The Streetcar construction is well underway with a section of completed tracks on St Paul Avenue in the Third Ward. On July 1 the Milwaukee Streetcar Twitter account posted about cars, buses and bikes crossing the tracks. Thank you to the City of Milwaukee for this investment in a multi-modal future where there are many options besides driving. The project is already paying small dividends for people who bike since the first (temporoary) protected bike lane since Bay St is part of the construction traffic plan. We hope this continues and becomes permanent here or elsewhere.
The Streetcar will likely be a great tool for pedestrians and multi-modal travel, but the tracks are something people biking are already working on getting used to. One Bike Fed member who lives in the area has noted a few crashes already.
These crashes are occurring when cyclists don’t cross the tracks diagonally as several signs on the side of the street instruct. They may not be seeing the signs. It should be noted there are several signs along either side of the road.
Better placement of the signs and further education on handling tracks while riding a bike can help. Word of mouth about how to ride across the tracks can also help commuters and recreational cyclists alike. The Share & Be Aware safety team is working with the City to arrange on street education when construction allows.
The tracks will continue to spread through the downtown area and as they do more cyclists will need to learn that riding parallel to the track creates the risk of a wheel or both falling into the track and the cyclist tipping or falling over. This could result in more than just a bump or scrape on a busy street with construction.
In Kansas City Missouri the Kansas City Streetcar Authority worked with Bike Walk KC to create an educational safety videos for cyclists. Videos were also made for pedestrians and cyclists, but it should be noted there aren’t signs on the road telling cyclists how to cross the tracks and the city recommends using alternate bike routes when possible
The answer for Milwaukee may be better signs in more visible locations and the first section of track can be a learning experience for both the city and cyclists, but immediate work can be done by talking to fellow cyclists. Continued education similar to the above video could also further improve safety on routes shared by the track.
The first phase is expected to be completed by Summer of 2018. A map of the route and proposed extensions can be found here.