Bike Path to Nowhere

The Dodgeville area is badly in need of an off-road paved (asphalt) bike path.  Every time I go to Madison, I am envious of all the bike trails they have.  Why can’t small towns like Dodgeville and rural areas have some paved bike paths, too?  Brigham County Park in rural Dane County has a beautiful new trail.  Why not Iowa County?

I’d really like to see the Military Ridge Trail between Dodgeville and Ridgeway paved.  Anyone interested in serving on an ad hoc committee with me to make that happen?

There is a 5.1-mile paved trail called the Shake Rag Trail which runs along US Highway 151 between Dodgeville and Mineral Point, but it is far from ideal.  First of all, there is no safe way to bike to it from Dodgeville!  You can ride through the hospital parking lot to Heritage Lane, head south until you get to Brennan Rd., turn right, but when you get to WI Highway 23, you have to ride along the east shoulder of that busy road with fast-moving vehicles for 0.4 miles to get to the bike path, as shown in the map below.

What a relief!  You’ve now reached the paved bike path, and it is off-road!

But, after traveling only 0.5 mile, the bike path suddenly ends at Chris-Na-Mar Road.

You now ride 0.7 miles on Chris-Na-Mar Road, and then the off-road bike path starts up again.

Now, you get to ride 1.3 miles on an off-road paved bike path.  Yay!  But the bike path again abruptly ends at County Road YD.  It is not clear what you should do next except maybe turn around?

Persistence pays off, and if you soldier on you’ll find that you can ride 2.1 miles on County Road YD until you reach the off-road bike path again.  You’re almost to Mineral Point!

The bike path goes another 0.5 mile until it ends at Shakerag St. in Mineral Point.  You’ve traveled a total of 5.1 miles on the Shake Rag Trail, but less than half of it was on a bona fide bike path.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad that the Shake Rag Trail got built.  But for any of you who have ridden the crushed rock Military Ridge Trail between Dodgeville and Ridgeway (all off-road), you’ll understand how much nicer Military Ridge Trail would be than the Shake Rag Trail if only it were paved.

Bike Ride to Ridgeway (and back)

Ridgeway, Wisconsin is a special place.  A point right on the central meridian of the Central Time zone and the 43rd parallel (90° W longitude and 43° N latitude) is within the city limits of Ridgeway, and you can almost get there from here.

The point 43° N, 90° W

You can easily bicycle to this location by taking the Military Ridge State Trail into the west side of Ridgeway and turning north onto Ternes Ct.  I wonder if there’s a marker along Ternes Ct. at its closest point to 43° N, 90° W. If not, we need to put one there.

Getting to the point 43° N, 90° W

But wait!  Right where Ternes Ct. intersects Bier St. and becomes a gravel road, there’s a sign that says “Game Farm, No Trespassing”.  Foiled!

You know, we should have regular bike rides from Dodgeville to Ridgeway and back along the Military Ridge State Trail.  Anyone interested?  The distance from the Wisconsin DNR parking lot in Dodgeville to Badger Mart right next to the trail in Ridgeway is 9.2 miles, so it would be an 18.4 mile round trip along pretty flat terrain.  Badger Mart in Ridgeway is a convenient place to stop for a snack and a beverage before heading back to Dodgeville, and they are open from 5:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. every day of the week.

Would love to see this trail receive an asphalt surface someday, but the existing screened limestone surface isn’t bad.

Please post a comment here or email me if you’re interested in making this ride with me from Dodgeville to Ridgeway and back!

Dodgeville Street Project Proposals

As illustrated below, a lot of drivers in Dodgeville take a dubious “short cut” from King St. to Iowa/Bequette by way of W. Leffler instead of taking King St. all the way to Iowa/Bequette.  Most of the people taking this short cut are leaving Lands’ End and heading to their homes in the Madison metro area.  These folks are not Dodgeville / Iowa County taxpayers.  Here’s the problem.  W. Leffler has been beat all to hell and is badly in need of resurfacing.  All that Lands’ End traffic has contributed mightily to the degradation of W. Leffler.  Now, as a bicycle commuter trying to get from Lands’ End to most of the rest of Dodgeville (always a dangerous proposition), it makes sense to use W. Leffler to minimize the amount of time I have to ride my bike on busy King St. and very busy Iowa/Bequette.  But W. Leffler is so broken up that for safety reasons I need to ride near the middle of the road—but a steady stream of vehicles takes the short cut down W. Leffler instead of staying on King St. up to convenient entrance ramp to Iowa/Bequette.  It is a no-win situation for Dodgeville bicyclists.  One solution would be to have W. Leffler dead end at King St. with only a bike-path connector between King St. and W. Leffler, though I suspect that would be quite unpopular in our auto-centric community.  Another solution would be to resurface W. Leffler and never let it degrade this much again.  Is that too much to ask?  It is a short street, after all.

