As the weather warms up, naturally, Wisconsinites are emerging from their winter shelter to seek more sunshine and recreation.
While the Governor and the public health department have issued a Safer-At-Home order during the spread of COVID-19, the ability to walk or bike throughout our communities for physical and mental health is still recommended and encouraged. Under these recommendations, largely populated cities in Wisconsin such as Madison and Milwaukee are experiencing a significant increase in trail usage. In Milwaukee, digital trail counters have seen an overall 87% spike in trail counts compared to 2019. Meanwhile, car miles traveled have plummeted by nearly 63-80% across large and mid-sized cities
In the City of Madison, trails use is without a doubt, very popular. A visit on a weekday in the late afternoon on the Capital City Path and the trail is teeming with bicycle commuters, joggers, and walkers of all ages and abilities. There has been a slight uptick in trail counts, but even the normal hustle and bustle of the frequented corridor had set off some concerns for safe social distancing among residents and local government officials alike.
On Wednesday, April 15th, the Madison Transportation Committee met to go over a plan proposed by the City of Madison Department of Transportation, that would focus on a plan to assist community members in having safe and healthy spaces for walking and biking during the COVID-19 Safer at Home order.
During the meeting, Renée Callaway, the City of Madison Bicycle and Pedestrian Administrator pointed out that many of the proposed local street access only areas are simple in nature with barricades on either end of the planned routes, allowing for more space to bike, walk, and roll. This plan would allow only automotive vehicle access for those who live on the street and are emergency and or delivery vehicles.
Additionally, Director of the City of Madison DOT, Thomas Lynch and City Engineer Yang Tao briefed the group on their close communication with Madison Fire and Police to ensure community safety, and have also been in communication with area Alderpersons who represent districts included in the plan.
Additional recommendations were made by the committee, including more information about trail etiquette such as listing peak hours for essential trips, and other basic recommendations for respectful social behavior. Branding the plan also came up in dialogue and a suggestion to refer to the initiative as a “Shared Streets,” operation in order to accurately inform users of the public right of way that this is not a mass street closure on car traffic.
The Transportation Commission, including City Alders, advised on approval of the plan, and it was also approved by City of Madison Mayor Rhodes-Conway.
“In order to stay healthy while staying at home, we need to enhance opportunities for residents to safely enjoy the outdoors.”said Ald. Tag Evers, 13th District.
In the Wisconsin State Journal
On Friday, April 17th, The City of Madison officially launched its “Shared Streets,” plan which is currently being assessed and evolved for safety and convenience as well as optimal mode share.
A very important reminder from The City of Madison: These initiatives intend to expand space and make social distancing easier for residents walking and biking. They are not intended for people to congregate and socialize.
Both community organizations, Madison Bikes, and the Wisconsin Bike Fed have collectively advocated along with local residents to the City of Madison, the Governor’s office, the Wisconsin DOT, and the Department of Health urging them to make more underutilized public street space available for Wisconsin residents to safely practice social distancing. *Thank you to the 87 Madison residents that petitioned for the “Streets to Trails,” campaign!
We commend the City of Madison for their quick response in this challenging time for everyone. The Wisconsin Bike Fed is currently working diligently to support similar action plans in other metro areas across the state.
This advocacy is pedal-powered by people…period.
If you appreciate the work that the Wisconsin Bike Fed is doing, please donate or become a member, today!