Bike safety memorial at Hank Aaron Trail closure opens conversation between cyclists, Fair leader
WEST ALLIS, WI (CBS 58) -- A concrete barricade has blocked the Hank Aaron State Trail at S. 76th Street since Aug. 4.
State Fair Police closed the trail until Aug. 14, noting safety concerns due to potential access points to the fairgrounds.
On Saturday afternoon, cyclists taped up a "memorial" to the barrier - photographs and stories of those hurt in bicycle accidents - emphasizing a need for safer routes.
"We've just had in the state of Wisconsin, in the last month, two fatalities from biking. I've had coworkers killed from biking. There's been a bike accident one mile from my house," said cyclist, Andy Frievalt.
"I want to apply pressure to the State Fair to not endanger cyclist life in the future," Frievalt said.
With the trail's unannounced closure earlier this month, cyclists were forced to bike on crowded roads.
"These roads are always busy around here, but definitely during the State Fair. We have thousands of people on the road, and we have people who aren't from around here, and are not used to bicycles sharing the streets with them," said Michelle Kramer, who serves on the board of directors for the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail.
Members of the group planned to display their frustration Saturday with a memorial ride around the fairgrounds, but the statement instead turned into an open discussion between bikers and State Fair leaders.
The fair's board chair, John Yingling, citing fairgoer safety as his biggest concern.
"Someone could easily walk this trail, scoot in there, be hidden way out of sight from us, from you," Yingling said, noting other acts of violence at big events across the country, "It's an ever-changing world, and you either adapt or don't adapt. It's my obligation, my responsibility to adapt."
Cyclists argue their safety is at stake with non-ideal alternatives for some commuters, an no communication about the planned closure.
"They put blockades up. No warning, nothing," Frievalt said.
Yingling said he intentionally chose not to inform the public before the closure - a decision made just days before the fair began.
"You don't telegraph your moves to people who are trying to plan illegal activities on the grounds," Yingling said.
The Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail board is keeping conversations going with state leaders, pushing for a better outcome next year.
"The Wisconsin State Fair has an opportunity to be a great community partner, and really work with stakeholders, work with the DNR to put together some creative solutions," Kramer said.
There have not been any announcements regarding plans for next year's fair, and trail access during other events at the fairgrounds.
The 2022 State Fair wraps up Sunday night.