I'm going to cut to the chase with this entry. There will not be a protected ped/bike lane when the City of Milwaukee restores the Hoan Bridge, a celebrated (by most) Cream City icon.
I've had several conversations with cyclists and non-cyclists regarding the proposal to put bicyclists and pedestrians into the thought process of restoring the bridge. I've heard decent conversations supporting and against said proposals.
The arguments against the proposal have come, oddly, from bicyclists. My fellow cyclists generally think the money the City would have used for the updates ought to be used to improve, repair, and add to existing bike lanes. While I understand the point of view, I don't think those taxpayers are seeing the big picture. 1) Bicyclists aren't the only people-powered taxpayers in the mix. I'll get to the second missing part of the big picture in a moment. I would like to hammer out something regarding this first point.
My biggest problem with drivers and driving in the USA is the fact drivers behave as though they are reason roadways exist. This is not the truth. They may be only reason highways/speedways exist, but roads existed LONG before the automobile first sputtered its engine. And what were we using to maneuver ourselves at a quicker pace than walking? That's right the Velocipede and, finally, approximately 13 years prior to Benz and Ford rolling out their first production models, the Penny-Farthing & Safety Bicycle.
When I heard cyclists voicing their desire for the money for updating the bridge going into existing bike lanes instead, I heard the thought process of drivers. Pedestrians, Skaters, and Rollerbladers also deserve to be considered when the City is using OUR money for roads and protected lanes... much in the same way bicyclists deserve to be considered when designing driving lanes and stops.
Moving on to 2) We've go to begin taking the bicycle serious somewhere. I thought a major historical site and local icon was a fantastic start gate. The Hoan Bridge is the Golden Gate Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge of Milwaukee. One of the coolest things to do when on either coast is to visit and walk/skate/blade/bike their respective iconic bridges. Why not bring that kind of thing to our City? I mean, Cream City has a gorgeous Eastern horizon view. But you only have a split second to enjoy it while speeding past in a car. Imagine how nice it would be to STOP & ENJOY this natural resource while traveling from one side of the city to another.
And, for those cyclists who train for tours/races here, imagine having a serious grade to climb connected to the Oak Leaf Trail. As someone who doesn't mind pushing myself on even the most leisurely rides, I definitely would rather take my chances on that hill than on the busy and less protected flats of 1st or 2nd street.
It makes me wonder whether, maybe, local politics had something to do with striking the idea of protected lanes for peds/bikes. You know... "OCCUPY THE BRIDGE"? If so, we've lost something greater than protected lanes. We've lost a serious connection of the people to their CITY. Our bikes, blades, skates, boards, and feet are serious. They are integral tools in us exercising our freedoms. These forms of transportations require nothing but food and some minor upkeep (exercise and dirt cheap tune-ups) to utilize. That's POWER on a very personal level cars don't afford us. And, on a morbid note, the only time a car connects you to the City is when you're left on the pavement after a horrible accident, mechanical failure or loss of expensive fuel.
In these troubled economic times people are increasingly using bikes for commuting and exercise. It's time our local government considers this fact more when planning road/street/bridge expenditures. The present Oak Leaf Trail is a very good thing, but nowhere near the end-all of meeting the needs of taxpaying cyclists and pedestrians.
The Netherlands did not become the cycling haven it is today overnight. It took cutting edge planning and bold action to step/roll/skate/pedal away from a strictly car culture. Take note as you click the post title above.
Merry Christmas (and any other holiday you may be celebrating this time of year)!
Peace... Love... & Joy
"There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast." - Paul Scott Mowrer