From the
Bay View to Downtown
Bicycle Route Study
Final Draft - Stage 1 Report

Wisconsin Department of Transportation
January 1999

[Editor comments: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and BRW, Inc. (the department's consultant on this project) took a common sense look at the safety concerns surrounding bicycling on the Hoan Bridge. Here are the Department's observations, quoted in full:]

wind grade ice & snow
auto traffic pedestrians personal safety
emergency access grates views

"Wind. There has been concern expressed about the force of gusting wind across the main section of the bridge. It is generally acknowledged that it affects autos, so bicyclists may be expected to have difficulty at times, also. Wind velocities on the bridge on an annual percentage basis were estimated below. Table I indicates a wind velocity of 0 to 11 miles per hour 21 percent of the time; 13 to 19 miles per hour about one-third of the time; 20 to 30 miles per hour about one-third of the time; and over 30 miles per hour 10 percent of the time. Most of the periods of high wind occur in the Winter, Fall and Spring.

"Table I
"Estimated Winds Speeds and Frequencies on the Hoan Bridge

(% of the
Wind Speed in Miles Per Hour
20 Ft above Grade 40 Ft above Grade 135 Ft
above Grade
(Maximum Height of Bridge)
5.0 0 - 3 0 - 4 0 - 6
16 5 - 7 5 - 8 7 - 11
34 8 - 12 10 - 14 13 - 19
35 13 - 18 15 - 22 20 - 30
8 20 - 24 23 - 28 31 - 39
2 over 24 over 28 over 39

"Source: Feasibility Study, Lakefront Bike Trail over the Daniel Hoan Bridge, Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture, 1990, page 14."

[Editor comments: Most "high wind" or stormy days preclude bicycling anywhere. The extra margin of wind on the Hoan Bridge - if it were to exceed 20 mph - will probably deter a bicyclist in one out of ten trips (and even less in the summer), when he or she will choose to use a grade level path or street. If the winds get higher than 30 miles an hour or if the weather turns stormy, most bikers will avoiding biking in any case.]

"On the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, generally considered a very windy site, wind has reportedly not been a problem. Observers there have said that bicyclists either use greater caution and reduce their speeds on windy days or even walk their bikes.

"Commuter bicyclists and others who ride on a regular basis tend to be accustomed to weather conditions and adapt to them. Advisory Committee members also were of the opinion that an alternative surface route should be available for riders who do not want to use the bridge during periods of high wind, ice or snow. Other means of dealing with the wind could include wind warning signs and wind deflectors added to one or both sides of the bikeway.

"Grade. Proceeding north from the Carferry Drive entrance, the northbound on-ramp of 1-794 rises at about a 4.2 percent grade for a distance of 2,500 feet. From there the road slopes downward at a grade of 0.3 percent for a distance of 2,800 feet, then rises again at a 2.8 percent grade to the height of the Hoan Bridge over the Milwaukee River, then falls at an average slope of 3.1 percent for a distance of 4,800 feet to Michigan Street. At its high point over the Milwaukee River. the bridge deck is 125 feet above grade while at its low point near Municipal Pier No. 4, it is only 30 feet above grade.

"Some observers have stated that the bridge is too steep for most bicyclists and, therefore, a bicycle path there would seldom be used.

"To test this claim and better acquaint themselves with other features of the bridge, members of the Advisory Committee and others rode the bridge in both directions during the course of this study on November 8, 1997. That group included two children aged six and nine, several people over the age of 55 and several people who were not regular bicyclists or runners. The northbound lanes of the bridge were closed to traffic for one hour by a WisDOT crew with help from the County Sheriff. Conditions that day were 46 degrees with a southerly breeze of about 8 miles per hour at the top of the bridge.

"The overwhelming consensus of the riders was that the grades were not a problem. Most of the cyclists used their lower gears but no one used their lowest gear. Average speeds on the upgrade were 7 to 9 miles per hour. The general speed on the downhill grades was in the range of 15 to 20 miles per hour and no one said they felt out of control. Several riders said that they were able to stop comfortably in the middle of the downgrades. The expansion (finger) joints were covered with thin boards for this experiment, and the other (non-finger) joints were reported to be no problem. All of the participants who stayed for the ride on Second Street said that the bridge was a more comfortable environment for riding.

"Therefore, the Advisory Committee and the bicycle route planning consultant concluded that the bridge grades should not be a significant problem even if the bikeway is designed to be a 10 to 12 foot wide path with concrete barriers on both sides.

"Ice and Snow. Provisions could be made for plowing the path or lane to periodically remove ice and snow, or the route could be closed for a few weeks or months in the winter. If the bike facility were a physically separated path, the path could be made sufficiently wide for a pick-up truck with a front plow. This issue should be addressed in Stage 2 of this study.

"Auto Traffic. The bicycle facility on the bridge should, ideally, be separated from auto traffic with a concrete barrier and a guard rail at least 4.5 feet above grade. That would completely solve the traffic safety concern. Other bike routes are occasionally located on highway shoulders, and these distress lanes are 10 feet wide, which exceeds standards set by the American Association of State Highway Traffic Officials (AASHTO) and is more than bicyclists usually are given. Presently, traffic levels are so low that traffic spreads itself so there is not a steady stream of vehicles next to the distress lanes.

"Related traffic concerns are noise and vibration. Noise will be a minor irritation with any design that locates the bicycle facility at the grade of the bridge deck. Vibration is even less of an concern. The bicycle route planning consultant has ridden a path attached to the side and slightly below the deck grade of a long, tall highway bridge. He reported that noise and vibration were negligible.

"Pedestrians. There is some interest in allowing pedestrians to use the bridge bicycle facility if it is physically separated from auto traffic. AASHTO design guidelines and other sources recommend separating bicyclists and pedestrians but if they must share a path, the path (two-way) should be at least 12 feet wide plus a 2-foot clear zone on both sides. It is anticipated that it will be difficult if not impossible to obtain a 16 foot physically separated path on the Hoan Bridge. However, it is also expected that the number of pedestrians will be very low.

"Personal Safety. There are always concerns about personal safety whenever one is using a public space that does not have a substantial amount of other people watching and protecting the space. Although it is expected that the risk of being attacked on a Hoan Bridge bicycle facility is extremely low, there are also only two reasonable ways to escape and motorists might not recognize the situation and stop to help. Thus, lone riders would have to accept certain risks (as they do when cycling in certain other locations such as Second Street) and be prepared to deal with them.

"Emergency Access. Could emergency medical technicians quickly get to someone who got injured on a physically separated path on the bridge? The divider should be designed so that helpers could climb over without undue difficulty and lift an injured person on a stretcher back over to an ambulance.

"Grates. There are three expansion joints on the bridge that could catch bicycle tires. These should be covered with metal plates.

"Views. A bicycle path or lane on the east side of the bridge would offer spectacular views up and down the lakefront. There is some concern that a railing or fencing designed for bicyclist safety would diminish the lakefront views of drivers, however. This could be addressed if the safety features were limited to horizontal railings only somewhat higher than the present railings. A full chainlink 'cage' is probably not necessary."

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