Proposal would add hundreds of miles of new bike paths in Dane County

2012-04-05T07:30:00Z 2012-04-05T09:49:03Z Proposal would add hundreds of miles of new bike paths in Dane CountyROB SCHULTZ | Wisconsin State Journal | rschultz@madison.com | 608-252-6487 madison.com

Dane County is already considered one of the best, if not the best, county in the state for biking.

Joe Parisi would like to make it better and safer.

This week, the county executive highlighted a bike map of the future that included hundreds of miles of potential off-road bicycle and pedestrian trails that would link communities, parks and natural attractions throughout the county.

There is no timeline or cost estimate for most of the trail construction, and the routes are tentative.

But the message the plan sends is clear, Parisi said: "Because (the county has) such a great reputation and because we have such a great start on our infrastructure and have this great biking culture, it only makes sense to continue to invest in that."

The map, created last month by the county parks department, proposes a five-year schedule for bicycle/pedestrian improvements on roads and highways, including wider and/or paved shoulders, off-road side paths and bridge and intersection improvements.

The schedule also includes starting the design and engineering phases of a six-mile route connecting the Glacial Drumlin State Trail to the Capital City Trail, which is the last link needed to complete a Milwaukee-to-Madison off-road route. That construction could begin as early as 2014, said Laura Guyer, who has led the mapping and scheduling from her office in the county's Land and Water Resources Department.

"That is a very big, missing piece in our bike trail system," said Amanda White of the Wisconsin Bike Federation. "That will be an important connection."

Also, a new trail loop will be built off the Military Ridge trail near Blue Mounds that will travel through the Cave of the Mounds property, Brigham County Park and Blue Mound State Park, Guyer said.

Finally, there will be as many as three county-led family-oriented bike rides this summer that would highlight the county trail systems as well as the parks and communities that they connect.

It's all part of the $4.6 million in this year's county budget for biking-related expenses. Just $1.6 million is county tax money, with the rest from state and federal grants, Guyer said.

Last week, Parisi brought together biking enthusiasts and manufacturers as well as community and county officials to share ideas as part of what he called the BikeDane 2012 initiative. It was an extension of former County Executive Kathleen Falk's BikeDane 2010 meeting.

"I took a lot of that information that was gleaned from that (2010) meeting into consideration when I was looking to put together my budget last year. It really helped my decision making," Parisi said.

White called the meeting "outstanding" because it tried to address some big issues such as road rage between bicyclists and motorists.

"What we really want to work with the county on is, how can we reduce the tension out there on the rural roads? How can we make the rides better for cyclists without causing disruption and problems for people who call those rural areas home?" White said.

She believes signs educating both drivers and bicyclists about etiquette and rules of the road are needed. She was pleased that the meeting included representatives from the county highway commissioner's office.

"A lot of the bike-focused people who work in county parks need to work very closely with county highway, because all that bike work and communication has to be really integrated," White said. "I think the collaboration is important and I think it will trickle down to that road rage issue."

Parisi said reducing tension between cyclists and drivers on roads makes sense, but it's just as important to find ways to get cyclists off roads.

"The more successful we are with initiatives like this the fewer conflicts there will be," Parisi said. "If there is space for bikers, be it on road or off road, it will cut down on potential conflicts."

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