The Lands’ End Shortcut to the Madison Metro Area

I’m not a big fan of roundabouts, but if ever there was a case for one it would be at the intersections of Iowa/Bequette, N. Main, E. Spring, and W. Spring.  In my crude map overlay below, it looks like one building would probably have to be removed.  The roundabout would need to be designed to easily accommodate the comings and goings of fire trucks from the nearby fire station.  Presently, this “octopus” of an intersection is dangerous, and I completely avoid ever making a left turn there.  Why not prohibit all dangerous left turns at these intersections by installing a roundabout where every turn will be a right turn?

Where a roundabout is needed in Dodgeville

Dodgeville is Not Bicycle Friendly

Quite a few people living in Dodgeville work at Lands’ End, but there really isn’t a safe bicycle route connecting Lands’ End with most of Dodgeville.  Right now, we basically have two choices—neither of them are very safe.  You can ride down Lehner Rd. to US 18 and then ride along the south shoulder of the highway until you get up to King St., then cross the highway there (no traffic lights and a 55 mph speed limit).  Or, alternatively, you can ride on the busiest street in town, N. Bequette St. (Wisconsin Hwy 23) and then follow rubblized W. Leffler St. up to King St.

There’s a large piece of farm land for sale between W. North St. and US 18, and though most of us would prefer that it remain farm land, chances are that it will someday be developed into Dodgeville’s newest residential subdivision.  If and when that happens, we should put in an asphalt bike path adjacent to the new road that will almost certainly get built to connect W. Chapel St. to King St.  Of course, the W. Chapel / US 18 / King St. intersection will need to have traffic signals.  What a wonderful addition this bike path would be for our community!

In the meantime, it would help if Lands’ End constructed a short connector bike path from the north shoulder of US 18 just east of the Lehner Rd. intersection to Lands’ End Lane as shown below.  Wisconsin DOT would need to review and approve the project, but it is likely they would be supportive of such a project given the unsafe conditions that exist today.

Another option would be to make use of the City of Dodgeville utility access road already in place on the north side of US 18, just a little west of the Lehner Rd. intersection.  A connector bike path could be built to Lands’ End Lane as shown below.

While we’re on the topic of bicycles, has anyone else noticed how much worse condition the streets are in—not just in Dodgeville but everywhere—than they were, say, 40 or 50 years ago?  The transverse cracking and alligator cracking on our city streets is as bad as I have ever seen, and certainly must be a major factor in why there are so few bicycle riders in our town.

Update August 17, 2018

OK, the US 18 sealcoat project from Dodgeville to Edmund gave me an opportunity to revisit a safer way to currently ride from the west side of Dodgeville to and from the Lands’ End campus.

Going to Lands’ End, the first step is to get to the intersection of W. North St. & N. Bequette St.  Ride along the sidewalk on the west side of N. Bequette. down to US 18.

Cross at the crosswalk to the north side of the intersection.  You can do this without getting off your bicycle as there is an easy-to-access crosswalk button and curb ramp on both sides of US 18.  Just a few feet past that intersection, take the unnamed access road to the Lands’ End store (formerly Walmart) parking lot and wend your way over to Joseph St.

Head north on Joseph St. to the left turn lane at the intersection with King St.  Head west on King until you get to the main entrance to the Lands’ End campus, Lands’ End Lane.  You’ve arrived!

One improvement is needed for making a left turn heading home.  The inductance loop underneath the pavement on Lands’ End Lane at the King St. intersection is not clearly marked nor is it able to detect bicycles (believe me, I’ve tried!).  When I lived in Ames, Iowa, most controlled intersections had clearly-marked inductance loops and all you had to do was to position the middle of your bike frame above one of the corners of the loop and you would trigger the traffic light to change just like a car does.  As it is now, I have to cross on a red light unless there is a car behind me that triggers the traffic light.

The most dangerous part of the journey is along the ingress and egress points for Kwik Trip #340.  One improvement that could be made is to clearly mark (with painted lines and possibly signage) the sidewalk/bike route in this area.  Also, the sidewalk sort of “disappears” between the south and north driveways, as you can see in the image below.  Structural improvements could be made to this section to make it safer.