Is Wisconsin Slow To Change?

Friends and regular readers know I am a big booster for Wisconsin and a proud life-long resident of Milwaukee. I am usually the first one to say what a great place this is to live and ride a bicycle.  The Bicycle Federation has even been criticized for being an institutionalized booster for anything cycling related in Wisconsin. That said, in recent years, I feel we are falling behind other places that have moved quickly to adopt things like protected bike lanes that have been proven to get a lot more butts on bikes. Why is it that in the state that built the nation’s first rail trail, cities have been so slow to add these innovative bicycle facilities?

Conversations about the icons of bicycle friendly cities historically have started with Boulder, Davis and Portland, now must include mention of cities as diverse as Indianapolis, Chicago, and Minneapolis. Even New York City, once a virtual bicycle desert, is installing leading edge bicycle facilities as fast as they can build them. The video below from Indianapolis provides a succinct explanation of the reasons behind the building boom for innovative bicycle facilities.

 

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Wisconsin used to be a leader in innovative bicycle facilities. In 1967 we built the Elroy-Sparta trail, the first rail to trail conversion and led the nation in rail trail construction for years. So how could it be that in 2011 even some local cyclists felt compelled to tell me the money spent on the Hank Aaron State Trail would have been better spent on freeways? Madison built the University Avenue contra-flow bike lane decades ago, but hasn’t added a protected bike lane since. Chicago built two protected bike lanes this year alone and has plans for 25 additional miles.

The video below shows how New York has been transformed its traffic choked arterial streets into places where people of all ages and abilities feel safe to ride a bicycle. In the process of doing that, a side benefit of the protected bike lanes are a more livable city with less speeding, fewer crashes and more revenue for storefront businesses.

 

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Milwaukee did just build the first raised bike lane east of the state of Oregon, and Madison has leading bicycle commute rates as well as has some innovative treatments like bike boxes and the start to a bicycle boulevard, but I just don’t feel the excitement or momentum that so many of these other cities have. Given our early lead in facilities, our state’s important bicycle manufacturing industry and the huge economic impact bicycle tourism has here, I would expect we would be leading the charge not fighting tooth and nail for a path on the Hoan Bridge.

 

Milwaukee built the first raised bike lanes outside of Oregon on Bay Street between Potter and Lincoln. The facility is awesome, but the city has no firm plans for more protected bike lanes.

Don’t get me wrong, Wisconsin and our cities are still great places to ride, but we are no longer mentioned when people discuss innovation in bicycle facility design. In the last couple years I have had the pleasure of riding on many of these innovative new bicycle facilities from the cycle tracks in Washington, D.C. and NYC to the bicycle boulevard networks prominent on the west coast.  It is not an exaggeration to say that in every case, they have proven to get lots more people riding, reduce crashes for all vehicles and make cities more livable.

 

Innovation in Madison in the form of a red "bike box."

Why don’t we seem to want some of that action? What has been holding cities in Wisconsin back? What happened? Are we content to rest on our laurels? Are we living off our reputation? Did we start out too fast in a marathon race? Do we lack champions? Am I too critical and missing something? I’d like to hear what you think in the comments below.

 

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

23 thoughts on “Is Wisconsin Slow To Change?

  1. Why are we lagging?

    1) Unstable State Funding.

    A few years ago the State’s STP-D funding that was used for bicycling infrastructure was cut. Then it was restored. Then the bike fed managed to get a $5mil line item in the state budget, then it was cut to $2mil this year. Wisconsin also tends to leave a lot of federal funds unused in the Fed-TE budget that show up disproportionally during “rescission” time.

    2) Roads are aging, poverty is spreading, and have been given priority.

