The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported on a donation by GE Healthcare of a half mile corridor that will provide the “final link” in connecting the current Glacial Drumlin State Trail’s western terminus in Cottage Grove to Madison. The article is not clear about the route to be taken or the location of the half mile corridor, although the route would generally follow the Union Pacific rail line. An article in the Wisconsin State Journal last year gave more information on planning for the connector.
Drivers who are distracted because they are on their cell phones or texting are a particular danger to bicyclists who have little protection from cars that wander onto the shoulder. The US Department of Transportation recently set up a website to fight this danger.
The site summarizes state laws restricting driving while on the phone or texting. Wisconsin recently passed a law banning texting while driving, although talking on the phone appears essentially unrestricted.
Whenever a new facility is proposed for bicyclists, in Milwaukee at least one can expect some letters to the editor in adamant opposition. Some look at bicycling as a frivolous activity; others seem to have been traumatized by an encounter with a bicycle. But the most frustrating are those who claim to be bicyclists, state that they would not use the facility, and conclude that therefore no bicyclist in his right mind would use the facility.
For example, when a bicycle lane was proposed for Milwaukee’s Hoan bridge, there were a number of letters that insisted the bridge was too steep and too windy for bikes. Yet when the bridge was closed one morning last summer to allow the UPAF Ride for the Arts to cross, it proved very popular and much less steep than many of the hills that bicyclists often ride.
I have run into several other examples in the past month. A proposal to extend the Lake Parkway south with a parallel bike path resulted in several letters saying that the idea was folly since the letter writers would never use it. A proposal to add shoulders to a road reconstruction in Pewaukee also apparently prompted letters that insisted bicyclists did not want shoulders.
The notion that bicyclists can project from their own preferences to what all bicyclists want seems like a stretch to me (although I am also skeptical as to whether some of the letter writers are the avid bicyclists they claim to be). In my experience bicyclists vary widely in what they look for in a route. Some just want to get from one place to another as quickly as possible and have considerable faith that drivers will look out for them. Others put much greater weight on scenery and protection from traffic.
Recently, I complained about new trails in Brookfield (and Milwaukee) that are reported on maps before they actually appear on the ground. A recent visit to Brookfield shows some progress in making reality match their map. The black plastic fencing used to mark off construction zones has appeared along the routes of three of the trails. On the fourth, filling in a gap through a wetland along Brookfield Rd, a boardwalk has actually been built but is not yet open.
Still no evident progress along the Milwaukee trails, however.
Plans are afoot for a new national wildlife refuge in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Called the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, it would be centered on Genoa City and run between the Bong recreation area on the east roughly to the western shore of Lake Geneva. The northern boundary approximately follows the White River State Trail (part of the Milwaukee-Elkhorn route) and the southern shore of Lake Geneva. Despite its proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee, this is an area of small towns, lakes, farms, and country roads that offer great bicycling.
In contrast to older National Wildlife Refuges that consist primarily of federally owned property, the new refuge would be a patchwork offering a variety of environments for wildlife, particularly birds that could move from site to site. This does seem to fit in with current thinking about conservation: rather than concentrating on preserving completely wild areas, find ways to support both wildlife and a variety of human activities.