Bike Trail (Path, Rail-Trail)

Oak Leaf Trail, Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Image source - Trail official web site
Trail Official Web Sites - for description of trail and amenities
Additional Information is available at website -  
Updated - 2006-09-11  
Trail Scenary
Cycling Infrastructure
  Signage - Direction We noticed that the Oak Leaf Trail sign appears at where one needs it within the suburbs of Milwaukee. However, in the City it is very spars and poorly placed. Even with four eyes on the road looking for these signs, John and I made many a mistake in following the route into Downtown and then out again.

    The signs are inconsistently placed and at varying heights. At one non-standard intersection where the roads do not intersect at 90 degrees and the visibility across the intersection is difficult, i.e., one road drops in elevation leaving the intersection, one would have expected the sign on the right side of the road showing a left turn or at least in the island in the centre of the intersection. But no. There was a sign on the exiting side of the intersection and then not even at the standard sign height. The sign was about one metre above the pavement.

    There were places along the route where a turn needed to be made but no sign to help out. Frustrating it was, especially when the rain came pouring down. Opening a map at that stage meant short life for the map.

  Route Competitiveness with the Neighbouring Roads


This has been mentioned previously on this web site but frustration means that it needs to be restated.



    A meandering trail might be very desirable for recreational cyclists that wish to cycle at slow speeds or have plenty of time for their sojourn. For touring, commuting, and shopping cyclists, time may be a more important criteria. Today travelling 15 kilometres towards a destination by trail took three hours when it should have taken 45 minutes on the road system.

    When trails become well used with recreational cyclists, including children, then the cycling speed tends to drop along with an increase in frustration level for the more experienced or commuting cyclists.

    Trail planning should always include an on-road option for those that need to maximize time. If there is plenty of property available, then consideration should also be given for a more direct alignment, in addition to the recreational wandering alignment.

Trail Surface Treatment

    Three considerations need to be addressed for any trail when deciding on the trail surface treatment. For maximizing trail usage, I strongly support paving of trails.

  Cyclist Effort

    High quality, well packed limestone based trails without loose material or sand spots along the way will require about 30% to 50% more effort and energy than hot laid asphalt with a smooth surface. Cold laid asphalt or stone surfaced asphalt will also require 30% more energy. Gravel based trails will take more energy.

    If the target customers for the trail are inexperienced cyclists or potential cyclists, those that do not want to expend much energy for cycling, family cyclists especially young children, or touring cyclists who normally have a destination to make on a day, then a high quality, well maintained hot-laid asphalt surface is the way to go.

  Cyclists Comfort and Confidence

    Gravel, sandy spots, slipper surfaces from rain will discourage many a cyclist, especially those with lower risk-taking focus, less confidence, lower sense of balance, and heavily weighted down bikes (touring, shopping).

  Trail Availability

    How many days in a year trails are available for use by cyclists and are also attractive to draw cyclists to use them is heavily dependant on the trail surface.

    Today was a good example. It was pouring rain. The limestone based trails were wet with soft spots. As a touring cyclist, I was not interested in using such trails. Considerations for sticking on asphalt surfaced roads included wear on the chain from dust and sand on the trail, dirt on the bike, panniers, and clothing (bike was going to be parked in the motel room that night), and time for travelling on the trail as the speed would be lower. There were thunderstorms and rain in the forecast and the skies were menacing.

    Paved trails open the usable window in a year and the number of days within the window for cyclists, especially touring cyclists as rain would not be a limiting factor.

  Cyclist-Activated Traffic Signals

    Cyclist-activated traffic signals allow les confident, less risk-taking, younger and family cyclists as well as others to get across busy intersections without fearing for their well being and life. Cities, such as the City of Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver Region District have seen good growth in cycling by providing this feature. Many trails that we have cycled do not have such a capability and many a trails should have it.