    Here in Madison, we have supposedly embarked on a project to get 20% of trips made by bicycle in 2020. So you’d think if we were planning to have a 20% mode share, the city would be able to direct 20% of its streets spending to bicycling infrastructure. But if you compare this year’s budget to 2007 ped-bike spending has been flat while major streets projects have seen a 20% increase in funding – and that includes a $5mil cut via a one-time delay to some street maintenance projects. Much of that spending is for reconstructing streets that have reached the end of their lifespan that were built during the road boom 50 years ago (the lifespan of concrete is 50 years). To make matters worse, it is clear that the new Mayor is going to further de-prioritize bicycling and focus on poverty issues in the near future. Today, Madison has about $24mil of major bicycling projects that seem to be on permanant hold, while the mayor is spending $4.5mil/yr for ped-bike and focusing on much smaller projects.

    • Matt,

      Recissions of bike funds are a problem here and might have something to do with this, but many of these innovative facilities are being built with local dollars, not state or federal. This has helped those communities avoid having to get around stodgy rules in facility manuals like the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The new National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) guide should make it easier to get innovative facilities built using federal funds. And this lack of innovation certainly long predates any recent budget cuts or current administrations.

      That said, there is definitely an opportunity for the current political leaders to jump on the protected bike lane bandwagon. I think they don’t do so because they honestly don’t feel they have broad-based political support for such projects. As I mentioned in the post, even the cycling community is very fragmented. If we “cyclists” can’t get together to advocate for more funding, the political leadership surely won’t go out on a limb to find money for cycle tracks.

      I suspect this has more to do with the electorate (us) as it does with those in office. It may have something to do with our history of our economy relying so much on heavy manufacturing and the inability to let go of that old economy and that view of ourselves and embrace the new economy. Madison has less of an issue with that than the rest of the state because it has always had a different economic base. These are just my thoughts and hunches.

      • Studies by the National Realtors association clearly show a preference for biking and walking and transit facilities over road expansion, yet the state budget went in the exact opposite direction. I believe the support is there. The problem is the message. It is easier to sell painkillers than it is to sell vitamins, so we have to do a better job of communicating the pain caused by a lack of bike facilities, and focus less on the vitamin nature of bicycling. I believe this will better motivate the supporters of bicycling into action, and be an overall more convincing message to relay to politicians who undoubtedly hear thousands of complaints about the pain of driving followed by a “if you could only expand this road (and get ride of the unused bike lane)…”.

        It is great that bicycling promotes better health, but that is a vitamin message. Every problem drivers complain about is in part caused by a lack of appealing alternatives like bicycling. Too much rush hour congestion? It is a lot more fun to bike home on an alternative route than to sit in congestion. Too many speeding cars in your neighborhood? If there was a painted bike lane and more bike traffic that would calm the street traffic a bit.

  2. I think there are two trends happening in the state that both conspire to marginalize investments in bicycling.

    First, the politics of our state are more divisive and bitter than probably at any point in the state’s history. People feel that Wisconsin is in crisis mode, and it’s all hands on deck to fight over a fundamental vision for what kind of State we want Wisconsin to be, and what role government plays in shaping that vision. It’s a fight over the basic, elementary stuff, like taxes, education and government itself.

    In this kind of climate, bicycling gets lost. People only have so much energy. If they are engaged in a fight where they truly feel the future of the state is at risk, then they aren’t going to stand up for bicycling infrastructure, even if they are inclined to support it. Also, as you’ve pointed out, bicycling is a non-partisan issue. Conservatives and non-conservatives can support it. An issue that people can agree on, a “feel good” issue if you will, gets lost in all the shouting.

    Secondly, the roads and streets in our state are falling apart. This is especially apparent in Milwaukee. For the last 20 years our elected leaders have coasted along on deferred maintenance, doing quick fixes (like patching over potholes with black top) rather than more expensive – but unglamorous – reconstruction projects. Your average citizen might not understand the nuances of transportation policy, but they understand concrete chunks falling off bridges and the streets in their neighborhoods practically turning to gravel. They respond not by taking the long view and thinking about sustainable transportation policy. They respond by saying “fix my street now!”

