Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Published 12:59 p.m. CT May 7, 2020 | Updated 3:58 p.m. CT May 7, 2020
Folks traveling on N. Hawley Road can say hello to a new installation separating the car lanes and protected bike path. In fact, if you wave, it’ll wave right back.
This past week, the City of Milwaukee installed “wave delineators” along the half-mile bike path on N. Hawley Road stretching from W. Wells Street to W. Martin Drive. These plastic separators are fixed to the ground one after another and composed of arched pieces of plastic measuring about 8 feet long and 2 feet high.
The wave delineators are on loan from Saris, a Madison-based cycling company, to help the Department of Public Works further assess its growing network of protected bike paths around the city as part of the Complete Streets policy adopted in 2018.
When instituting bike lanes over the past couple of years, the city had used plastic bollards, orange barrels and last August added concrete barriers to a pair of bridges. The opportunity to add wave delineators to the mix came as an unforeseen result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
“Saris out of Madison reached out to us a few weeks ago and said they have this wave delineator library they rotate across North America, and during COVID-19, they really weren’t getting a lot of takers,” said James Hannig, the pedestrian and bicycle coordinator for the City of Milwaukee. “So they reached out to us to say that if we had a home for them we would be more than welcome to use them for a while.
“They’re meant to be temporary in this particular case. We had some gaps leftover from winter that we were still working on filling, so we just thought that on Hawley Road there would be a great opportunity to try these out.”
Wave delineators may be new to Hawley Road, but they’ve been used often in other cities and situations. One of their more common uses is as a temporary divider for events.
While they may be larger and more visible than plastic bollards, the wave delineators are not intended to be an impenetrable barricade between cars and cyclists. Rather, they are meant to physically highlight the difference between the two lanes while working in tandem with other road-diet measures — including fewer and tighter lanes — to reduce traffic speeds and increase safety for motorists and cyclists alike.
“They’re really not intended (to be permanent or stop a car),” said Caressa Givens, a Milwaukee-based community program manager for the Wisconsin Bike Fed. “I see a lot of comments on social media and stuff with people saying stuff like, ‘Well, that’s not going to work.’ Of course, it’s not going to work. We know we have a reckless driving issue. …
“I think it’s a great step in the right direction that cities are taking short-term, low-cost, experimental opportunities to see what can come out of a potential long-term, more permanent project.”
Over the course of the summer, the wave delineators will move to different locations around the city. The goal, according to Hannig, is to try them along a variety of bike paths and settings in order to see where they make the greatest impact.
Any information gathered about the wave delineators — how they affect traffic speeds, accidents, bike usage, etc. — will be used to further inform the city’s larger plans for accommodating cyclists as well as ongoing and future multi-modal projects.
“Any time we’re trying out a new product or type of treatment it’s really being done with that spirit of a pilot,” Hannig said. “People should probably be aware that we’re looking at expanding that network across the city. We have these on loan for a while, so we’re probably going to move them around to a few different locations to see how they work in different settings.
“We definitely want to hear people’s feedback on what they think, both pro and con. We want to see how well they work.”
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