If there's one thing people love about Dane County parks, it's the bike trails, says park planner Chris James.
"We no more than cut the ribbons on these trails and we see tremendous use on them, from all age groups," says James. "Trail is by far the number-one demand for recreational use."
Which is why the county is working on building more trails, including establishing a link to the popular Glacial Drumlin Trail, which stretches most of the distance between Madison and Milwaukee.
On the Madison end, the Glacial Drumlin Trail currently ends in Cottage Grove. Dane County plans to connect it to the Capital City Trail. James hopes to have the mapping done by next spring, after which the county will apply for grants to build it. Construction could start late next year or early 2013.
"It's probably one of the highest-requested trail projects we've ever worked on," he says. "It's generated a lot of interest in the past 10 years."
Also being planned is the Lower Yahara River Trail, the initial stage of which will connect Capital City Trail at Lake Farm County Park to McDaniel Park in the village of McFarland. Eventually, this trail will extend to Stoughton. Dane County has a $3 million grant in federal transportation funds to help build it, with construction scheduled to begin at the end of 2012.
"That idea has been in the county park and open space plan for almost 20 years," James says. "There's a strong need to connect southeast Madison into Dane County. This section of trail is going to be critical."
The trail plans are good news to Amanda White, associate director of the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation. The group's goal is to have 20% of all trips in Madison made by bike by 2020.
"Madison is one of the best places in the country to ride a bike," she says. "That said, we have only about 4% to 5% trips made by bike in Madison."
Some cities in Europe are closing in on 50% to 60% of trips made by bike, White says. In order to get Madison's percentage up, the city needs more bike trails as well as road lanes that separate cyclists from cars. This can be done with a clearly marked bike lane, as on Segoe Road, or with a concrete divider, as on University Avenue.