    On that last point I believe us cyclists have an opportunity for common cause with all road users. No one wants smooth, intact neighborhood streets than us cyclists. What if we formed an “urban transportation lobby” that would advocate for reconstruction of our urban neighborhood streets, rather than construction of new four lane roads out in rural areas? This is something cyclists and motorists could get behind.

    • Sorry to seem argumentative Matt, but again, this fall predates our current state leadership. It also has a lot to do with local leadership, which has not been in the hands of conservatives for the last decade, yet we have still fallen behind.

  3. I see many issues at play. There is the recession, more of a depression, really. Our state is almost bankrupt.

    Traffic calming and ‘Complete Streets’ fail to do what they purport to. The way in which streets are repaved is slow and wasteful, both in terms of time and money. One street in La Crosse was narrowed to make it safer for cyclists. This makes about of much sense as eating a cracker to quench one’s thirst! Many group rides take this street to get to their favorite places to bike–any one of several roads. They aren’t going to use another route. The road was crunched up as were the curbs. The boulevards were widened by 1 foot. This street is now 4 feet narrower making it less safe for cars passing bikes. It would have been better just repaving it. It would have taken less time, money and fuss.

    Other means of traffic calming consist of placing a stop sign ever other block. Most cyclists will breeze through. I agree un-clipping one’s foot and starting up again can be difficult. We could do with less stop signs. Often times what is done to hurt motorists unintentionally hurts cyclists, too.

    Education is also needed. Many cyclist ride against traffic. Helmets are at best a life saver, at worst politically correct and ineffectual. I have seen bike rodeos handing out random helmets that don’t really fit anyone. In order to work a helmet must be snug and worn across the forehead not on the crown of the head like a beanie.

    • Steph,

      I certainly agree that the recession/depression are a factor, but that affects Minneapolis and all the other cities as well. If we are comparing cities, all the cities that have better bicycling have better economies. I think this is a two-way street (pun intended), and those cities are more successful because more companies move there because more educated people want to live there and vice versa.

      As for traffic calming careful here as you may not have any good examples in La Crosse. In Milwaukee, a complete street conversion took S 2nd Street with four lanes for motor vehicles and skinny sidewalks, and converted it into two lanes for motor vehicles, two bike lanes and wider sidewalks and street trees. There are already many more people biking on it and several new businesses have moved there, including cafes, retail stores, a number of consumer services businesses and even Wisconsin’s first urban creamery that will manufacture cheese and other dairy products. What prompted this complete streets conversion? Demand from residents, which included the heavy hitter Rockwell International, one of Milwaukee’s Fortune 500 companies that wanted their from doorstep to be able to compete with those of companies in cities like Minneapolis, Charlotte, Austin and other youth magnate cities. In fact, Rockwell even paid to have the streets done in front of their plant.

      Stop signs definitely should NOT be used for traffic calming for just the reasons you cited. True traffic calming relies on speed humps, traffic circles and side friction, all of which allow more free-flowing, but slower traffic for both motor vehicles and bicycles.

  4. How can I help, with the exception of reducing my car use?
    Sometimes I’m admittedly just lazy …
    I’ve got 25 hours of volunteer time per week -
    I’m on board.

    • Hey Evan,

      The Bike Fed has been admittedly bad about creating a good volunteer program that is easy for people to figure out and fit in their varying schedules. It is on our list to improve for early next year. In the meantime, I will shoot you an email about getting you more involved.

      The short answer to your first question though is always to email or call your elected officials and tell them you value bicycling. Many people are jaded about our political process, but we hear all the time from politicians that they get lots of complaints about “wasting” money on bicycle projects, but relatively few comments in support.

      Thanks for reading, biking and offering to help. I will email you offline soon!

  5. I came to Milwaukee from Louisville, CO, just outside of Boulder, earlier this year. Louisville, despite being a town of approx. 20,000 residents, has around 25 miles of off-road bike/pedestrian trails and most of the major roads have bicycle facilities (primarily bike lanes) incorporated into them. A few things stick out in my mind comparing Colorado to Milwaukee and Wisconsin as a whole; some of them may be naive, so please do bear with me.

