Bay View bike route progresses slowly
In 1991, the federal government designated $1.5 million for a bikeway that would "enhance the use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation between Downtown Milwaukee and the Bay View neighborhood."
Construction on a key segment will start later this month.
Understandably, some cycling advocates have reacted to the news with more exasperation than celebration, their patience exhausted after two decades and a rejection of their preferred route over the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge. In a continuation of the intractable fits and starts, work on a major section of the bike route will be delayed another year, according to state and city officials.
"This is one of the most frustrating endeavors locally that I've followed and gotten somewhat involved in," said Chris Krochalk, who commutes daily by bicycle from Bay View to the Northwestern Mutual offices downtown. "Since 1991, look what cities like New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland have accomplished and we can't even get a project completed that was mostly funded by federal grants."
In that time, Milwaukee has made improvements to its cycling routes, most notably the build out of the Hank Aaron State Trail as an east-to-west connector.
A north-south route connecting the segments of the Milwaukee County Oak Leaf Trail has remained a glaring gap, though, despite the addition of bike lanes on S. 2nd St.
"We need a way to encourage cross-town biking, especially among those using the lake parkway paths," said William Sell, a leader in the push for a bike lane on the Hoan Bridge. "Downtown desperately needs a system of paths that continue without suddenly ending and throwing the biker into a competitive traffic stream."
One step forward
The city has awarded a contract for construction of the Kinnickinnic River Trail, a primarily off-street, paved bike path from S. 6th St. and W. Rosedale Ave. to Washington St., in the Walker's Point neighborhood. The cost is projected to be $1.8 million.
Much of the bike path will be built in an abandoned Union Pacific Railroad corridor. Work will start later this month on a bridge that will carry cyclists and pedestrians over S. Chase Ave.
At Lincoln Ave., the route will follow marked bike lanes on S. 1st St. The bikeway will return to an off-street path in the UP rail corridor at Kinnickinnic and Maple Avenues, and end at Washington St.
Under the current schedule, the KK River Trail is scheduled to be completed in late 2013.
The KK River Trail will be the second step in completing the bike route, following construction of a raised bike lane on a portion of Bay St., in 2011. Improved bike lane markings on S. Kinnickinnic Ave., and no-slip plates on bridges over the KK and Milwaukee Rivers are other improvements made as part of the Bay View bikeway.
One more delay: City officials had planned to rebuild S. Water St., in an old industrial corridor in 2012, and add an off-street bike path from National Ave. to Pittsburgh Ave., and on-street bike lanes to Erie St., near the Summerfest grounds. The plan included removing four sets of railroad tracks and rebuilding five others, a much-needed improvement.
Negotiations with the railroad companies lagged, however, and delayed the work for another year, according to Samuel Medhin, a city engineer working on the project.
State and city officials now plan to rebuild that portion of S. Water St. in 2013. Initial cost estimates were roughly $1.6 million, but could change because of the railroad repair work.
While the delay is frustrating, the start of work on the KK River Trail is a welcome sign of progress, according to Jessica Binder, education director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. It's an important project, one that helps make the lakefront more accessible to bicyclists and links Veteran's Park on the north and Cupertino Park on the south, she said.
Krochalk and Sell remain skeptical. They worry about the potential hazards of a bike path in an abandoned rail corridor, hidden from public view, and the danger of truck traffic on S. Water St.
"I can sum it up by saying that the route is only as strong as its weakest links, and I don't believe those are properly addressed," Krochalk said. "What we need is a route that novices and children and their parents feel safe on. This route falls way short."
There really should be some sort of bike/pedestrian on demand stop signal or equivalent on KK and Maple (and probably 1st and Maple). Without that, I could see many novice riders not wanting to cross two busy intersections. The crossing at KK and Maple can be especially tricky, as it's on an angle, numerous bus routes go down it, and it's next to the bus depot. If these signals aren't in the plan, they need to be added. That stretch of Maple might be a good place to throw some green lanes down instead of just sharrows (whenever they actually get painted).
This is so close to making my ride to work better, but ever so more frustrating that I will never use this planned route. I live off of Bay St, so I turn N. on KK. I will never go 1/2 mile west, to only have to go a 1/2 mile E when I get to Walker's Point. JUST PUT A BIKE LANE OVER THE HOAN ALREADY! As for the bike lane along S. Water, I take that almost daily & I haven't had a problem being "away from public eye". Although, maybe that's because no one knows about it. Why does this city consistently fight cycling? We would be healthier & happy if we'd accept it. Build it & they will come.
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