By Jason McDowell Creative Director Published Apr 07, 2010 at 10:55 AM


This week Bicycling Magazine named both Milwaukee and Madison among the Top 25 bicycle friendly cities, with Madison coming in at No. 7 and Milwaukee squeaking in at No. 25.

The high praise for Madison is even recognized by seven-time Tour de France winner and world renown athlete, Lance Armstrong, who will be visiting the city later this summer.


To qualify as bicycle friendly, a city of 100,000 or more people should have "segregated bike lanes, municipal bike racks and bike a vibrant and diverse bike culture, and it must have smart, savvy bike shops." Bicycling Magazine applauded Madison's 35 dedicated years of infrastructure upgrades, while Milwaukee's creative and classy Marsupial Bridge got a nod. Other prominent Midwestern cities include Minneapolis at No. 1 and Chicago at No. 10.


Considering Milwaukee has limited segregated bike paths, no bike boulevards, and a lopsided male to female demographic, our numbers must have been juiced by the quality of what we do have. The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin has been successfully working to change city laws and policies to better protect cyclists, the innovations from the Milwaukee Bicycle Company have reinvented the fixed gear, and Cream City Rickshaw has started offering fuel-free trips around the city. Plus, it's hard to argue with an early morning commute along the miles of lakefront paths.

But sitting at No. 25 there is room for improvement. I might suggest a few more Oak Leaf-style dedicated paths running east to west, sharrows (shared-lane markings) on popular, yet narrow roads, and maybe an off-street path that fully threads Whitefish Bay to Bay View.


It's a little easier to see why Madison is ranked higher, with more bike boulevards and trails, and generally more cyclist awareness due to the higher student to driver ratio. Events like "Ride the Drive" help as well. Last year Madison closed down a six-mile stretch of John Nolen Drive and a few other downtown streets solely for cyclists and pedestrians to engage in family friendly activities and entertainment. Ride the Drive was successful enough that they decided to hold it again -- twice -- this year. The first Ride the Drive will happen on June 6; a second larger event on Aug. 29 features time trial races, a longer 11-mile route, and a kick-off with Lance Armstrong.


I've tossed out the idea on several occasions that Milwaukee might want to try something like Ride the Drive on 10 block stretches of Brady Street or Kinnickinnic, but am mostly met with wide eyes signaling, "Oh no, you can't do that." In that case I probably shouldn't bring up my desire to tackle the Hoan Bridge. Oh well, I suppose Milwaukee has to leap forward a few more places before we can start getting too crazy.


Check out the full list of Bicycling Magazine's Top 50 Bicycle Friendly Cities here and see who's better than us or who could take some notes from us.


Jason McDowell Creative Director

Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.

In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.

Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.