A CITIZENS' PETITION
TO BIKE AND WALK
THE HOAN BRIDGE

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN


Frequently asked questions about
the Hoan Bridge walk and bike path


WHY PUT A BIKE AND PEDESTRIAN PATH ON THE HOAN BRIDGE?

Federal Highway Policy directs local governments to find alternatives to the automobile. $1.5 million of federal money was appropriated to study and construct a suitable bicycle path between Bay View and Downtown Milwaukee. The funding source is the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Section 1104, Congestion Relief Projects, Subsection (b), This Act was signed into law by President G. H. Bush.

WHAT PLANS HAVE COME FROM THIS EFFORT?

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has hired BRW, Inc., a transportation consulting company to work with the Department, a Citizens' Advisory Committee, and local government. This group has concluded that a bike path on the Hoan Bridge, another on 2nd Street (from Mitchell Street to Pittsburgh Avenue), and yet another on railroad right of way east of First Street are all feasible bicycle paths.

At the present time the study group is doing an engineering feasibility study of each of the alternatives. There will be a public hearing on these questions in year 2001, perhaps by the summer.

There already exists the Oak Leaf Bicycle Trail. The Hoan Bike Path would efficiently connect the Bay View Oak Leaf Bicycle Trail with the Downtown sections of the Oak Leaf. The Hoan path would also connect to Hank Aaron Trail which will eventually bring bicyclists to Downtown. Completing both the Hank Aaron Trail and the Hoan Bike and Walk Path will give the center of Milwaukee an wonderful web of biking possibilities: for commuters, recreation and tourism.

WOULD A HOAN BRIDGE BIKE PATH BE SAFE?

Yes. In fact it will be safer than biking on city streets. This bike path is probably the most well-planned bike path in our state's history. All aspects of safety were explored by a Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Citizens' Advisory Committee.

Serious consideration was also given to each concern expressed by citizens in a public hearing in September 1997.

The concrete barrier between the bike path and motor traffic will make bicycle commuting and recreation many times safer than the busy lanes on First and Second Streets. Bay View to Downtown bicyclists - now using 1st or 2nd Streets - point to (1) constrictions caused by the railroad overpasses at Florida near First Street, and on Kinnickinnic north of the Kinnickinnic River, (2) the narrow First and Mitchell intersection is an especially tense moment of a downtown bicycle ride; (3)  First and Second Streets are primarily industrial corridors for large trucks and auto volume - with no special protection given to bicycles.

The 2nd street bike path will be helpful for bicyclists living north of Becher Street. But for bicyclists living south and east of Lincoln Avenue, the Hoan would be the best route.

A bike-friendly city requires a web of bike options so as to serve the people in each neighborhood.

WHAT ABOUT RAILROAD TRACKS ALONG FIRST STREET?

The Citizens Advisory Committee studied the railroad alternatives. There are serious problems to make them bike-friendly. The most worrisome is that there are long stretches where bikers will not be seen by anyone. Women, in particular, were concerned about biking those stretches alone. And upgrading the rail right of way would not be cheap; bridges would require substantial widening to carry both bikes and trains.

HOW HAVE OTHER CITIES DEALT WITH THE QUESTION OF BIKES ON HIGH BRIDGES?

Many cities have high-exposure bridges with biking and walking: To name a few: Sydney, San Francisco, Duluth, Minneapolis, New York, Key West. Busloads of tourists come to the Golden Gate bridge just to walk across and back.

Sweden considers bicycle transportation as an integral part of its culture. Bridges are built with bike lanes. Their vision will pay off as gasoline prices soar.

See this web site for more details from other locations: High Exposure Bridges, Walkers, Bikers - Around the Country



THIS IS A FREEWAY. HOW CAN YOU SQUEEZE BIKES ONTO A FAST FREEWAY?

The northbound Hoan lanes are, in fact, ideal for a two-way bike path. These lanes have a 50 mph limit and are fed by the 40 mph Lake Parkway. Cars driving onto the Hoan bridge from the Lake Parkway actually enjoy more room as they can accelerate at the same point the bike-walk path will begin; they will already be in two lanes.

This design will allow a distress lane for a disabled vehicle.

Ask commuters on the Northbound lanes and they will tell you that rush hour congestion is nonexistent. There is never three lane wide congestion on the Hoan, even at the height of the morning commute to downtown. (The evening commute is generally southbound, where there will be three-lane traffic on the Hoan, feeding into a two lane parkway.)

