For a second consecutive year, Wisconsin moved back in the pack among states rated for their work to accommodate and promote bicycling.
From its perch as the number two state in the country in 2010, Wisconsin dropped to #3 in 2011 and #6 in the 2012 Bicycle Friendly States rankings released by the League of American Cyclists. Minnesota, Massachusetts, Colorado and Oregon have passed by the Badger State in the past two years.
In the rankings, the bottom line proved to be the bottom line.
Much of the state’s slide can be attributed to the cuts in funding for bicycle projects in the 2011-’13 state budget. In that spending plan, Gov. Scott Walker eliminated $5 million directed to bicycle projects from funds generated by the gas tax and similar transportation-related fees.
In addition, the state ranks low in its commitment of federal transportation dollars to support bicycling.
Dave Schlabowske, the communications director for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, shared the numbers: “In real dollar terms, that from 2007 to 2011, the state has actually only spent $50,445,992 on bike / pedestrian projects of the $4.3 billion the feds obligated for those types of projects. Note that this pattern of low spending on bike and pedestrian projects predates the current political leadership.”
On the League of American Bicyclists scorecard, Wisconsin received high marks for policies and programs, and education and encouragement, but only a 2 of 5 in infrastructure and funding.
Walker explained his position on bicycling projects in an interview prior to his election in 2010:
“I don’t have a problem with it as long as it doesn’t take away from fixing existing infrastructure,” Walker said. ”If we fix the crumbling roads and bridges, then I”m willing to look at other things, like bike paths.”
In its response to the report, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation highlighted the state’s standing as number six and ignored the drop over the past two years.
“Approximately 11 percent of all trips in Wisconsin are made by bicycling and walking,” said Jill Mrotek Glenzinski, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). “We are committed to providing and promoting safe bicycle accommodations around the state.”
Glenzinski listed the following improvements made for cyclists: Recently updated state laws include safe bicycling practices such as signal turns with either the right or left hand, and the use of red rear lights in place of reflectors. Wisconsin continues implementation of one of the nation’s first complete-streets statutes, which includes bike and walking accommodations in construction projects.