Milwaukee Without A Car
         

Lots Of Ways To Get Around

Every trip is different. Commuting is different from shopping. Shopping is different from long-distance travel.

No single mode is best for all your trips. Try different modes of transporatation for different trips. Ease into it - just try it once and see if you like it. Different modes may work better on different days, depending on your schedule and errands. You can also combine modes (for example, riding transit to work/school and carpooling back).

Getting Around on Foot

General Information: Many trips in the area are convenient on foot. Downtown Milwaukee and older cities are ideal for walking trips. Older sections of Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, and other cities are well suited to short trips. Newer and wealthier suburbs (particulaly Brookfield, Franklin, and Mequon) are tend to be more unsafe (due to traffic) and inconvenient (due to distance) for many walking trips. Most (but not all) suburbs have sidewalks, and most suburban traffic signals include pedestrian crossings.

Walking to Work or School: Southeast Wisconsin enjoys good walking weather over six months each year. The terrain is generally flat. An average adult (not an athlete) walks around 3-4 miles per hour (for example, you can walk from UW-Milwaukee to Downtown Milwaukee in about an hour). Walking can be combined with carpool or transit, especially in the winter. Combining trips, like day care or shopping, can also make walking more convenient.

Basic Safety Tips:

  • If no sidewalk, always walk on the left, against traffic.
  • If no sidewalk, be prepared for twilight and night (reflective clothing).
  • Dress for the weather (umbrella, coat, sunscreen, hat).
  • If wearing headphones, be aware of your surroundings. Look out for cars turning across your path or bicycles overtaking you on the sidewalk.
  • Carry a phone.
State of Wisconsin DOT Pedestrian Safety InformationStarting to Walk to Work: The first time can be a bit daunting. Ease into it; try it for one day. Use these tips to plan for success.
  1. Find Your Route: Find the shortest route on a map. The Google Map Pedometer can help. If it's too far to walk all the way, try walking to transit. (For help finding carpool or transit, start with the list on the left side of this page)

  2. Scout Your Route: Scout the walking route in your car or on a bike. Look for high-traffic intersections or no-sidewalk areas or other places to avoid. Going through or around a dangerous place is your decision. You can walk the route you normally drive without scouting first, but you may find it unpleasant and inconvenient (hey, we warned you!)

  3. Combining Trips and Modes: Since you're already out, is a store or library or day care or other destination conveniently on your route? Alternately, does a transit line or bike route parallel part of your trip?

  4. Try It Out: Pick a weekend day and try out the commute. Dress appropriately and walk there and back. On the way. Did it take the time you expected? Were there any dangerous intersections or no-sidewalk areas you didn't expect? Were your clothes comfortable? If you used headphones, were they comfortable? Did you wear the right shoes? Is your route covered by street lights? Are there any low areas that might pool water during rain? Are there any interesting stores, libraries, attractions, or events on the way? Are drinking water or restrooms available along the route? When bad weather strikes unexpectedly (it will), how will you get home? Does your phone work along the walking route?

  5. The Unexpected: If you're not accustomed to walking two or three miles, your feet (or knees or hips) will remind you for the first couple days you walk. Generally, this is normal - your body is adjusting. Walking is a healthy form of exercise [Note: Milwaukee Without A Car is not qualified to offer you medical advice!]. Good shoes make a huge difference on a walk - look for walking shoes, not running shoes or hiking boots. Consider bringing a change of socks to prevent blisters. One of the biggest unexpected events is weather - unexpected rain or wind or heat. Dress for the commute home at the end of the day, and have a backup plan (carry a phone).

  6. One or Two Days Each Week: Walking is as close to free as you can get. Each day walking can save you 20% of your commuting cost. However, most commuters have busy lives; they must shop and run errands and attend appointments and events. If you decide to walk, start with one day each week. When it's comfortable, you can increase to two or three days (keep the days flexible if you can - walk when the weather is good). Ease into it based on your lifestyle and how much money you want to save.


Getting Around by Bicycle

General Information: Many trips in the area are convenient by bicycle. Most of Milwaukee and the older cities in the area are very well suited for bike trips. Some major suburban boulevards, such as State Highway 100, are unsuited to bike use.

Bicycling to Work or School: Southeast Wisconsin enjoys good bicycling weather over eight months each year. The terrain is generally flat. An average adult (not an athlete) bikes around 10 miles per hour (for example, you can ride from UW-Milwaukee to Downtown Milwaukee in about fifteen to twenty minutes). Bicycling can be combined with transit at local Park & Rides with bike parking. Local transit provides do not carry bicycles (unless they are foldable). Combining trips, like day care or shopping, can also make riding more convenient.

Basic Safety Tips:

  • Bicycles are legal vehicles. Traffic laws apply to bicycles, and police can ticket violators.
  • Always ride on the right of the lane, with traffic. Behave like traffic: Use signals, obey stop signs and stop lights, and stay off the sidewalk or shoulder. Use lanes (including left turn lanes) to pass or turn or avoid hazards just like a car.
  • Be prepared for twilight and night (lights and reflective clothing).
  • Dress for the weather (jacket, sunscreen).
  • Use baskets or backpack for cargo. You need both hands free to steer and brake.
  • Helmets are not required in Wisconsin, but are strongly encouraged. Everyone falls sometime. Don't use headphones and be aware of your surroundings. Look out for cars cutting in front of you to turn or park.
  • Carry a phone.