WON'T LAKE WINDS CHASE BIKERS AWAY?

Winds on the Hoan are only slightly stronger than in most other locations of the city. They are not formidable. The calculations were done by a consultant working for Wisconsin Electric. Of course, winds over 30 mph (storm level) discourage biking on any road surface. People using the Hoan for a round-trip may, according to these studies, choose to use another route only once out of nine trips.

HOW MANY PEOPLE ACTUALLY COMMUTE BY BIKE IN MILWAUKEE?

More and more. The Hoan in fact will attract weekend bikers, recreation, and tourism. The Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco gets thousands of buses of tourists on weekends. The magnificent view over Milwaukee's harbor could likewise draw many tourists. Chicago has nothing like this over its harbor, but major cities around the world have put bike paths on high exposure bridges.

OK BIKES, BUT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD BE WALKING ON THAT BRIDGE?

The Citizen Advisory Committee insisted that the bike path as planned be safe for walkers, too. The Hoan bridge was built for traffic which never materialized because the proposed Lakefront freeway was never built.

WELL IT'S JUST A ROAD!

Well, yes, and most roads have bicycles. But the Hoan is a place to see our city like it's never been seen before. The Hoan is not just a road it is our asset. The view from the Hoan is magnificent; the Hoan is not just trucks, it is tourism! 5000 weekend pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is an enormous commercial asset. There is nothing else like this opportunity in the entire Midwest. Milwaukee has in its hands an incomparable asset; a jewel of a view; a launching pad for downtown activity.

BUT THE HOAN IS SO STEEP!

It appears steep if you look at it from one end to the other. In fact, the grade on the Hoan is a very mild grade, less than many hills in Whitnall, Lake and Grant Parks. Those of us who have biked on the Hoan report an easy climb, and a descent without brakes of about 10-15 mph.

When the committee biked the bridge we had bikes of all kinds, including parents towing children in bike-trailers. No one walked up the hill. No one reported unease on the ride down.

The view is fantastic. There is a skirt on the edge of the bridge. A walker standing at the edge of the roadway cannot look straight down.

THE HOAN IS BROKEN; SURELY THIS IS NO TIME TO DISCUSS A BIKE PATH

On the contrary, the breaking of the Hoan (December 2000) has provided us with information not available before.

  • Traffic load.
  • Business development.

To relieve traffic congestion on Kinnickinnic Avenue after the break, traffic engineers realigned stop and go lights to favor northbound Kinnickinnic traffic in the morning and southbound in the evenings. It is now possible to travel the length of Kinnickinnic with few stop lights during rush hour.

This new arrangement was designed to discourage use of the Hoan temporarily. The Hoan is a one-lane highway while repairs proceed. Traffic slows on the Hoan only at rush hour. Good traffic design will spread the load on alternative routes. If the Kinnickinnic adjustment was a temporary success for the winter, it can continue to relieve the Hoan of traffic into the foreseeable future.

Traffic on Kinnickinnic is one factor helping Bay View's efforts to revitalize its business strip. Highways favor large corporate businesses distant from communities; local roads favor local business. The recent new businesses on Kinnickinnic are the result of hard work, a friendly alderperson, and traffic.

SO WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?

THE VIEW! From the Hoan the view of Milwaukee is superb. Ask anyone who has been there. It is a city asset that we need to explore. Access to the bridge will be one of Milwaukee's finest tourist assets and a boon to bike commuting.

For more discussion on the many advantages of biking to work, see the Milwaukee Bikes to Work website.



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Bicycles on the Interstate?

On Bridges!

In Wisconsin!


Hudson, Wisconsin

Interstates and Bridges
Bicycle Access Nationwide


Frequently Asked Questions


Wind? Weather? Congestion?
Good news from Wisconsin Department of Transportation


Designed for Safety
WISDOT engineering cut-a-way



UPAF Ride Slideshow
See the joy, the ease, the view


HOAN FUTURE

A Civic Lakefront Committee
Long Range Lakefront Committee envisions Milwaukee's most valuable property

HISTORY - The Record

Why Not The Hoan?
What is taking so long?



Comment on the
August 8, 2002, WisDOT decision


Eric Damien Berna
Chris Krochalk
Bruce Thompson
Bill Sell

Poetry of Harvey Taylor
See You On The Bridge




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Daniel Webster Hoan, Former Mayor of Milwaukee






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