Creating Healthier Communities in Wisconsin

Promise Zone Bike Ride | Video still courtesy Johnson Media Consulting


The Route of the Badger offers a vision of healthy, thriving communities in Southeast Wisconsin centered around a world-class, 700-miles-plus regional trail system that connects people across towns and counties, providing endless transformational opportunities for physical activity, tourism, connections to nature, recreation and stronger businesses along the route.

Southeast Wisconsin is home to 340 miles of existing trails. A relatively small investment that builds upon existing infrastructure can greatly improve connectivity regionwide—better connecting people to the places they want and need to go. Read more about the evolution of the Badger.

Reconnecting Milwaukee—A BikeAble™ Study of Opportunity, Equity and Connectivity.
Reconnecting Milwaukee—A BikeAble™ Study of Opportunity, Equity and Connectivity. Learn more.

Reconnecting Milwaukee Story Map:

A BikeAble™ Study of Opportunity, Equity and Connectivity

Milwaukee’s exemplary trails, including the Oak Leaf Trail and Hank Aaron Trail, serve as critical infrastructure for city residents, connecting communities and offering transportation and recreation benefits to those who use them. But the benefits that trails bring are not equitably shared among the residents who live there. This study explores current access for bicyclists and pedestrians to employment centers and schools as well the impact that potential plans for new trails and biking facilities could have on the city.


Explore the Badger Route

Route of the Badger Map
Route of the Badger Map | Download map pdf

When complete, the 700-miles-plus network is expected to stretch from Milwaukee to Dousman and south from Sheboygan to Kenosha. Once the Badger's south and west routes are completed, they will further link to trails that connect to Chicago, Madison and eventually Minneapolis. Urban trails like the 13-mile Hank Aaron State Trail will be seamlessly linked to more rural routes such as the 51.6-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail, the 116.7-mile Oak Leaf Trail and the northward Sheboygan Interurban Trail to propel commuters and tourists to community destinations and cultural attractions throughout Southeast Wisconsin.


What This Means for Wisconsin

The Route of the Badger has the potential to transform Southeast Wisconsin’s trails into a 700-miles-plus premier trail network, sparking new waves of outdoor tourism, spurring economic development, promoting healthier lifestyles and bridging gaps in communities for a more socially equitable and vibrant region.

Expanding Transportation Options

In Milwaukee, as many as one in five residents do not own a car, which means their transportation options are limited. With access to a connected regional trail system, they’ll have more active transportation options that safely and conveniently connect them—and others across the region—with the places they want and need to go. The Route of the Badger will integrate with Wisconsin’s burgeoning multimodal transportation system, creating safe routes to everywhere for everyone, regardless of age, race and income.

Fueling Strong Economies

The economic impact of bicycle recreation and tourism in Wisconsin is more than $900 million each year. Vibrant regional trail systems are proven economic drivers, sparking neighborhood-scale economic development with tourism, new investment in trailside businesses and commercial opportunities along trail routes.

Improving Health and Wellness

When people have access to safe places to walk within 10 minutes of their home, they are one and a half times more likely to meet recommended activity levels than those who don’t. The Route of the Badger will give people living in Southeast Wisconsin new access to outdoor recreation, with the potential for increased physical activity and a savings in direct health-care costs of more than $22.4 million.

Route of the Badger | Photo by Ben Carter
Route of the Badger | Photo by Ben Carter

Enhancing Regional Competitiveness

Quality of place is a key factor in attracting and retaining a younger, highly educated workforce, and trails add value; millennials walk, bike and take public transportation significantly more than people their age did a decade ago, and nearly 80 percent of those living in large cities say they get around on foot. The Route of the Badger will expand on this value and help the region become a talent magnet.

Promoting Social Equity

Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the U.S.—and just like with other forms of infrastructure, disparities exist in the distribution of trail and active transportation networks. For example, in urban Milwaukee, where many residents are living in poverty or in extreme-poverty areas with limited access to public transit, it is difficult or impossible to travel to suburban job centers or reach other non-urban destinations, including schools, shopping areas and health-care facilities. If done thoughtfully and with meaningful community engagement, comprehensive trail systems can bridge gaps within and between communities, providing access to safe transportation, physical activity and outdoor recreation, and improving health and quality of life. See how the 30th Street Corridor trail project will move the dial toward active transportation equity in Milwaukee.

Route of the Badger | Photo by Ben Carter


Hank Aaron State Trail | Photo by TrailLink user lixunz
Hank Aaron State Trail | Photo by TrailLink user lixunz

How We’re Getting It Done

RTC and the Wisconsin Bike Fed are leading efforts to build the coalition that will propel the Route of the Badger forward. With 340 miles of trails already built, the partners have embarked on the first phase of the project (2016–2017)—a collaborative effort to establish a powerful coalition with representatives from all sectors of government, nonprofit organizations, foundations, friends groups, the community, the private sector and the university community to design the 500-mile-plus trail system.



You can also check out this great video on Wisconsin’s Route of the Badger created by TeamTrumbull.

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Join the movement to bring the Route of the Badger to reality.

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