    1) Much of the “growth” in Colorado is newer. If you look at the Google Maps bicycling layer for the Denver metro area, you see some key cross-city paths near Denver itself, but the majority of the bicycle network is located in the suburbs. Most of these suburbs really started booming in the 1980s and 1990s and bicycle/pedestrian access was made a priority in many of them from the outset of such growth. That makes it easier to fill in the gaps in the network now, whether tied to additional growth or not. It seems as though much of the growth in Wisconsin, Milwaukee in particular, is older — 1960s or earlier, except perhaps for the south/western suburbs — predating what I’ll call the exercise boom. It becomes harder, and sometimes more expensive, to retrofit existing infrastructure and/or build new infrastructure in the midst of already-developed land than to build new infrastructure in open/developing land areas. It doesn’t help that Milwaukee in particular, and most older cities, is/are more densely packed than a city like Denver (for example).

    Between the Oak Leaf and Hank Aaron trails, Milwaukee has most of the “open” waterway/powerline/former rail corridors developed, meaning that new infrastructure has to largely come as existing infrastructure is retrofitted. With such redevelopment only coming every so often, it does make fighting for things like access on the Hoan all the more vital to seeing the bicycle network continue to grow, and for that I am grateful for a group like the Bike Fed.

    2) Financial. In Colorado, while the state income tax is marginally lower than that in Wisconsin, the sales tax is higher. In Louisville, our sales tax was around 8.25%. Included in that rate are a number of small 0.1-0.25% local taxes to support things like open space and trails. I don’t see that here. Even if locales wanted to do something like that right now, it’d be very unlikely to pass (if it is even permitted any longer after the new budget legislation). Such taxes had a broad-based support in Colorado when the economy was good but still enjoy just over 50% support today; I’d suspect the support rates here would be lower. Without a dedicated local funding source, it becomes difficult to finance the infrastructure described above.

    Roads are also in a lot better shape overall in Colorado than in Wisconsin. When I first drove I-43 and I-94 in Milwaukee when looking for a place to live here, I was just short of appalled at the road conditions. Local roads in villages, cities, and towns aren’t that much better in spots, even in the well-off suburbs. There is more local and state-level money available to keep the roads there in better condition, so redevelopment happens more often and, with a culture accustomed to outdoor activities, it often includes bicycle and/or enhanced pedestrian facilities. I don’t know what all of the local taxes (esp. property taxes, which are quite high where I live now) go to support, but I agree with Dave’s sentiment above that a push on the local level to use some such funds for these facilities is and apparently has been lacking.

    3) Culture. I’ve sorta hinted at it in the discussion above, but the bicycle culture seems quite different here than in Colorado. The climate may play a role in that, at least during the winter, but while both areas have their hard-core advocates, Wisconsin seems to be lacking beyond that whereas Colorado does not. This ties in to getting the general public informed about the benefits of bicycle and pedestrian facilities — better health, increased property values, etc. — and getting them to understand that bicyclists aren’t just spandex-wearing racers but are instead normal people. In the current political climate, it also involves education — that such facilities can pay for themselves and provide benefits to a large group of people — and a willingness by those on both sides to listen to rational arguments for and against such expenditures. How to best accomplish these things? I’m not sure.

    Anyway, apologies for the long-winded and rambling nature of this post. I’m not even a bicyclist by nature, but as a dedicated runner what is good for bicycling is generally good for me/us as well. Whether my outsider’s perspective is helpful or not, well, I’ll leave that to you all to decide!

    • I definitely appreciate the outside perspective Clark. I think I agree with all that you have said. I do think Milwaukee in particular has a few things about it that make it quite unique though. For instance in the 60s and 70s, during our boom, we had, by a wide margin, the highest employment level for minorities in heavy industry of any large city. Detroit was the closest and I think they were behind us by almost 10 percentage points. When most of those jobs went away, the area left with a correspondingly high rate of unemployment for minorities. Similarly, many people (many of my friends) could get a great job in manufacturing without even finishing high school. When those jobs went away, we were left with a disproportionate level of unemployed people with little education.

      You hint at this above, but I thing those easy jobs bread a blue collar mindset that really looked down on education and high tech jobs. That perspective has been hard to shake. That culture and way of thinking persists even though the jobs that allowed it are gone, the bowling allies are gone, the corner taverns are gone, etc.

      I believe the current area business leaders get it. They understand we need to change Milwaukee’s image so they can attract and retain the talent they need to compete in the new economy against companies in Charlotte, Austin, Minneapolis, etc. Many of the younger people get it as they never knew that sense of “job entitlement” my generation and my parents’ generation grew up with. But many other middle and low income workers are mired in the old way of thinking, still hoping those thousands of easy jobs and the cover taverns will come back.

      Sadly, that shop has sailed.

    • I appreciate your “outsider’s perspective.” It leads to my wild suggestion: roads are more necessary for the bikers, but wouldn’t it be great if runners and bikers actively fought this reborn road marathon race together.

  6. I wasn’t comparing the Twin Cities to La Crosse, but since you brought it up, they certainly know how to be bike friendly. The Cities has a long history of this. What I am really complaining about is that in La Crosse took Main St. an has begun to NARROW it to make it bike friendly, ITO. A more logical answer would have been to take that extra 4 feet of roadway and make it into bike lanes instead of removing it.. Cyclists use Main St. frequently, but one city council member in favor of the narrowing because never rides this street, or so he told me. The street he says he uses has a stop sign ever other block. It’s hard getting above 10 MPH there. City council is hypocritical because at the same time they are narrowing Main St. to add green space they are removing green space from UW-L boulevards on really wide sidewalks–10 to 15 feet in width.

    I think converting a car lane to a bike lane is extremely logical and that is exactly what is not been done here enough here. They added bike lanes to La Crosse St. but not Main St.

    I’m glad we agree on use of stop signs–or lack thereof. Speed bumps are fun to bike over, IMO, but some may not agree with me on that on. I would like to see more speed limit sign placement. It’s hard to know the speed limit on certain city streets. Thanks for the reply.

  7. Dave, I totally agree that Wisconsin cities are falling behind – I see it every time I travel. This is due to one simple fact: a lack of top-down leadership on the issue from our mayors.

    Why has NYC been adding all sorts of innovative infrastructure? Because Mayor Bloomberg hired a tremendous DOT Commissioner (Janette Sadik Khan) and has constantly backed her on controversial moves. Why is Chicago suddenly surging ahead? Because Mayor Emanuel promoted innovative bike facilities during his campaign, was easily elected, and again hired a great leader to run CDOT (Gabe Klein).

    While we have some mayors who are supportive of bicycling, there isn’t single mayor in Wisconsin who has come close to pushing innovative bike facilities, and making the case for them to voters, like Mayors Bloomberg and Emanuel. Until we do, things won’t change.

    • I do agree we have a lack of political champions. We have great champions for bicycling, but they are all in the private sector (I’m thinking of industry leaders here, along with the Bike Fed, of course). Who wants to run for mayor?

  8. What is holding WI back? I agree with most of what has already been said and the answer is probably a little bit ‘all of the above.’

    Lack of leadership at the local level, lack of vision at the State level, lack of organization at the community level and maybe just lack of numbers on 2 wheels.

    It doesn’t seem to matter what political party holds office, everyone in this State loves a good expensive road project with maintenance of local roads deemed ‘not sexy enough’ (or whatever the reason).

    Even when the DOT comes up with an innovative idea like studying the idea of bringing the Hoan down to ground level – it evokes a storm of SAVE THE HOAN like it’s some sort of endangered species – when the idea really could have some merit (not saying it does, but our politicos were against even studying the idea).

