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“Active Streets” to provide more safe recreational spaces for Milwaukee residents during pandemic

City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County officials announced a joint initiative on May 8 to provide additional temporary recreation spaces for people to safely engage in physical activities such as walking, biking, or running.

Milwaukee Active Streets, initiated and overseen by the City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works and Milwaukee County Parks, will temporarily close or limit motor vehicle traffic on approximately 10 miles of streets throughout the City and County for improved bicycle and pedestrian use, to be phased in over the next couple of weeks.

“While we have asked residents to stay home and eliminate unnecessary travel under the Safer at Home Order, we do encourage people to get outside and engage in physical activity near their homes. Outdoor time and physical activity are essential to maintaining health and wellbeing during this unprecedented time of physical distancing,” said City of Milwaukee Commissioner of Health Jeanette Kowalik.

In many neighborhoods, however, outdoor space is limited, and parks, trails, and sidewalks can easily become crowded, making it difficult for people to maintain the recommended minimum 6-foot physical distancing separation. The City and the County have both seen significant increases in trail usage over the past month as compared to last year, and these numbers are expected to continue growing as the weather warms.

“We have prioritized streets that provide access to trails and parks, align with proposed neighborhood bicycle boulevards in our Bike Plan, and are distributed equitably throughout the City in residential neighborhoods,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “Through a great partnership with City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works and Milwaukee County Parks, residents throughout the City will benefit from this program.”

Games, socializing, and congregating are prohibited as they do not allow for proper physical distancing and do not adhere to the guidance in the Safer at Home Order. Active Streets are intended for continuous pedestrian movement, expanding the ways in which users can safely get physical activity near their homes while maintaining at least 6 feet of separation. Covering one’s nose and mouth with mask/cloth is also recommended to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Right now, parks and trails are more important than ever as they’re vital for our both physical and mental well-being,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “Milwaukee Active Streets will make it easier for residents across Milwaukee to access parks and trails safely, while physical distancing, and take full advantage of the benefits that time outdoors can bring.”

Drivers are reminded to slow down throughout the City, but especially on streets opened up for walking, biking, and running. Local motor vehicle access will be permitted to ensure that residents, emergency vehicles, and deliveries will still have access to the street as needed.

“We’re excited to introduce the Active Streets initiative as way of continuing our philosophy of making streets more safe and enjoyable for all. With this initiative, it is our intent to seek community input during the Safer at Home Order as we hope to sustain this program into the future and we look for more inclusive, creative uses of streets,” said City of Milwaukee Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Polenske.

Implementing the City of Milwaukee Active Streets segments is pending adoption by the Common Council. The Department of Public Works will present its Active Streets proposal to the Common Council Public Works Committee on Wednesday, May 13.

Meanwhile, the City and County continue to partner with community organizations and neighborhood groups to build awareness of the Active Streets initiative and document successes and lessons learned.

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