Wauwatosa Approves North Ave. Green Bike Lanes, Bike Boxes

Before a packed room of residents asking for enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities, Wauwatosa’s Community Development Committee unanimously approved plans for green bike lanes and advance bike boxes on North Avenue, from 76th to 60th Street, last night. At the request of some members, the Wisconsin Bike Fed sent out two action alerts to encourage area residents to show up for the meeting, sent staff to the meeting to testify and submitted a letter of support for the roadway improvements.

The committee approved plan includes a skip dash green pattern rather than a continuous green lanes as shown in this earlier rendering of the North Avenue project.

The  project will also remove the series of left turn only lanes that create a chicane driving pattern and pull back the noses of the curb extensions to allow for the continuous bike lanes. Improvements for walking will include red crosswalks and median islands at 73rd, 72nd and 64th Streets.

Supporters of the plan argued the green lanes are key to promoting future investment in the East Wauwatosa neighborhood and fast growing business district that has landed a number of bicycle friendly businesses such as Juniper 61, the New BelAir Cantina, Rocket Baby Bakery, Red Dot and Camp Bar.


Kevin Hardman, Wauwatosa resident and former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed, related a story of a Bay View resident who just told him he loved Wauwatosa and how many of his had moved there from Bay View when they bought homes.

“I can’t emphasize enough the significant of this vote. By including these improvements on North Ave. we signal to our residents, our visitors and potential investors (both businesses and new home owners) that ‘Tosa is a truly unique, wonderful, world-class community. These green lanes will not only make bicycling better, they will make it safer to walk, safer to drive and much easier for businesses to invest in North Avenue. These green lanes will visibly signify to people around the region that Tosa is the place to be.”

Image from a Portland DOT glossy on bike boxes.

Other residents who complained drivers honk at them and refuse to let them cross the street, argued the green lanes, bike boxes and red crosswalks would serve as permanent reminders that people a legal right to ride bicycles and cars need to yield the right of way to people trying to cross the street.

In a related agenda item, the Committee also unanimously approved a study to extend the bike lanes further west from Wauwatosa Ave to the Menomonee River Parkway. Overall, it was wonderful to see how the residents and elected officials in Wauwatosa really understand how improving conditions for walking and bicycling will make their community a better place to live, visit, work and invest in.

Help us build a better, more bike-friendly Wisconsin. Join the Bike Fed today

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

9 thoughts on “Wauwatosa Approves North Ave. Green Bike Lanes, Bike Boxes

  1. I’d love to see this along MLK Drive from Lloyd up through Hadley. We’re trying to regenerate this commercial strip but seem to keep applying 1960’s concepts. Making the commercial strip along MLK more inviting and businesses will come but instead the city insist keeping it as alternate to I43.

    Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    • When I was City bike coordinator, I argued the traffic volumes on MLK did not justify 4 lanes and it could have been reduced to a three lane patter with bike lanes. I lost that argument and it was reconstructed with 4 lanes. Unless it goes on a lane diet, there is no room for bike lanes now.

      • Agreed….I really have no idea how they can justify four lanes. How were you able to get S. 2nd to be put on a “road diet”?

        • A number of the business leaders on 2nd wanted the bike lanes, including Rockwell. Sometimes money talks and advocates walk 🙁

  2. Will the bike box have detectors so that if the cyclists are the only ones at the light the light will be able to turn green?

    • Greg,

      I am pretty sure those signalized intersections are pre-timed, not actuated by inductive loops, so there is no worry about bicycles being detected. If you were at the meeting, one of he citizens who testified had some misinformation about actuated signals. They actually use inductive loops that generate a magnetic field. When something metal, even aluminum bicycle wheels, enters the field, the sensor detects that and it actuates the signal controller to change the signal on a timed cycle. Weight has nothing to do with it. Some loop detectors are not tuned to detect minor changes in the field, so they don’t detect bicycles and motorcycles. The controllers can be retuned though. When they don’t, as he stated, bicycles and motorcycles are allowed to progress through a red light after waiting 45 seconds.

      That law was written without the advice of traffic engineers, which is unfortunate because most pre-timed signalized intersections are on a 60 or 90 second cycle. My advice is to always wait at least 90 seconds in at an urban intersection or look at the pavement to see if you see saw cuts where they installed inductive loops. Signalized intersections with minor town or rural roads are mostly actuated.

    • Hi Ward,

      The Menomonee River Parkway is already slated to be reconstructed with improved conditions for walking and bicycling. That is a County project though, so the funds come from a completely different municipality. The Bike Fed is on the team of consultants Milwaukee County Parks hired to do the design engineering. There have been a number of public meetings about it.

      This North Avenue Project is a Wauwatosa project, the funds have already been budgeted for and they are designated to make traffic safety improvements specifically for North Ave.

      Thanks for reading, writing and riding!

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