It was great to celebrate all things bike last week! Big thanks to all the sponsors of last week’s events and to the Bike Fed for organizing Bike Week in Madison and all of Wisconsin.
And meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Common Council approved plans to reconstruct Wilson Street as-is, with no accommodations for safe and comfortable bike travel. But thanks to an amendment proposed by Alder Demarb at the Board of Public Works, and to all the comments received by residents about the need for bike facilities, the resolution also included language to “develop a plan for a bike friendly corridor on Wilson St, by the time the Judge Doyle Square Project is complete.” Construction is currently slated to be completed in 2020, at which time the eastern half of this street project (between MLK and King) will be reconstructed.
The Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission will take up the charge to develop this plan in the coming months and we’ll need your continued support to land on a recommended cross section that provides for safe and comfortable bike travel in both directions on Wilson Street. One possible design that has received positive feedback is a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of the street. Stay tuned and stay involved.
On Wednesday, Sustain Dane’s WOW Bike Tour: Sustainability Stories heads out from Lowell Elementary school at 5:15.
As part of the Wisconsin state budget negotiations, a tax on bikes has repeatedly come up. The Bike Fed is conducting a survey whether you think they should oppose that tax or consider it a symbolic compromise that may (or may not...) placate some legislators who have the stubborn-but-false belief that "cyclists don't pay their way." The survey is open to members and non-members.
With Wisconsin facing a transportation funding shortfall of between $500 million and $939 million over the next two years, and Governor Walker pledging to veto any increase in the state gas tax or vehicle registration fees, could legislators look to Wisconsin cyclists to pay more? We want to know how you would like to see bicycle infrastructure funded, and have embedded a very short survey at the bottom of this longish blog post. Feel free skip reading this and take the survey if you already know how you feel about bike taxes, registration fees, and the gas tax.
Consider weighing in on this important topic.
Once more we need your help with the Wilson Street reconstruction project. We have written a lot about this important downtown project, and now the decision point has come. At their Tuesday (6/6) meeting, the Common Council will approve the project. The resolution that the council is going to decide on will not have any bike facilities in it. However, as the result of pressure by citizen advocates like you, the resolution will contain a clause that calls for bike facilities on the whole of Wilson Street, to be built once the Judge Doyle Square redevelopment is complete.
This is a clear step forward. But we need to make that the language to be adopted will actually be strong enough to ensure that we're not just kicking the can down the road. As we have seen with other projects, despite previous resolutions, planning documents, and so on, once it comes to calling the shots, the interests of those biking and walking are often pushed aside.
Therefore I encourage you to write to your alder and ask them to firmly commit to safe and convenient biking on Wilson Street. Many of you have already written in before, and I can assure it has made a difference. Please take another five minutes to submit another comment (or, if you can: give testimony in person at the meeting tomorrow). The email address to reach all alders is email@example.com and you can find your own alder's contact info here.
Here is what I am going to write:
Dear Alder Bidar-Sielaff, dear members of the Common Council:
I would like to submit a public comment on your agenda item 46640, regarding the reconstruction of West Wilson Street. I am disappointed that the resolution in front of you does not include any facilities for people wanting a safe and convenient way to ride a bike on Wilson Street, an important downtown corridor. However, it was encouraging to see that the Board of Public Works at their last meeting recognized this problem and added a provision for it to be fixed eventually. I am encouraging you to include in your resolution a strong commitment to:
- bike facilities that allow travel in both eastbound and westbound directions
- on all of Wilson Street, from East Wilson at King/Butler to West Wilson at Hamilton Henry
- that allow safe and comfortable biking for people of all ages and abilities
- to be built by the time the Judge Doyle Square redevelopment is complete in 2020.
Thank for your consideration.
There’s a lot going on this week as Madison celebrates Bike Week. Check out the Bike Fed’s website for details on all the commuter stations, rides, and other events on tap! Madison Bikes will have a table at Bacon on the Bike Path on Thursday morning.
But along with all the fun, there’s also some work to do on Tuesday as approval of the Wilson Street cross section design comes in front of the Madison Common Council (item #31). The recommendation that will be in front of the council is to reconstruct the street, as-is, with no accommodations for people on bikes. This recommendation was approved by the Board of Public Works in May, but it included a critical amendment offered by Alder Denise Demarb. The amendment was to commit to adding appropriate bike facilities to Wilson Street once the Judge Doyle Square development is complete (currently estimated for 2020). While it’s a disappointment to kick these much needed improvements down the road, our Engineering department has confirmed that the planned design will easily accommodate adding these facilities when the east half of this stretch of Wilson Street is reconstructed in 2020.
Watch for an action alert later today to write the common council and/or to give public comment at the meeting on Tuesday. We need to ensure that the city commits to adding these critical and long overdue improvements to this important downtown connector.
It’s a short and quiet week following Memorial Day, but there are a number of events for kids this weekend. On Saturday, there’s an organized family bike ride from Leopold School to the Fitchburg library. On Sunday, you can choose between the MSCR Learn 2 Ride event at Warner Park or the June edition of Kiddical Mass, which will depart from the Cargo Bike Store and head down to Monona Terrace and the Capitol.
