Setting A Course for Cycling

by Jessica Wineberg Binder and Kevin Luecke

Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin

To many, crocuses and other flowersare the first sign of spring. To Jacob Newborn of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, more crowded bike lanes indicate that winter is over.

“While more and more people are biking year round, I know that spring and cycling season are here when I am no longer the only cyclist on a given block and more and more cruiser bikes areout,” Jacob reflects. “I think that this year will follow the trend of the past five and we will once again have a record numbers of cyclists.”

In the past five years, commuter cycling in Milwaukee has increased 230%. This is another piece of evidence insupport of the “build it and they will come” mentality that bicycle advocacy non-profits like the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin have been working with city governments across the country to adopt. At the same time that commuting by bike has more than doubled, the bicycle crash rate went down 75%, illustrating another axiom of bike planning: the more people ride, the safer it is for everyone.

The City of Milwaukee and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin are creating a bicycle plan that will guide bicycle programs and projects over the next 10 years, continuing to increase bike use. The Milwaukee Bicycle Plan draft recommendations double the existing bike network with bike paths, bike lanes (including raised lanes), and bicycle boulevards. This network will ensure that 74% of city residents live within aquarter mile or less of bicycle facilities. While only 40% of current city residents live within a quarter mile of a bike facility, approximately 81,000 bicycle trips are made per day in the city. The Milwaukee Bicycle Plan includes the following overarching goals for 2020:

* Increase bicycle use so that 5%of all trips less than five miles are made by bike. 

* Create a bicycle network thatis convenient, attractive and appropriate for people of all ages and abilities.

* Reduce the bicycle crash rateby 50% from current levels.

The Milwaukee Bicycle Plan iscurrently in draft form and will be rolled out to the public early this summer. 

Why Invest in Bicycling?

Bicycling addresses some of the major issues facing Riverwest, Milwaukee, and the country. They include airpollution, an under funded transit system, obesity, increased health care costs,a need for economic development, reduced personal income, highway congestion, access to jobs, a need to connect with nature, and more. In short, bicycling raises the quality of life. 

Bicycling Saves Money and Helps the Environment

Most people dislike being stuck in traffic, but congestion has greater impacts than increasing the frustration levels of motorists.

Congestion costs Milwaukee about $300 million annually in lost time, health impacts and other factors, accordingto the Texas Transportation Research Institute. Half of all trips in Milwaukee are three miles or less – a 20 minute bike ride. Twenty-eight percent of all trips are less than one mile. Despite the fact that these trips can be easily made on a bicycle or by walking, motor vehicles are used for over 80% of these short trips. Walking or cycling for these very short trips could significantly reduce congestion on Milwaukee streets and boost the local economy by tens of millions of dollars.

Riverwest is an ideal community for cycling. Just about everything you need is available within a two mile trip,from great restaurants to downtown. It’s all bikeable!

The US could save 462 million gallons of gasoline if cycling increased from 1% to 1.5% of all trips.

The Bike Fed is working on creating low cost cargo bikes for community gardeners and city farmers to help them transport tools and their produce to market, reducing expenditures and thus the cost of local food. 

Bicycling Can Be an Economic Engine

A recent study conducted by UW-Madison found that Wisconsin recreational bicycling combined with bicycling manufacturing, services and sales contributes $1.5 billion annually to support Wisconsin’s economy. Bicycling in our state also contributes 13,200 bike-related Wisconsin jobs.

In Milwaukee, local bike shops, bike races and rides, and bike-related events make a significant and important contribution to our local economy.

The Bike Fed also runs a youth bicycle mechanic job training program where local youth repair donated bikes at North Division High School. The bike mechanic training program allows kids the chance to learn job skills and develop their earning potential. 

Bicycling Can Improve Health

Biking does more than improve economic health – it can also lower health care costs, since bicycling is in the whole grain, antioxidant rich aisle at the transportation supermarket.

Recently the Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce released a “Blueprint for Progress” that emphasizes personal lifestyle changes to decrease local health care costs to businesses. According to an article by Tim Sheehy of the MMAC, “When 20 percent of the population accounts for 75 percent of health care spending that can be impacted by lifestyle choices, wellness and prevention is the place to start.”

Not everyone is going to bike towork or the store, but many car trips can be replaced by a bike trip. In fact, almost half of all trips made by car in Milwaukee could be replaced with a 20 minute or shorter bike trip. More people will ride bicycles for exercise if they have attractive and convenient places to ride in their own neighborhoods. Creating an attractive and convenient bicycle network is part of becoming a “WellCity.”

With all of these benefits, how can a city not promote cycling? 

Vision for Biking in Milwaukee in2020

By the year 2020, visitors will notice Milwaukee’s neighborhoods are filled with a diverse population of people riding bicycles on innovative bicycle facilities. Milwaukee in 2020 will be an economically and environmentally healthy, world-class city for cycling where people of all ages and abilities have attractive, convenient and safe options to make recreational and utilitarian trips by bicycle.

Want to lose weight, save money,exercise more, and support local businesses? Take the Go By Bike Challenge and bicycle for trips that are less than two miles long.

You can pick up a free Milwaukee By Bike Map at Truly Spoken Cycles (Center and Bremen) or any other bike shop and mark a two mile radius around your house. Try to bike to any and all places you go within this circle. Remember to use the map to pick a good route.

Visit and for more info and a tracking application to measure the calories you burn, thegas money you save, and the carbon dioxide not put into the air.

If you are not already convinced,did you know that the average bicycle commuter loses 13 pounds during their first year of riding?

The Bicycle Federation ofWisconsin is here to help you make the switch, especially during Bike to WorkWeek (June 6-12). And maybe while you are out on your bike, you can come up with more ideas for how to get more of Milwaukee riding so we can all reap the benefits.

Bike Summit

Are you fired up about doing more to make Riverwest, Milwaukee and Wisconsin more bicycle friendly? Join us at the Wisconsin Bicycle Summit, April 21-22. The Bike Fed’s Second AnnualWisconsin Bicycle Summit brings together hundreds of bike enthusiasts from every corner of the state to stand in support of making every ride we take in Wisconsin safe, enjoyable, and fun!

This year’s Summit offers informative workshops, opportunities to learn from inspiring speakers, and a chance to connect with community and industry leaders. Our special guest, Andreas Rohl, head of the City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Program, will give a dynamic presentation on how we can learn from Copenhagen’s dramatic success in expanding their bike infrastructure to become the world’s best bike city. An amazing 40% of Copenhagen commute trips are by bike.


If You Go:    Wisconsin Bicycle Summit   Wed-Thurs, April 21-22

Concourse Hotel  1 Dayton St   Madison, Wisconsin