he has been gathering signatures for the last 10 years, but those efforts have lately been paying off, more than doubling his total in the last two months. Larson confirmed that it is several thousand strong. Hundreds of businesses representing several thousand more people have also expressed interest in seeing a multi-use path over the Hoan. The Port of Milwaukee is working with the DOT to figure out the best way to get path users from the bridge back onto the ground. Even Governor Scott Walker is said to have softened on the issue because he is big on tourism and recognizes the potential of the path.

If you are also interested in supporting the the bicycle and pedestrian path you shouldn’t wait any longer. For more information, or to add your name to the several thousand supporters visit bikethehoan.org. As Sell puts it, "There’s nothing like this in the Midwest."

Talkbacks

RideNoEvo | Oct. 21, 2011 at 11:55 a.m. (report)

Idle1...construction barrels are not anchored to the ground, the bottom has part of an old truck tire and gravity does the work. Some devices do get anchored but barrel are moveable, thats why you see the guys at night moving them to shut down lanes.

As for wind, I was out riding the last 2 days where gusts topped 45mph, and I did not get blown over. I also ride in the area of the southern kettle and New Glarus, on two lane highways, and get passed by semi-trucks going 55mph+ and I dont get thrown from the road.

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Idle1 | Oct. 21, 2011 at 2:38 a.m. (report)

1. The orange barrels are anchored to bases, kind of like LEGOS.
2. I'd be terrified to ride my bike on the Hoan given the fact that my car, which I drive across the bridge twice daily, frequently gets buffeted from side to side by those lake "breezes". I'm in favor of a ground level path near the abandoned railroad tracks.

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twoaday2 | Oct. 18, 2011 at 3:54 p.m. (report)

@BriGuy1982 "All I gotta say is if they take any car lanes out..."

Ahh I see. The truth has nothing to do with bike safety, the weather, the difficult of the climb, or whatever. And has everything to do with protecting extra automobile capacity. Got it.

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BriGuy1982 | Oct. 18, 2011 at 2:45 p.m. (report)

All I gotta say is if they take any car lanes out so a couple of bikers can ride their bikes 5 months a year across a bridge because "It's totally cool".....Then no one wins, no one...

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twoaday2 | Oct. 18, 2011 at 1:59 p.m. (report)

@DanO1978
"I am sure the bike ride was easy for you, you sound like a seasoned veteran". Um yeah I started biking again about 2 years ago, and yes have put on a bunch of miles. But seasoned veteran? Nope. Out of shape smoker. Further, children have done the ride. It isn't hard.

As far as break downs and snow, the designs from the DOT would still include a 10 foot shoulder. Problem solved.

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