The loop around Lake Monona is a popular ride among many Madison cyclists. It's scenic and much of it is on trails or low-volume streets. Lake Mendota is a different story. While the Mendota loop scores high on the scenic scale, large stretches are uncomfortable and unsafe to ride. This is especially true for the stretch on Highway M. Lots of cars, a 55 mph speed limit, and only an unprotected shoulder for people riding bikes.
We have received word that the Dane County Board environment committee is considering holding a committee hearing in Waunakee on the topic of bicycle routes in northern Dane County, especially along the Highway M corridor. A bike path has been proposed there to provide a safer alternative to Highway M. A committee hearing would be an important step forward to making this a reality. Please take three minutes and email the following committee members:
And please tell them that you support holding a public hearing in Waunakee of the County Board’s Environment Committee regarding county funding for bicycle routes and off-road bike paths, especially along the Highway M corridor.
Thanks for making your voice heard.
There was plenty to keep us busy last week with the Wilson Street project on the agenda for approval at the Board of Public Works, commuter stations to help celebrate Bike to Work Week, and the Mapathon to help improve Open Street Map data for the upcoming Places for Bikes low-stress bike network map (stay tuned for more!).
Robbie has a brief update of the Wilson Street Board of Public Works meeting up on our blog that helps make the connections between the embarrassing process that we’ve all been suffering through and the absence of a Director of Transportation in Madison. The short version is that the Board approved reconstruction of the street as-is (with no bike facilities), based on the recommendation of city staff and the alder for the district, Mike Verveer. But thanks to Alder Demarb, an amendment was added that commits the city to build out the needed bike facilities on this section of Wilson Street once Judge Doyle Square construction is completed (estimated 2020). The item will be in front of the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission on Tuesday and then in front of the Common Council in two weeks.
And thanks to some great sponsors, there were a number of commuter stations throughout the week. Big thanks to those that chipped in and stepped up like Cafe Domestique, HotelRED, Revolution Cycles, and the Monona Eastside Business Alliance.
This week, Wilson Street heads to the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission on Tuesday before landing in front of the Common Council for final approval in June. Watch for one more action item on this project in the next couple weeks.
Middleton will be holding a bike meeting on Thursday at the city hall to talk about Century Avenue among other things.
And Friday, don’t forget to Bike your Brat to Work courtesy of Saris.
The West Wilson Street reconstruction and the question whether the street should be reconstructed as-is or include safe and comfortable accommodations for people biking was discussed at the Board of Public Works (BPW) last Wednesday. The proposal by City Engineering and supported by the district's Alder Mike Verveer argued for the former, but at the meeting many voices disagreed. Looking beyond the West Wilson project itself, the BPW meeting perfectly demonstrated why Madison needs a Director of Transportation, someone who would be the liaison between the often-competing interests and desires of various interest groups and the city staff who are charged with maintaining and rebuilding our streets.
Alder Mike Verveer, in whose district the W. Wilson reconstruction project is located, said that he felt "whiplash" by the requests for protected bike lanes, constituents who fear losing on-street parking, other alders – including two on the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission -- who requested that the PBMVC needed to see the project again, and city staff who had already sent a letter to adjacent property owners saying there would be neither a pilot test of the protected bike lane that had previously been proposed. Verveer also claimed that this project was being used to fight a turf battle between different city committees.
However, three Madison Bikes board members and several other bicycle advocates testified or submitted comments to the Board of Public Works on Wednesday evening, saying that the public process has been botched, the street was unsafe for bicyclists, and insisted that the BPW and city staff follow the city's many transportation and sustainability plans that point out the need to provide safe infrastructure for all road users.
Public testimony at the BPW meeting
It was apparent that the BPW felt very uncomfortable with the conflict playing out in front of them. Normally their schedule is filled by nothing more controversial than approving bids for infrastructures and assessments for new sidewalks.
Staff from City Engineering insisted that there was no time to send the matter back to the PBMVC and still meet a September deadline to use Tax Incremental Financing for the project. Additional there was the procedural question whether the Board even had the authority to refer the matter to another committee. In the end, the BPW approved the project to be rebuilt exactly as it is now: no bike lanes, no widened sidewalks, and no test of a protected bike lane in place of parking on the south side of the street. But staff claimed that the design would be “flexible,” should anything change in the future.
While this may sound disappointing, there was a bright spot: The resolution to go forward with the reconstruction as-is was amended. Alder Denise Demarb introduced a provision that city staff will develop a plan to make the entire length of Wilson St bicycle-friendly all the way from King Street to Broom Street by the time that the construction around the Judge Doyle Square project is completed (expected to sometime between 2020 and 2022).
We will continue to push for a safe, comfortable design on West (and East) Wilson Street that will give space for people biking and walking and support the oft-stated goal of the city to encourage bicycling, walking, and transit use. And we will continue to push for a better public process so that these issues can be resolved and all interested parties can be involved long before a financial deadline is looming.
The Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission will discuss the matter at their meeting tomorrow, and the project will be before the Common Council at their June 6 meeting. We will keep you updated for when your input is going to be most effective. Thanks to everyone who testified or submitted written comments: They really made a difference.