    But in the end, we elect our officials and insist they do what we tell them to do. The commuters I know are pretty outspoken, but there doesn’t seem to be much organization. There seems to be a lot of organization around the sport level of cycling, but lack of advocacy. We have a fragmented community of cycling (in Milw at least) that needs to come together.

  9. As an avid biker, I own 11 complete bikes (mostly customized for street cruising and racing) and am working on 3 more. I ride as much as I possibly can in my free time. But I have to say, sadly, Wisconsin is not the best climate for biking enthusiasts to live in. Now don’t get me wrong, we probably have among the best weather in the country during the summer seasons. But it is really only during this time bikers come out of the woodwork (downtown especially, there is of course a much higher concentration of them). But other than during that 3-4 month span, bikers for the most part vanish. So, I guess my point is that weather plays a huge role here.

    Also, now that I am married with children, and have to drive to work every day, I must say that with all of the city driving I do, I get very frustrated with all of these designated bike lanes not being used. In fact, as one example of this, there is a stretch on West Silver Spring that was torn up and redone with new bike lanes that I can honestly say in the last two years I haven’t seen 1 single rider using them, even during summer months. So, I think priority is also a major issue when it comes to Milwaukee urban planning. So we have areas in the city where bikes lines would be used where we don’t have them, and ones like I’ve just mentioned that are getting no use at all. This could very well be that those in the local governments doing the planning either lack the knowledge or the priorities, or both when it comes to addressing this very important issue.

    But I will say, I cannot agree on the whole Hoan bike path. I think it is primarily a subset of the biking community primarily living in Bayview (including a couple of close friends of mine) who are so strongly advocating this. I ride between Bay View and downtown quite often. There are many existing routes that work just fine people. And I for one, would not be caught dead riding up on that bridge during non-summer months. But even then, that wind up there is powerful enough to knock you right off your bike. This to me seems to be more of a statement of power for the biking community than anything, because it sure doesn’t seem rational. But other than this issue, us riders need to advocate for SMART planning.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment James. I have to disagree with you though on most of your points.

      Relative to bike lanes: Prior to the City of Milwaukee adding all the bike lanes, bicycle use in Milwaukee was stagnant according to census data. Immediately after installing the bike lanes about 6 years ago, bike use (according to census journey to work data) increased and had continued to go up ever since. It is now almost 300% higher than it was prior to the bike lanes. This has been proven in every city in which bike lanes, protected bike lanes, bicycle boulevards and trails have been built. Although bikes have a right to the road, bike lane or no, the vast majority of people won’t ride unless you give them designated facilities. The city and other cities are now doing annual bike counts in the bike lanes, and although those just started, we will soon be able to graph users. I can tell you, I have done the counts and if you sit there for an hour, you will get hundreds of users in those bike lanes on KK, S 1st., S 2nd, Farwell, etc.

      I don’t live in Bay View and I have ridden over the bridge every chance I have had (6 times now). I have ridden over the bridge twice in the winter on Santa Rampage rides, not a problem. 5,000 people signed the petition in two weeks. I personally did trail counts on both segments of the Oak Leaf that dead end at the base of the Hoan and in October, 10 years ago, about 38,000 people use the trails on either end. That is almost 80,000 people just in October. That is a lot of people ending their rides, runs and walks at the base of the bridge.

      As for the subset, you and I are the minority subset. We will ride bikes all year, on any road, no matter the traffic. The VAST majority of people who ride bikes (49% of people in Wisconsin) want to ride on trails or other designated bicycle facilities. Sometimes it is hard for avid cyclists like you and me to see this, but it is true. If we want bicycles to be used more, if we want to make Milwaukee and Wisconsin more bicycle friendly, we need to add more trails.

