By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Nov 13, 2001 at 6:11 AM

An extra lane could be created on the Hoan Bridge -- a bike lane. Local bicycling groups hope a 10-year-old plan to create a bike lane on the Hoan Bridge will be revitalized in an effort to make Milwaukee more bicycle-friendly.

In the early 1990s, Milwaukee County received federal funds to create a bike connection between downtown Milwaukee and Bay View, said Jeanne Hoffman, executive director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. At that time, talks focused on creating a bike lane on the Hoan Bridge. But issues such as safety concerns turned discussions to other options, such as converting a railroad into a trail and creating bike lanes on S. 1st and S. 2nd Streets.

In 1998, the state Department of Transportation created an advisory committee that has spent time studying the options. It came to the conclusion that the Hoan Bridge would be safe for bicycle traffic.

"There would be a concrete barrier between the bike lane and the traffic lanes," said Hoffman, who is on the DOT advisory committee. "That alone makes it safer than biking on some of the busier city streets."

Hoffman added that other cities have bike lanes on bridges that are more heavily trafficked than the Hoan. In San Francisco, for example, more than 5,000 people bike across the Golden Gate Bridge each day, she said.

Although the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin does not keep a log of how many people in the Milwaukee area bike to work each day, more than 1,000 riders have participated each year in the federation's Bike to Work Week, a 2-year-old event held in June, Hoffman said. She believes the actual number of people who bike to work on a daily basis is much higher.

Building a bike lane on the Hoan could cost about $2 million, according to DOT estimates, Hoffman said. The DOT plans to host a public hearing on the Hoan Bridge bike lane sometime in January, Hoffman said. After that, the issue could go to the Milwaukee County Board.

Although the Hoan Bridge is an interstate, it is within Milwaukee County's jurisdiction because the county maintains the bridge. Milwaukee County Supervisor Penny Podell said she does not know when the county officially will address the issue, but she said she supports a bike trail on the Hoan.

"A full traffic lane was closed last winter, but that didn't cause any traffic problems," Podell said. "The traffic volume is not great enough to justify not doing the trail because of traffic."

Besides providing a convenient connection for bicyclists between downtown and Bay View, a bike lane on the Hoan would allow riders to experience what Hoffman believes is "the best view in the Midwest."

"At the top of the Hoan, you've got the view of the lake, downtown, the art museum. It's beautiful," Hoffman said.

Visit the Bike the Hoan Web site.