No two ways about it, I was being lazy. Unlike Mr. Dan - one of my coworkers who’d ridden his bike to and from work clear through the winter, my own Schwinn was locked away in the basement where I’d left it months before when the morning ride had gotten too chilly. But now I was running out of excuses. With the weather warming up it was time to quit griping about the pudge around my belly and finally get that much needed exercise. So, one day in mid-April I finally hoisted my bike up the basement stairs, put on my backpack, and started the familiar ride to the office.
I was well off my half-hour pace (which isn’t too bad for Bay View to the Valley) when I arrived at 16th and Pierce, and my thighs were eager to remind me that I’d been ignoring them for far too long. But the ride was (as it has usually been) a sheer joy. The last few blocks to Layton Avenue were a slow climb, but the effort was worth it. When I finally reached 31st & Pierce, where the hilltop residences gradually give way to the gentle slope of the Menomonee Valley, I gripped the handlebars and enjoyed the downhill glide that leads all the way to the Valley Branch’s front step.
A Few Secret Spots
One of my favorite things about riding through the city is the ability to use our network of trails to find the hidden gems of Milwaukee – those beautiful spaces, often just out of street view, that lead many longtime residents to remark, “I had no idea this was here!” And while I could never offer a comprehensive list, it’s worthwhile to mention just a few:
1. Lakeshore State Park
I have to thank Mike Larson for this one. During my first week of training we were biking from Kinnickinnic & Lincoln to the Eastside Branch of the Urban Ecology Center on Park Place. As we came upon the third ward he turned back to me and asked, “Do you want to take the direct route or the scenic route? “ Frankly, I never turn down the scenic route. Following Erie Street towards the lake we came upon the Southeast gates of the Marcus Amphitheater and made our way around to the Hank Aaron State Trail where I was treated to a gorgeous view of lush prairies framed by the backdrop of the sun rising over Lake Michigan.
2. Father Groppi Unity Bridge
If you’re in the Third Ward make your way west towards the 6th Street Bridge near the Harley Davidson Museum. Continue west along Canal Street and you’ll come upon the Father Groppi Unity Bridge at 16th Street, where you can follow the murals and historical markers that dot the riverbank until you emerge near the roundabout on Canal Street (Just shouting distance from the 27th street bridge). Once there you can continue along the Hank Aaron State Trail to visit our Menomonee Valley Urban Ecology Center on 37th & Pierce.
3. Berries by the Beach
Living in Bay View, I find it easiest to access the lakefront via South Shore Park. No secret there, it’s a beautiful spot and home to the Bay View Frolics, but what I enjoy most about this specific stretch are the hills of wild black raspberries that dot the Oak Leaf Trail. Look closely and you can find entire hillsides covered in them just west of the trail. Of course, be considerate of any posted barriers and signs, and if you’re not sure what black raspberries look like please refer to this page before eating any berries you might find.
However, if you’re a more seasoned rider, or just looking to get out of the city, the Wisconsin DNR offers a wonderful list of options on their website. Depending on your level of experience you can select a trail ranging from just a few miles to one requiring a multi-day ride.
Biking with the Urban Ecology Center!
No bike, no helmet, no problem! If you’re interested in biking, but don’t have the gear to get started, we’ve got you covered. Members of the Urban Ecology Center can check out equipment from any of our three branches for up to 3 days, for free! Just be sure to call ahead to check availability and reserve your bike(s).
If all our bikes are being used you can always join us for any of our outdoor biking programs. Here just a few coming up in May:
Big Biking Bird Day (Washington Park)
Get exercise and find urban birds!
Thursday, May 9 | 8-5 am
For adults and accompanied children
Click here for more info and to register
Bike and Kite Afternoon (Riverside Park)
Build your own paper kite and then bike with us to Veterans Park and the Family Kite Festival! Bikes available
Sunday, May 26th | 2-4 pm
For families and children
Click here for more info and to register
For more information on bike safety or where to bike in and out of the city feel free to check out the following resources:
Milwaukee by Bike : A map of local bike trails produced by the city of Milwaukee.
Wisconsin Bike Fed: Information on local biking events and tips on bike safely.
Wisconsin DNR Biking Trails: A list of state parks offering touring and off-road bicycle trails.