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Milwaukee’s Road to Gold

This week we announced our latest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities. There is now at least one BFC in all 50 states, and more than 69 million Americans live in a BFC.  Milwaukee, WI, is a  Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community — this story comes to us from Kristin Bennet, the city’s bicycle/pedestrian transportation coordinator, and Sandra Rusch-Walton, the city’s public works communications manager.

The City of Milwaukee once again was awarded a Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community award status by the League of American Bicyclists. 

We know the bar is continually being raised on what it means to be bicycle-friendly.  To meet those challenges, City of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has directed Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works Commissioner Ghassan Korban and City Engineer Jeff Polenske to establish a sub-committee of the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force to define the path to not only reaching Silver but going for Gold-level status.

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Bike Federation

The City is already making progress on many of the League’s recommended “Steps to Silver”:

  • Increase bicycle parking:  Milwaukee was just awarded a $500,000+ Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant to develop a business-friendly cost-share bicycle parking program, which will streamline installation of high quality bicycle parking.  The City has also begun allocating annual funding to replace aging bicycle racks and is drafting new bicycle parking code requirements. 
  • Rapidly expand bike sharing: City staff is currently developing 30 – 40 bike share station sites, which will be rolled out in 2015 and 2016 using a $1.6 million CMAQ grant.  
  • Install a bicycle way-finding system:  The City and Milwaukee County Parks are regularly collaborating on projects and programs, including developing a joint trail/bicycling facilities signage plan in 2015.  Together, the City and County have also been installing automated trail traffic counters, and have partnered with an urban planning professor from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to crunch the data for us.
  • Expand SRTS program: The Wisconsin Bike Fed (Milwaukee office), in partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools, is extending its successful Safe Routes to School (SRTS) on-the-bike curriculum to more schools over the next three years as new grant funds roll in for this innovative program.  The City will also be developing an SRTS policy plan plus 15 school-specific SRTS plans starting in 2016. 
  • Adopt a Complete Streets policy:  The City is developing a Complete Streets policy, and in 2015 will be examining its internal project development and delivery procedures to ensure more positive results from the many projects the City develops and completes every year.

The City of Milwaukee is also proud of its recent bicycling accomplishments:

  • Installing 28 miles of new bicycle lanes over the past two years including new buffered bike lanes and the first green bike lane markings in Southeast Wisconsin;
  • Building several sections of the new Kinnickinnic River Trail, including a 200’ trail bridge and a segment of rail-with-trail;
  • Constructing the first raised bicycle lanes in Wisconsin; and
  • Upgrading and refilling its Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator position in early 2013 (now held by Kristin Bennett).

Milwaukee is really seeing the fruits of its efforts.  Recently released American Community Survey (ACS) data show that bicycle commuting has increased from 0.47% in 2006 when Milwaukee was first awarded Bronze BFC status, to 1.14% in 2013, a nearly 60% increase.