bike story DiAntoni
Photo by Peter DiAntoni

Five years in the making, the Milwaukee Smart Trips Pilot Program is finally hitting the pavement in the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods. Primarily funded by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the three-year program is being run by the Wisconsin Bike Fed in partnership with the City of Milwaukee. The goal is simple: reduce congestion and improve air quality by increasing the number of trips made by walking, biking, busing and carpooling.
The program itself is pretty straightforward, too. This year the program will focus on assessing the current transportation modes used in the area, identifying barriers residents may have towards walking, biking, busing and carpooling for transportation, and building additional community partnerships. This winter materials will be gathered and created for the Smart Trips kits which will be available free to all 13,000 households within the program area for the next two summers.
Materials to be included in the kits is still being determined, but other cities have included items like neighborhood maps with walking and bike routes highlighted, customized route planning trip tickets, coupon booklets for neighborhood businesses, calendars for walk and bike-friendly events, pedometers and blinky lights for bikes.
The summers of 2015 and 2016 is when the program really gets good! Residents in Riverwest and Harambee will be contacted and asked if they are interested in walking, biking, busing or carpooling. If they answer “yes” they will then receive an order form in the mail to select what information, materials and goodies they would like to receive (again, all for free). When the order form is received, their customized kit will be assembled and delivered to their house – by bike, of course! But that’s not all. The hope is that when the materials are delivered, a dialogue can be initiated between the Smart Trips staff and the resident, allowing additional questions to be answered.
And voila, that is the Smart Trips program!
While the concept is simple, the impact of Smart Trips programs could be very big. By the end of the three years, it is projected that the program will have allowed for more than 850,000 fewer drive-alone trips to be made, reducing over 2,500,000 vehicle miles traveled. That translates to a lot fewer cars on the road and a lot less CO2 being released!
While this is Wisconsin’s first Smart Trips program, it’s no wonder that this cost-effective means of changing transportation habits has begun making its way into cities throughout the US. In fact, our neighbor to the north, St Paul, Minnesota has been running a Smart Trips program since 2008. Their program has yielded on average a 7% reduction in drive-alone trips each year. In 2012 St Paul moved the program from its pilot stage to be run on a city-wide scale over the coming years.
That is our hope as well, that the Milwaukee Smart Trips Pilot Program will help make the case for city-wide funding of bicycle education and encouragement programming to get all Milwaukee residents out of their cars and enjoying the health and environmental benefits – as well as joy – that active transportation brings.
Interested in getting involved? Great! This is an all-hands-on-deck sort of project, with a many volunteer opportunities able to meet the interests and abilities of anyone interested in helping out. If you would like to get involved, please email Smart Trips Project Manager Shea Schachameyer at
Smart Trips Survey
We want to hear how you get around and what sorts of things might allow you to walk, bike, bus and carpool for more of the trips that you make. Fill out our survey online ( or look for it around the neighborhood this summer. Thanks!