Friday, October 28th, 2016

Get on your bikes and spend


A little furor today over my latest perspective piece at the MacIver Institute on the proposed bike path plan for Milwaukee, Milwaukee by Bike. An excerpt:

Milwaukeeans may soon have a plan to allow them to bicycle just about everywhere on even the most crime-ridden streets. Mayor Barrett’s city may have cut back on the number of firemen per truck, raised the tax rate by 10% last year, and dumped raw sewage into Lake Michigan, but Milwaukee will consider a plan Tuesday night to more than double the number of miles on Milwaukee’s bike paths on the city’s crumbling roads.

The plan Milwaukee by Bike would expand Milwaukee’s bicycle network from 116 miles to 356 miles, including 153 new miles of bike lanes and shared lanes. Milwaukeeans will never be more than a quarter mile from the bicycle lane network.  Presumably driving in your SUV with the bicycle rack to the nearest bike trail would be discouraged.

The city hopes bicycles will be used for 5% of all trips less than five miles by 2020, and the cost of pursuing this folly is $8.63 million. That’s more money than the state is willing to give the city of Brookfield to build a train station.

The 5% goal, of course, is silly. Portland, OR, is considered one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country. In 2007, the census reported Portland had the highest percentage of bicycle commuters at 3.5%. The Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole (a bicycle enthusiast himself) pointed out in the Los Angeles Times that because of the nature of the self-reporting, the number of bicyclists commuting is closer to 2.6%. Unlike Milwaukee, Portland only has 3 or 4 days per year that get over an inch of snow.

Snowy Milwaukee will somehow double Portland’s bicycle ridership? Ah, but Milwaukee has a plan.Milwaukee by Bike actually recommends snowplowing the city’s off-street bicycle trails. That’s right, folks, the city has a hard enough time keeping the streets clear of snow for automobiles, but the bicycle paths will have to be plowed for the ten-speed commuter on his Huffy. The authors of the plan must not have been paying attention when Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima was roundly ridiculed for making the same suggestion earlier this year.

A few of my {ahem} critics:

Let me guess, Jim…you’re a Republican, you live in the suburbs, and you really should loose {sic} a few pounds. Oh- and you have very conservative religious views! How am I doing? – Annie Adam

Not sure what my religious views have to do with my lack of support for spending money on bike paths.  I suppose it beats being told to go to hell.

Were it not for the fact that I know Mr. Wigderson is indeed an actual person, I would have taken this for parody. – John Michlig

Were it not for the fact this is an actual report headed to the Milwaukee Common Council Tuesday night, I would have thought it a parody, too.  Unfortunately, I can’t make this stuff up.

The writer should know that rain is much more problematic for bicyclists than is snow. Portland has lots of rain. The city of Milwaukee, with its excellent grid and relatively flat terrain is splendid for year-round bicycling and is clearly an alien place to the writer and his policy overlords. – Michael Horne

On weather and bicycles, I defer to the expert, former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, “The bicyclists who braved the week’s second storm should be taken out and shot.”  I always thought that was one of his better observations.

I rode my bike down Bluemound today and checked this out. Yes, there’s a bike lane. There’s also no right lane, just a parking lane next to the bike lane. Surely you’re not the type whe drives in the parking lane are you? There’s a special place in hell for those who drive in the parking lane. – CBGB

Annie, I spoke too soon.  Pray for me.

Critics on sites elsewhere:

Jim is also a major proponent of Waukesha’s plan to divert water from Lake Michigan via the Milwaukee Water Works. You don’t win friends at Milwaukee City Hall by bashing Milwaukee, city living and urban dynamics.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be teeing off like that.

But it isn’t very strategic. – Jim Rowen

I’m from Waukesha so I should shut up and not say anything about Tom Barrett’s wasteful spending lest our city not be sold the water Jim Rowen doesn’t want to sell us in the first place. You know, if Milwaukee wants to continue to be subsidized by the rest of the state, especially the surrounding counties, maybe political activists like Jim Rowen should watch what they say.  By the way, I am on the same side of at least one Milwaukee alderman in this debate.  Not only does Rowen not have the best interests of Waukesha at heart when he offers his “advice,” he must not have the interests of Milwaukee at heart, either, if he is willing to put his ideology ahead of the good of the city.  Explains a lot, really.

Wigderson snipes at everything–that’s how he rolls. He rarely has a positive suggestion, idea or thought–at least one he’s willing to put in writing, anyway. I’m sure he’s all rainbows and bubbles in his personal life, though. – Boxer

Briefly (pun intended), Boxer forgot to mention the puppies and unicorns.  If it makes him feel any better, I’m positive I think this is a waste of money and a terrible plan.  As for how I roll, about ten miles over the speed limit, mostly.

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