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Outdoors, Leisure, and Sports

Making Oneida County more bike and walk friendly

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The high gas prices may have you looking for alternatives to driving your car everywhere.

But the Northwoods isn’t always the easiest place to bike or walk around.

Each year, the League of American Bicyclists rank states on their bike friendliness.

This year’s report puts Wisconsin at 29 out of 50 states and 7th out of the 13 midwestern states.

The state gets D- grades when it comes to bike infrastructure & funding and policies & programs.

Jackie Cody agrees with that assessment, especially when it comes to Oneida County.

“Right now, our county, Oneida County, is pretty isolated. We’re not connected to the other county’s bike trails,” she said. “Bikers, families and bikers are looking for an off-road experience and right now, all we can offer them is an on-road experience.”

Cody is the President of the Oneida County Biking and Walking Trails Council.

She is working towards a future where people can bike between communities in Oneida County and where it’s safer to bike and walk within communities.

There are efforts underway to reach those goals.

In Lake Tomahawk, the town is raising money to convert a snowmobile trail to multi-use so bike riders can easily access the town from nearby campgrounds.

In Rhinelander, a resident is pushing to get a sidewalk built along Davenport Street to connect neighborhoods along the road to downtown.

There’s been bike stations installed throughout the city and road improvement projects that have led to safer paths for bikers.

“I want to say we have a long ways to go, but we’re also making some progress we haven’t seen in the past few years,” said Cody.

Cody believes even more of these projects could be accomplished if the state took full advantage of its federal funding.

The federal government designates nearly 2% of funds for such projects, but it often goes unused in Wisconsin.

The League of American Bikers says the state spends 85-cents per capita of federal funds on biking and walking infrastructure.

It ranks 49th out of 50 states when it comes to federal spending.

“We need dollars committed at the state level as Joint Finance Committee needs to start funding biking and walking fully in the state with the 2% funding that is their responsibility,” said Cody.

Cody believes the investment would have a large impact on Northwoods communities.

A 2017 study from the Outdoor Industry Association found people spent $1.4 billion dollars on bicycle-related expenses in Wisconsin that year.

Cody also believes the economic boost comes from not just people spending money on bike-related things but from people wanting to move and work in places that have a solid biking and walking infrastructure.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t share in the wealth of those dollars in Northern Wisconsin,” she said.

She encourages people that want to see more trails in their communities to get involved with groups that advocate for or build trails like the Oneida County Biking and Walking Council.