Locust Street & North Avenue Lane Reconfiguration (Road Diet)
In summer 2018, the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works re-striped E. Locust Street (N. Humboldt Boulevard - N. Oakland Avenue) and E. North Avenue (N. Bremen Street – N. Cambridge Avenue) from 4 lanes to 2 lanes. The project also provided turn lanes in select locations and improved bike lanes, including protected bike lanes on the bridges.
Before the project, both streets had two lanes west and east of the project area but four lanes within the project boundaries. The new lane reconfiguration made number of lanes consistent along both corridors, reduced vehicle speeds and crashes, and provided a safer, friendlier biking and pedestrian experience along this critical route that connects to Riverside High School, UW-Milwaukee, the Oak Leaf Trail, the Beerline Trail, and neighborhoods and attractions on both sides of the Milwaukee River.
Some quick statistics include:
- People biking has more than doubled (104% increase on North Ave and 114% increase on Locust St)
- Excessive speeding over 40 miles per hour has dropped dramatically (50% decrease on North Ave and 70% decrease on Locust St)
- Motor vehicle traffic has increased slightly, not decreased (9% increase on North Ave and 4% increase on Locust St)
Check out the Locust and North Protected Bike Lanes flyer for more information!
Why was this done?
From 2012 to 2016, there were 221 crashes resulting in 80 injuries on E. Locust Street and 120 crashes resulting in 54 injuries on E. North Avenue, including 23 pedestrians and 23 bike riders struck.
According to traffic counts, both streets carry over 20,000 vehicles per day. Before this project, on Locust Street alone nearly 1 in 5 of those vehicles was traveling over 40 miles per hour. That statistic means that over 3,500 vehicles per day—on average 1 vehicle every 25 seconds—was going at least 10 miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour.
The roadway on both bridges is also relatively narrow: 52 feet on Locust Street and 50 feet on North Avenue. No major changes to the bridges are expected within the coming years, as they were recently constructed in the 1990s and are in good condition. The narrow street width means that even though there were 5-foot bike lanes on these streets, motorists tended to drive quite close to people riding bikes. Combined with the high speed of traffic, bike riders often felt uncomfortable using the bike lanes in the roadway, and many rode on the sidewalks instead, creating conflicts with pedestrians.
E. Locust Street
See the proposed plan view for Locust Street here.
Existing Lane Configuration
Proposed Lane Configuration
Construction on Locust Street (Photo credit: Jeramey Jannene - Urban Milwaukee)
E. North Avenue
See the proposed plan view for North Avenue here.
Existing Lane Configuration
Proposed Lane Configuration
Finished Construction on North Avenue (Photo credit: Jeramey Jannene - Urban Milwaukee)
What is a road diet?
Streets such as Locust Street and North Avenue can often be restriped to reduce the number of through lanes from four to two without substantially reducing traffic capacity. Also known as road diets, lane reductions are a cost-effective solution for reducing the severity and frequency of crashes. According the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), road diets:
- Reduce all crashes up to 47%
- Reduce rear-end and left-turn crashes with the addition of a dedicated left-turn lane
- Reduce right-angle crashes as side street motorists need to cross fewer lanes of traffic
- Reduce the number of lanes pedestrians need to cross and provide an opportunity to build future pedestrian refuge islands as at North Cambridge Avenue for the Oak Leaf Trail access
- Provide space to add separated bike lanes
- Calm traffic and curb aggressive speeding in particular
- Encourage a more community-focused "Complete Streets" environment
Furthermore, FHWA suggests that road diets have been known to reduce the prevailing (85th percentile) and average traffic speeds by 3 to 5 miles per hour in addition slowing down motorists exceeding the speed limit by 5 to 7 miles per hour.
Check out the following links for more information on road diets:
What are Protected Bike Lanes?
Road diets provide opportunities to consider accommodations for bike riders such as traditional bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, or protected bike lanes. This project included the City’s first protected bike lanes.
Protected bike lanes are like sidewalks, but for bikes. Protected bike lanes use physical dividers to separate people biking from both cars and sidewalks. These exclusive bike lanes combine the user experience of a trail with the on-street design of a traditional bike lane. A variety of dividers can be used to separate motor vehicles from bikers, including concrete curbs, planters, posts, or even parked cars. The Locust and North designs used flexible delineator posts since they are cost-effective and could easily be moved or removed if needed.
Protected bike lanes are a popular option in Milwaukee. In a survey conducted by the Path to Platinum initiative in fall 2016, 88% of the 933 respondents overwhelmingly desired improvements for biking with more separation between motor vehicles.
Protected bike lanes are typically best suited for streets with higher motor vehicle traffic, higher speeds, and more on-street parking and/or motor vehicle lanes than may be needed. Their benefits include:
- Increased use of bikes: Cities that have added protected bike lanes have experienced an average increase of 75% in biking on those routes in the first year alone.
- Biking becomes more comfortable: Studies show that protected bike lanes with planters appeal to seven times more people than conventional bike lanes. Plus, they have been shown to reduce riding on sidewalks by 56%.
- The street is safer for everyone: Because they shorten crossing distances, reduce crashes related to turning motorists, and reduce traffic weaving, protected bike lanes in New York City resulted in a 56% reduction in injuries to all street users. That reduction included a 57% drop in injuries to people on bikes and a 29% drop in injuries to people walking. Interestingly, protected bike lanes are also known to have no effect on travel times for auto traffic. In Chicago, rush hour travel times in both directions of protected bike lanes actually improved.
- The economy grows: In Salt Lake City, replacing parking with protected bike lanes increased retail sales by 8.8% over the first six months. On a larger scale, property values increased 148% along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail (which consists of 8 miles of protected bike lanes) for a whopping $1 billion in additional assessed property value.
Check out the following links for more information on separated/protected bike lanes: