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Wisconsin Bikeways Project Frequently asked questions

Click below for some frequently asked questions about the Wisconsin Bikeways Project.

Bikeways Project

What is the Wisconsin Bikeways Project?
This project will develop recommendations, methodology and guidelines for identifying, designating and signing regional, intrastate and interstate bikeways. The project will aid the development of an intrastate bikeway system and the Wisconsin segments of the U.S. Bike Route (USBR) network (described below). The project will establish criteria and guidance on moving forward with similar routes statewide.

The project will evaluate existing roadway and trail systems to identify priority bikeway routes across the state that provide intrastate and interstate travel in conjunction with USBR and surrounding states. The focus will be on key regional and cross-state routes, community connections and links to USBR bikeways of adjacent states. Wisconsin USBRs 10, 20 and 37 will be specifically delineated. State bicycle routes (intrastate) will capitalize on many of the state's natural features while creating inter-regional routes and connections between the interstate routes.

Why is this project being pursued?
Wisconsin has some of the best roads and trails for bicycling of any state in the country. By tying together the best of what exists today, everything from short to moderate to long distance bicycle route opportunities can be greatly enhanced. This will encourage tourism and provide improved guidance to residents and visitors on where the best bicycle route options exist in the state.

What will this project result in?
The project will produce a report that will describe the methodology for selecting and designating Wisconsin State Bike Routes and U.S. Bicycle Routes. The report will also include specific route recommendations for USBRs 10, 20 and 37 as well as a number of state bike routes.

Bikeway examples

What is a bikeway?
The term "bikeway" in this project is intended to be a general term that includes any road, street, path or trail that adequately serves and is designated for bicycle travel. Bikeways may be shared with other modes of transportation or recreation. Examples of bikeways are presented below:

Bike lane

A bicyclist riding in a bike lane.A bike lane is a pavement marking that designates a portion of a street for the preferential or exclusive use of bicycles. Bike lanes are recommended on two-way arterial and collector streets where there is enough width to accommodate a bike lane in both directions, and on one-way streets where there is enough width for a single bike lane.

Paved shoulder

A bicyclist riding on the paved shoulder of a rural road.The shoulder is the section of the roadway outside of the travel lanes. When paved and of sufficient width, paved shoulders can provide space for bicycles so that a motorists can safely pass the bicyclist. Additionally, paved shoulders provide safety benefits for all road users as well as maintenance benefits. Paved shoulders should typically be 4-feet or wider for bicycle travel.

Shared lane marking – collector or arterial street

Bicyclists riding in a shared bike lane.Shared lane markings (sharrows) are used on streets where bicyclists and motor vehicles share the same travel lane. The sharrow helps position bicyclists in the most appropriate location to ride. It also provides a visual cue to motorists that bicyclists have a right to use the street.

Signed bike route

Bicyclists riding in a shared bike lane.Signed bike routes provide distance and directional information as a wayfinding aid for bicyclists. Signed routes may be established on streets, trails or any combination of facility types that offer a continuous bicycling environment. Signs should offer bicyclists directional cues and information to destinations from their current location. Bike Routes should provide favorable conditions for bicycling, not simply designate the street as a bike route.

Bike route

Bike route map.A mapped bike route is only designated as a bike route on maps – there are no signs placed along the route to designate the route. Mapped bike routes indicate to users roads that are favorable for bicycling and for connecting to specific destinations. Mapped bike routes may be supplemented with signed bike routes or other bicycle facilities to guide users to popular destinations.

Trail or shared-use path

Bicyclist riding on bike trail.A trail or shared-use path is an off-street bicycle and pedestrian facility that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic. Typically shared-use paths are located in an independent right-of-way such as in a park, stream valley greenway, along a utility corridor, or an abandoned railroad corridor that has been redeveloped as a path. Shared-use paths are used by other non-motorized users including pedestrians, skaters, wheelchair users, joggers and sometimes equestrians. Most of Wisconsin's rural trails may be designated for other uses such as snowmobiling. Shared use paths may or may not be paved.

While bikeways are specifically intended for bicycle use, bicycles are legal vehicles in Wisconsin, and people are allowed to bicycle on nearly all streets and highways in the state, with the exception of most limited access highways.

U.S. Bicycle Route System

What is the U.S. Bicycle Route System and how is it included in this project?
The U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) is a developing national network of bicycle routes, which will link urban, suburban and rural areas using a variety of bicycling facilities. You can think of the USBRS as similar to the interconnected Interstate highway system that links states and cities, for those traveling by bike. State departments of transportation (DOTs) nominate U.S. Bike Routes for numbered designation through a process that is consistent with the numbering of U.S. highways and interstates.

For a route to receive official designation as a U.S. Bicycle Route, it must connect two or more states, a state and an international border or other U.S. Bicycle Routes. State or international neighbors must be in agreement with the route and cross-over point. Currently, the neighboring states of Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois have designated national routes and routes that connect to Wisconsin.

There are five broad U.S. bicycle route corridors in Wisconsin. This project will recommend specific routes within three of these corridors – USBR 10, 20 and 37. Work on USBR 30 is being carried out separately and USBR 45 is not included in this project. These routes will then be nominated for formal designation as U.S. Bicycle Routes.

To view the proposed national and state corridors for Wisconsin, see the attached map. To learn about designated U.S. Bicycle Routes, visit the Use a U.S. Bike Route [exit DNR] page.

U.S. Bicycle Route corridors

What is a corridor and how were the corridors established?
Each corridor shown on the accompanying map signifies a 50-mile wide area that suggests where a route should be developed or where a route may already exist that could be designated. Each corridor usually includes multiple routing options (roads, trails, etc.). Corridors link key destinations, urban centers and scenic routes and provide a starting point for this project.

The U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) corridors were identified over five years ago and were part of a national effort coordinated through Adventure Cycling Association and an organization representing the DOTs. That effort involved considerable discussion among state officials since these routes are intended to cross from one state to another. The state corridors were recently identified through a collaborative effort among state agencies and the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation.

What corridors have been identified at the beginning of the project and why?
This map [PDF] shows the draft corridors. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, DNR and the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation jointly decided on the corridors after careful consideration of the following criteria:

How will specific routes within each corridor be selected?
There are numerous factors to consider when selecting and designating bicycle routes. The previously selected corridors are approximately 50 miles wide and one of the prime considerations is to keep the routes within the limits of the corridors. There are several other factors that will be considered.

  • Presence of trails: Making connections using state and local trails will be strongly considered.
  • Current suitability of roadways: Criteria will be developed to rate the quality of bicycling on roadways. Factors such as the volume of traffic and width of roadways will be considered, as will the presence of bikeway features such as paved shoulders and bicycle lanes.
  • Existing planning documents: There are existing state, county and local unit of government bike plans, outdoor space plans or comprehensive plans to identify opportunities for key connections between communities that will be evaluated.
  • Topography and scenery: Although hilly areas of the state will not be avoided, care will be taken to provide a range of biking experiences and levels.
  • Facilities and destinations: There will be an evaluation of direct access to destinations and facility amenities for bicycle travel.
  • Public comments: Wisconsin has an active bicycle community capable of offering many comments on where to ride and what barriers exist on specific routes. There will be numerous ways for the public to suggest routes and to comment on proposed routes.
Wisconsin bicycle routes

Are Wisconsin state bicycle routes also proposed?
In addition to the U.S. Bicycle Routes, a number of state bikeways corridors may be proposed. Similar to the national routes, recommendations will be made for designating specific roadways and trails within these corridors as state bike/routes.

What are the advantages of having a bicycle route system?
There are many broad benefits to this project.

  • State and national bicycle routes can bolster local economies.
  • State and national bicycle routes can promote and foster eco-tourism.
  • State and national bicycle routes can improve transportation connections for bicyclists, especially between cities and villages.
  • State and national bicycle routes can enhance bicyclist safety by providing improved routing information.

Bicycling is growing nationally and in Wisconsin for both recreational and transportation purposes. Bicycle touring and tourism are also on the rise. Wisconsin continues to be a popular state for bicycle touring and tourism because of its beautiful scenery and quiet country roads. A designated route system will highlight some of the state's best routes for bicycling.

Are there any existing state or national bicycle routes in Wisconsin?
Yes and no. There is a mapped national route in Wisconsin – the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) – which is primarily on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway along State Highway 35. This is a multi-state byway that follows the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana. The National Scenic Byways program is a collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States. Roads are selected and designated based on their cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. A component of the MRT is a mapped bike route for the Wisconsin segments. There are no state bicycle routes in Wisconsin.


Is there an infrastructure component to this project?
No. The final project report will make recommendations for bicycle routes to be further pursued and may note where infrastructure improvements could increase the safety and comfort of bicyclists. However, the planning and construction of these improvements is not a part of this project.

Getting involved

How can I make my voice heard?
There will be numerous ways to get involved in the Wisconsin Bikeways Project. Information will be provided on this website throughout the project. Additional ways you can stay in tune and comment include:

  • Stay connected: Sign up to receive email notifications about when key events are occurring.
  • Public open houses: There will be eight open houses at various locations around the state. The first set of meetings will introduce and gauge interest in the project and discuss priorities for the project. The second set of meetings will present recommended routes and solicit feedback on the recommendations.
  • WikiMap online input: WikiMap is an online interactive public involvement tool that allows participants to identify and comment on specific problems or opportunities using a mapping format. Participants may provide suggestions for routes for potential bikeways or provide feedback about specific routes that have been developed.
Last revised: Monday July 30 2018