Your Tax dollars at work! Try the U.S. DOT's NHTSA Safety City Bike Tour, Wisconsin DOT's Rules for Riding Bicycles, or Wisconsin's Digest of Bicycle Laws and Regulations (PDF).

Starting to Bike to Work: The first time can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Plan for success with these tips:

  1. Find Your Route: Find the best route (not neccesarily the shortest) on a map. Look for steep hills, narrow roads, construction zones, or broken pavement. Going through or around a dangerous place is your decision. If it's too far to bike all the way, try biking to transit. Most Park & Rides lots and government buildings have convenient bike parking.

    Bike route information is, sadly, fragmentary and incomplete. No single resource exists to tell you all the posted bike routes or useful streets. Crossing county lines is particularly hard - bike routes may not connect at the county line. This lack of coordination and information is a failure of county officials, the state DOT, and the bike advocacy groups. If you find a better resource, please let us know.

    Milwaukee County's Oak Leaf Trail does connect to Ozaukee County's Interurban Trail and Waukesha County's New Berlin Trail, but does not connect to Racine's trail system.

    Beyond the route, how will you handle a flat tire? Will the bike fit in your car in case of flat tire or bad weather? How will you carry cargo? Do you have a good lock? If you break a sweat on the way, will you need a shower or change of clothes?


  2. Try It Out: Pick a weekend day and try out the commute. Dress appropriately and ride there and back at a comfortable pace. Did it take the time you expected? Were there any dangerous intersections or roads you didn't expect? Were your clothes comfortable? Did you bike have any mechanical problems? Was your helmet comfortable? Did you wear the right shoes? Is your route covered by street lights? Are there any low areas that might pool water during rain? Are there any interesting stores, libraries, attractions, or events on the way? Are drinking water or restrooms available along the route? When bad weather strikes unexpectedly (it will), how will you get home? Does your phone work along the route?

  3. The Unexpected: If you're not accustomed to riding 10-15 miles, your legs (or seat) will remind you for a day or two. Generally, this is normal - your body is adjusting. Bicycling is a healthy form of exercise [Note: Milwaukee Without A Car is not qualified to offer you medical advice!]. Good bike sizing and seat height makes a huge difference. Consider bringing a change of undershirt and socks in case you break a sweat. One of the biggest unexpected events is weather - unexpected rain or wind or heat. Dress for the commute home at the end of the day, and have a backup plan.

  4. One or Two Days Each Week: Each day bicycling can save you 20% of your commuting cost. However, most commuters have busy lives; they must shop and run errands and attend appointments and events. If you decide to ride, start with one day each week. Keep the choice of day flexible - ride on a nice day instead of a rainy or windy or hot day. When it's comfortable, you can increase to two or three days. Ease into it based on your lifestyle and how much money you want to save.

Additional Resources:




Carpool / Rideshare

General Information: Carpooling may be convenient for more trips than you think. Carpooling works well for longer city-to-suburb and suburb-to-suburb commutes. Many colleges and employers offer ride-matching services, plus the Wisconsin DOT and ride-matching websites put together strangers headed the same direction. The big disadvantages of carpooling is that you lack an "emergency ride home" option (though your employer can get the State of Wisconin to pay for one!), and you cannot combine trips to shopping or day care. Sometimes carpooling just one way or only a few days each week can work around the disadvantages.

Basic Safety Tips:

  • Don't get into a car with someone you're not comfortable with.
  • People run late or get sick - have a backup plan.
  • Carry a phone.

Starting to Carpool/Rideshare: Ease into it; try it for one day.

  1. Finding a Carpool: The most convenient carpool for you may be within your school, employer, or family. Next choice is Wisconsin DOT Southeast Wisconsin Rideshare Program. Many other websites, such as erideshare, craigslist, ridecheck, etc. offer ride-matching services of varying quality and dubious usefulness. If you find a useful and safe ridematching service, please let us know.

  2. Carpool etiquette: A car is a private space. In every carpool, a little negotiating is required; each carpool has slightly different etiquette. A great list is at Carpool Tips from the Wisconsin DOT.

  3. Try It Out: Pick a day and try out the commute. Be prompt, avoid using strong odors, and be polite. It may take a few days (or weeks) to get the carpool running smoothly.

  4. The Unexpected: Cars break down and kids get sick. Carry a phone and have a backup plan. Employer-sponsored carpools can be tax-deductible (for the employer), and make the carpool eligible for "Guaranteed Ride Home" funding from the State of Wisconsin.

  5. One or Two Days Each Week: Each day carpooling can save you around 10% of your commuting cost. However, most commuters have busy lives; they must shop and run errands and attend appointments and events. If you decide to carpool, start with a couple days day each week. When it's comfortable, you can increase it. Ease into it based on your lifestyle and how much money you want to save.