It's a little confusing: There's the League of American Bicyclists Bike to Work Day on May 19; there was Global Bike to Work Day on May 11; and of course there's the Bike Fed's Wisconsin Bike Week in June. All on different dates. But hey: The more days to celebrate biking to work and elsewhere, the better!
In that spirit, Madison Bikes and Cafe Domestique will be hosting a commuter station on the Cap City Trail at Dickinson this Friday, 7-9 am. We'll have free coffee, Madison Bikes stickers, and some small snacks. Stop by and say hi! And thanks for riding your bike, on Friday or any other day!
RSVP on the Facebook event page or just stop by.
The reconstruction of West Wilson Street is on the agenda again, and we need your help. A quick recap: The initial proposal was to mix people biking and walking on a slightly widened sidewalk. At a public meeting in March there was near universal opposition to this plan--neither people walking nor people on bikes like to be thrown together. Especially not in a downtown environment that includes a hill and busy driveways. Consequently, the city's engineering department proposed a pilot project: Remove one lane of on-street parking to test if that space could be re-allocated from car storage to a protected bike lane. However, apparently even a month-long pilot project was too much for some and Alder Verveer withdrew his support at the last minute.
Following this unexpected death of the pilot project for this summer, City Engineer Rob Phillips, is looking to push a recommendation through the Board of Public Works this week and then through the Common Council on June 6th that would reconstruct Wilson Street as-is. That’s right: A recommendation to change nothing and to continue to devote 40’ of public right of way to car travel and car parking with no space dedicated to safe and comfortable bike travel on this key downtown connector.
The recommendation includes language about maintaining ‘flexibility’ to change street use in the future. But it’s evident that reconstructing the street as-is would be a major impediment to building out a connected low-stress bike network in our city and is an abdication of responsibility to come up with an appropriate design. There won’t be a better time to have the difficult deliberation and to move forward with a street design that prioritizes people over cars and kicking the can down the road will only cost us money and time.
It’s also time to get serious about our transportation planning and implementation and for city staff to recommit to full and meaningful public access in that process. It’s shameful and inappropriate to continue to have decisions made behind closed doors that represent the interests of the well-connected few, while ordinary residents are left scratching their head. It’s time to commit to public discourse and debate and to work to realize the transportation vision we’ve set forth that prioritizes walking, biking, and transit over private car use. How much more money do we need to spend on plans like the Sustainable Master Transportation Plan, the Madison Sustainability Plan, the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board Bicycle Transportation Plan, the South Capitol Transit Oriented Development Study, and the Judge Doyle Square Master Plan when we continue to ignore what they consistently recommend? Why spend money on a bicycle center at Judge Doyle Square or a bike bridge between Wilson Street and Law Park when they will be connected to a street without safe bike accommodations? The question in front of us right now cannot be whether we should accommodate people biking on Wilson Street, but how to best accommodate them.
This ill-advised recommendation for business as usual also inappropriately side-steps the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission whose charge is to “...consider all traffic policy matters, including but not limited to ... geometric design and redesign of streets”. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that our Engineering department has attempted to push through a project without allowing for debate and deliberation by the PBMVC. In fact it has been such a recurring issue that in February of 2016 members of the PBMVC, Traffic Engineering, and Engineering met and formalized an understanding that, indeed, all major street projects should be referred to PBMVC early on in order to provide design guidance. Unfortunately, in the case of Wilson Street this has still not happened. Instead, it appears that the recommendation is based on something other than public debate and guidance from our Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission.
Tell City Engineer Rob Phillips, Alder Mike Verveer, and Members of the Board of Public Works to get this project back on track and to have it referred to the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission for a comprehensive and serious evaluation of all alternatives that include safe and comfortable bike travel on Wilson.
Email addresses for the Board of Public Works members, Engineering staff, and Alder Verveer:
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; MHacker@cityofmadison.com; RPhillips@cityofmadison.com; CPetykowski@cityofmadison.com; YTao@cityofmadison.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Also consider including your district's alder to the list of recipients.
Here is some text that you're welcome to incorporate into your email:
Dear Members of the Board of Public Works, dear Rob Phillips; dear Alder Verveer:
Regarding the planned reconstruction of West Wilson street, I strongly oppose moving forward with the current proposal. That proposal would leave the street as it currently is and therefore fails to take into account the needs of people biking and walking on this important connection to downtown, both going west to east, and east to west. This is not creating a "flexible design;" this is preserving the status quo that only works well for people driving. I strongly oppose any option that mixes people walking and cycling on the sidewalk, as that is neither safe nor convenient for anyone. I am also deeply disappointed with the process through which we have arrived at this point. "Public meetings" that were nowhere to be found on the city's website; a "public input" process that ignored, well, public input; and a decision-making process that ignores the priorities of many of the city's long-term transportation and sustainability plans and bypasses the bodies that are supposed to be in charge of making informed decision about our transportation network.
I urge you to not approve the Wilson Street cross section and to instead refer item #46640 to the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission for a comprehensive and serious evaluation of all alternatives that include safe and comfortable bike travel on Wilson Street..
Thank you for your consideration.