“Missing link” bike path opened thanks to the efforts of a CALS GIS specialist

Last month marked the third anniversary of the 1.4 mile stretch of the Southwest Bike Trail, known locally as the Greenbush Path, that runs along the south edge of campus from Camp Randall to the Lake Monona shoreline. If you bicycle in Madison, you’ve probably ridden it, especially if you commute from the east side to campus or from the west side to downtown. You’ve also probably traveled it if you walk or run anywhere between the Kohl Center and the excavation formerly known as Union South. If so, give credit to John Coleman, a geographic information specialist based in the CALS Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility, because this heavily used strip of asphalt was basically his idea. The Southwest Trail used to end near Camp Randall, leaving bikers to weave their way through congested downtown.

Coleman came up with the idea after several years of picking his way through parking lots and streets along the route. Because he works with land records, he was able to determine that most of parcels along the route were public rights of way. It turned out that he wasn’t the only one that thought it was a good idea. The city had previously considered the route but had never got it off the shelf. So he worked with city planners and within the local bicycling community. Eventually he created a website to generate support for the plan. It took about six years, but in August of 2006 he attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this no-longer-missing link in the city’s bike system.