Last spring, Janesville earned an honorable mention from the League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle-friendly community.
In June, the city hosted a leg of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, an 11-day southeastern Wisconsin bike-racing series that drew international competitors.
Now, Janesville is continuing its commitment to biking with a new wayfinding plan that will cover a swath of the city’s bike trails.
The city will install wayfinding signs along a roughly 12-mile stretch of the Peace Trail and Ice Age Trail. The segments getting signs include most parts of the city from the Tripp Road trailhead on the far southwest side to East Rotamer Road, but the portion of the Ice Age Trail that cuts through downtown and Riverside Park will not be marked.
Janesville held a public forum last week to gather more input on what destinations the signs should identify. They’ll point out places such as Rotary Gardens and Pine Tree Plaza, according to a map provided by the city.
For now, the city plans to highlight popular sites along the trails rather than other nearby places, such as the ARISE Town Square, senior engineer Ahna Bizjak said.
That’s because the wayfinding plan does not currently have the funding to expand beyond the trails. Directing someone downtown might have confused bikers if there were no additional signs beyond the path, she said.
The project is a joint collaboration between the city and the Janesville Velo Club. The club approached the city and will foot the undetermined bill for the signs.
The Janesville Metropolitan Planning Organization—a regional offshoot of the state Department of Transportation—hired a consultant for roughly $10,000 to develop a wayfinding plan.
No city funds are being used. The plan will be completed by the end of the year, and signs should be installed in spring, Bizjak said.
Janesville Velo Club President Paul Murphy said the city has done a good job in recent years of improving its biking infrastructure, including dedicated bike lanes and shared lanes for drivers and cyclists.
He credited the city with trying to add as many bike lanes as possible when streets get resurfaced.
“Roads are made for motorized vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians,” Murphy said. “You always got to keep that in mind when you’re designing or engineering streets. Janesville is looking at that and taking it into consideration.”
Murphy doesn’t have an elaborate vision for how the city should handle biking in the future. Improvements will happen when money is available, either through fundraising, grants or other means, he said.
It takes time to extend the bike path network. Economic development can lead to new offshoots or trail spurs, such as the loop that now encircles the youth sports complex, Murphy said.
This signage project, the honorable mention bike-friendly label and the Town Square Gran Prix all are signs Janesville is ready to further embrace its two-wheeled identity, he said.
That could have an effect far beyond the city’s existing trail infrastructure.
“As the downtown develops, businesses downtown will start to encourage bicycling as a means of transportation,” Murphy said. “There’s a lot of good programs … where businesses get involved and give a little incentive (to cyclists). Maybe it’s 5 percent off their meal ticket or cup of coffee.”