We drove the insane new “advisory bike lane” road on Edgewood Drive, which spans the border of Shorewood and Milwaukee, and barely survived! According to the Village of Shorewood, it’s “a lane configuration new to the Milwaukee area.”
It was basically a game of frogger, as cars had to pull over so others could pass incoming traffic. It appears to be an effort to provide “preferential” space to bicycles instead of cars. And it’s a recipe for disaster. The Milwaukee media are dubbing the plan “bicycle friendly streets.”
But are they? Judge for yourself:
A graphic on the Village of Shorewood’s website explains that the “advisory bike lane” approach, which runs from Oakland Avenue to Lake Drive on Edgewood Avenue, forces motorists to “share [the] center lane.” The City of Milwaukee has created an entire website about the concept.
Explained the city’s website, “Dashed bike lanes would be installed next to the parking lanes, while motorists would have one single lane to operate in the middle of the street. When encountering oncoming traffic, the dashed bike lanes allow motorists to encroach into the advisory bike lane when people on bikes are not present to safely pass the oncoming motorist.”
The new roadway marking “provide preferential space for people biking,” says the graphic, which adds that “motorists can use the bike lanes to pass oncoming traffic after yielding to bike traffic.”
It’s a “new bikeway type in Milwaukee and the City will be evaluating its effectiveness,” says the graphic on the village website.
The Village of Shorewood attempted to justify the new road markings in a November 3, 2023, post, writing, “You may have seen stories this week regarding the new lane configuration on Edgewood Avenue (between Lake Dr. and Oakland Ave.) since the installation of Advisory Bike Lanes (ABLs) has been completed. This resurfacing project and change to the street design, while new, should be no more difficult than learning how to use a traffic circle or roundabout.”
But not everyone agrees. A man named Gary Wickert wrote a lengthy Facebook post describing his attempt to navigate the “advisory bike lane” in Milwaukee. Wickert is President and shareholder at Matthiesen, Wickert & Lehrer, S.C.
“Lisa and I were traveling to Harbor House Restaurant in Milwaukee for a firm dinner Friday night as we were in town for a shareholders’ meeting. We turned onto Edgewood heading toward Lake Drive and I instantly assumed it was a one-way street; but so did the guy heading directly for me. I pulled into the bike lane while Lisa was yelling at me for turning the wrong way on a one-way street. There was one lane of traffic, and rather prominent ‘bike lanes’ on both sides of that single lane. There is only room for ONE vehicle in the single lane. At the same time as I pulled over to avoid a collision, the car headed for us did a quick (and quite dangerous) U-turn, thinking that he had also turned the wrong way onto a one way street.
As luck would have it, the city of Milwaukee just finished installing somebody’s new brainchild called ‘advisory bike lanes’ on Edgewood that same day, between Oakland Avenue and Lake Drive. This new traffic configuration is referred to as “Edge Lane Roads” in Europe and a few cities (e.g., Pittsburgh) have been experimenting with them here in the U.S. The center lane is primarily for motorists traveling in both directions but “vulnerable road users” (aka “VRU’s – who comes up with such silly terminology?) can use it also. VRUs are cyclists or pedestrians and have the right-of-way in the edge lanes but motorists can also use the edge lanes, after yielding to the VRUs there, to pass approaching vehicles. Edgewood is the first advisory bike lane installed in the Milwaukee area, according to the Milwaukee Department of Public Works; and we happened upon it apparently shortly after it was completed. The reason given for the configuration is to “promote bicycle safety.” What ever that means, it is courtesy of the same folks who brought you the Milwaukee Trolley.
If I hadn’t have experienced this in person I would have thought this idea was something from the Onion. A real human being with real responsibility literally came up with this joke of an idea. I’ve been cycling for five decades. Cyclists already have the same right-of-way rights as motorists under Wisconsin law. All they have done here is place two 3,000 lb. hunks of metal on a collision course for a head-on-collision and create two bike lanes that no cyclist can feel comfortable in. I have lost two friends who were killed by being hit from behind by a car whose driver was momentarily blinded by morning sun. This configuration intentionally necessitates that cars are forced into a bike lane where cyclists are riding. This can’t end well. Beam me up, Scotty!”
Shorewood continued: “Essentially, cars share a single traffic lane, so as a driver, when you see another car coming toward you traveling in the opposite direction, each car will briefly merge into the bike lane after yielding to bicyclists. Once the cars pass each other, resume driving in the traffic lane.”
According to Shorewood, people are supposed to “just remember ABL.” The village provided this list:
A – ASSESS what is happening around you (note parked cars, cyclists, and oncoming traffic). If a car approaches:
B – BEAR right to briefly merge into the bike lane (after checking and yielding to bicyclists), then:
L – LANE it up! Return to the traffic lane traveling no more than 25 MPH
“You already do this on residential streets not wide enough for parked cars and two way traffic, so think of it this way, just look at yielding to bicyclists too!” Shorewood declared.
Critics commented on the Shorewood post. “Not a fan, it will be interesting on the number of accidents, especially when school starts or ends,” wrote one man. “Wow, I don’t even live here, but this is moronic. And your attempts to normalize it with your comparison to roundabouts is absurd. Enjoy all the head on collisions and pedestrian fatalities your going to get from this,” wrote another.
It’s worth noting that Milwaukee is attempting this “bicycle equity” approach during a major reckless driving epidemic, and some guy barreling down the road at 75 mph isn’t going to know what’s going on.
A presentation on the topic was given by Mike Amsden, AICP, Multimodal Transportation Manager, City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works. He previously worked for the Chicago Department of Transportation, according to his LinkedIn page.
The lanes have been implemented in other cities, such as Fort Collins, Colorado. Here’s a graphic from Fort Collins: