Monday, March 26, 2012

The First Bike Cops of Spring

With the nice weather we've been having, recently I took a nice long evening ride, right after work.  My route was a long loop, from my office on Hampton, down the Oak Leaf Trail to the Art Center, then out the Hank Aaron Trail to the Pettit Ice Center, then up the Honey Creek Parkway to North Avenue, North Avenue back to the OLT, then the OLT to Shorewood. Overall, it was absolutely great to see so many bikers out.  A few observations:
1. On the OLT it was a steady stream of cyclists headed North, most of whom seemed like bike commuters on their way home from work (including several GSB members).  I estimate I passed 100 cyclists headed North on the OLT between Capitol Drive and the Art Museum.  Shorewood, White Fish Bay and the Eastside seem like fertile ground for GSB's message of encouraging more folks to bike to and from work.  The safety and ease-of-use that the OLT offers (along with record high gas prices), should help to attract this year a record number of people on the Eastside to try the bike commuting lifestyle. 
2. As to the Hank Aaron Trail, the East end of the HAT is rather difficult to follow, as it winds its way from the Summerfest Grounds through the Third Ward to Canal Street.  I even managed to make a couple of wrong turns, and the whole time it felt like I was not following a natural route.  The Friends of the HAT should be encouraged to either better mark the trail in that area (more and/or larger signs?), come up with a better way to mark the trail in that area (how about a series of blue dots every 10 to 20 feet on the road?), or come up with a different route for the trail through that area.
3. I was really surprised as to the difference in bike traffic levels between the OLT and the HAT.  Bike traffic (and pedestrian traffic) on the HAT was very light.  The low level of traffic I observed on a nice warm spring dayon the HAT, was comparable to what one would see on a cold or snowy winter day on the OLT.  Don't get me wrong, once you get out to near Miller Park, it’s a great beautiful trail  -- but based on what I saw yesterday, there is work to be done in surrounding neighborhoods to encourage use of the trail. 
4. As to North Avenue, I saw very few (less than 10) bikers in my long ride East on North Avenue.  Those few I did see were high schoolers or college age guys on stunt bikes.  Such bikes probably make a lot of sense around there (given the poor condition of the roads, and given how high speed on a bike there is generally not a great idea, because I was getting cut off several times by turning drivers or drivers leaving driveways).  Such made me all the more appreciate the OLT, the HAT, and being able to bike North along Lake Drive.  I greatly appreciated, however, the bike lanes that are on North Avenue, and they did seem like they were serving their intended purpose.  There’s work to be done in the neighborhoods around North Avenue to educate drivers or to deter bad/unsafe driving, and there’s work to be done to ensure there are more safe routes for cyclists in that area.
5. I saw the first bike cops of spring along North Avenue– always a welcome and good sign.  Welcome back guys, and best wishes for a safe biking season.  (Kahuna)