Bike Path Networks

Create connected communities through bicycle and pedestrian master plans and trail systems.


Bike paths are public corridors that allow people to travel in their community by bike or on foot without worrying about vehicle traffic. Creating a successful bike and pedestrian master plan involves the collaboration of local and regional governments with community members, businesses, and professionals such as landscape architects and planners. Integration with other community planning projects—such as parks and recreation plans, transportation plans, and comprehensive plans—is a vital part of a successful initiative.

Implementation of a bike and pedestrian master plan is the next step, and includes building and maintaining bike paths, as well as providing activities and environmental enhancements to encourage bike use, like community bike events, signage and trail maps.

Wisconsin Examples

Fox Cities: Fox Cities Paper Trail: This 50-mile biking and walking trail in the Fox Valley links 21 parks and green spaces along 11 northeastern WI communities. The completed trail is the result of a long-term collaboration between non-profit organizations, planners, and townspeople in the Fox Cities. Read our profile here.

Marathon County: Connecting bike routes: The Wausau Area Metropolitan Planning Organization in Marathon County adopted a bike/pedestrian plan, which included a goal to increase path signage. A coalition of local county and government employees succeeded in installing more than 600 signs along 10 new routes that connect seven municipalities.

Wood County: Rural Bike Share: A community-based bike share program allows Wisconsin Rapids residents who don’t have bikes to take advantage of bike lanes and paths. Sixty-five bicycles were donated for free to use at four strategic locations along the bike system.

Equity in Practice

Recognizing Inequity: Bike paths are unlikely to decrease health disparities and are often viewed as designed for and by white urban residents. Increased bike infrastructure has accompanied increased gentrification in some urban areas.

Advancing Equity: Increasing bike path access in underserved areas may work towards decreasing usage disparities. Regional bike paths can also connect rural communities in areas where biking on roads is less desirable. Strategies to decrease disparities in access include improving the safety, walkability, and aesthetics of the built environment in underserved communities, encouraging community input and leadership on biking initiatives, and partnering with local organizations to inform bike path planning. Culturally sensitive framings that promote biking as more than modes of transportation or fitness for white urban residents may increase use of and support for biking infrastructure.

Implementation Resources

Wisconsin Department of Transportation-Bike Resources: The Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bike Resources and Projects page contains a number of resources, including planning guidance, a rural bicycle planning guide, a Wisconsin bicycle and pedestrian trail use study, and bicycle crash analyses for Wisconsin localities.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Active Community Toolkit: This toolkit walks communities through the many aspects of an active community initiative, from planning to evaluation.

Local Policies That Support Safe and Complete Pedestrian and Bicycle Networks: The Federal Highway Administration developed this guide to provide local and state agencies with tools to complement new infrastructure and program development. The guidebook is accompanied by case studies from across the country that support safe and complete street networks.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center: The Federal Highway Administration-supported Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center contains many resources for planning and implementation of bike/pedestrian trail systems including sample plans and policies, case studies, state by state information and statistics, funding, and webinar trainings.

Assessment Tools

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Active Community Toolkit: The Active Community toolkit has a number of questions that can be used to assess bike path networks.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Community Walking and Bicycling Audit Tool: This tool assesses various aspects of the built environment and neighborhood streets that can be used to inform bike network planning and evaluation. The tool does not assess policy.

National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project tool: This tool is used to create accurate counts of cyclists and pedestrians. It also assesses the local environment. It could be useful for assessing need or usage, before, during or after an initiative. The kit also includes pedestrian and cyclist surveys asking individuals about their experiences. The surveys are available in English and Spanish.