      Again, I certainly appreciate your personal perspective on how you ride, and I don’t want to sound rude, but you are wrong about the number of people who ride because of things like bike lanes, trails, etc. The Bike Fed has to represent all bicyclists, and the majority of people who ride want trails and other facilities for bicycles.

  10. I’ve seen references to 23 USC 217(e) to support the contention that a bike path must be part of the Hoan Bridge project.

    What about 23 USC 217(i)?
    TRANSPORTATION PURPOSE. — No bicycle project may be carried out under this section unless the Secretary has determined that such bicycle project will be principally for transportation, rather than recreation, purposes.

    It seems that so much of the hue and cry for the bike path is along the lines of recreation and tourism. Doesn’t that ultimately sabotage the project? Anyway, I don’t see how the “principally for transportation” requirement could be met.

    • Doug,

      While you are correct that the federal policy you reference that requires bicycle accommodations on projects that use federal dollars has been used in reference to the Hoan Bridge project, I think we are past that point. The Federal Highway Association already notified WisDOT that they needed to consider bicycle accommodations on the Hoan relative to that policy. WisDOT did just that by creating the draft study that offered different options for a bike route over the Hoan. We are now at the point where the decision is going to be more political than policy based. So I don’t think we need to worry about that transportation clause. If someone tried to launch a future law suit based solely on that policy, I think you are correct, it might backfire unless they could prove the majority of users would be transportation based trips.

      Since data about bicycle trips is very limited compared to motor vehicle trips, I think that would be a difficult case to prove. Travel Demand Forecasting for auto use is already a bit more art than science, but forecasting future bicycle and pedestrian trips is even less accurate.

      WisDOT, Federal Highways and local municipalities generally always have the option of using almost any of their transportation funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects. The reason we have dedicated bike/ped funding sources like Transportation Enhancements, CMAQ and others is that until we had them, very few states or municipalities ended up spending any of their general transportation funds on bike projects.

      All that said, there are so many reasons to add the bike path, and so few reasons not to that I don’t think the arguments need to fall back on that federal policy or even the state Trans 75 complete streets policy.

  11. It seems that the burden is on those who advocate the appropriation and use of additi0nal funds. And the push-back would be especially compelling in this day and age when we can’t afford anything that is not absolutely required.

    • Doug, I really don’t think money is the issue. We spend less than one percent of our transportation money on bike projects, so even if we didn’t fund any, it would save us almost nothing. Taken together, we spend less than 2% of our transportation funds on bike and pedestrian projects, yet they make up 14% of all trips. If money was an issue with people, why would we continue to build more and wider roads and bridges when we cannot afford to repair and maintain our existing roads and bridges? If people really wanted to save money, we wouldn’t have spent $8 million dollars to patch the potholes on the deck of Hoan Bridge when we plan to replace that deck a year from now. We lived with pot holes on the Hoan for a decade or so, why throw all that money away for one year of use?

      I would argue it is because of political pressure. Some politicians decided it would get them votes to fix it and nobody would care that it was a huge waste of money given the bridge will be reduced in a year. It seems like money is no object for motor vehicle projects, so why is it an object for bicycle projects when they are way cheaper, more cost effective, and result in more jobs? Refusing to fund bike projects and maintenance for our existing roads at the expense of building wider highways and new bridges is sort of like coming up $20 short at the supermarket checkout line and getting rid of the $2 loaf of whole wheat bread before you put back the $4 six pack of soda and $5 bag of donuts.

      Twentyfive percent of trips taken by car are less than a mile, a distance anyone should be able to walk. If we really cared about money as the bottom line in our transportation funding decision process, why would be continue to build roads wide enough and provide enough free parking so people can drive less than a mile? Those are extremely expensive trips to subsidize.

      I really think the problem is that Wisconsin had it really good for a long time and we have refused to accept the fact that we cannot rely on the ways of the old economy. We must embrace the new economy, which means attracting and retaining a young and educated work force that is drawn to cities, large and small, because they are vibrant, healthy and fun places to live.

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