It was a packed agenda at last week’s Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission starting with a presentation of the updated 2018-2022 Madison Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) projects. That document gives a good idea of what transportation projects are under consideration for the next five to ten years. You can review two spreadsheets with the major streets and bike/ped projects here.
Also on the agenda was review of the new draft transportation ordinances from the Transportation Ordinance Review Committee (TORC). These ordinance changes would fundamentally reorganize our existing transportation commissions (including Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle and Transit/Parking Commissions) into two new bodies: the Transportation Planning and Policy Board and the Transportation Commission. There is also growing support and consensus for the need to fill the Director of Transportation role for the city. The draft ordinances go back to Transit/Parking Commission this month and all of the suggestions/edits will be reviewed prior to coming before the Common Council sometime this summer with a final proposal.
Following the discussion of the TORC proposals, there was a surprise withdrawal of sponsorship by Alder Verveer for the proposed pilot on Wilson Street. The plan was to test the removal of the southside on-street parking and installation of a temporary contraflow bike lane. Without sponsorship of the resolution, the commission recommended that it be placed on file (not approved). It’s unclear what the next steps are for this critical link of our growing bike network, but the project needs to be put under contract before the end of the calendar year in order to qualify for TID funds. This is a project we’ll be keeping a close eye on and will ask for a big showing from our community when the alternatives are up for a decision. We’re strongly committed to a design that accommodates motor vehicle, bike, and foot traffic safely and comfortably.
What a more people-friendly Wilson Street could look like
The commission also unanimously recommended approval of an easement at 151 E. Wilson for a future ped/bike bridge over John Nolen Drive that would connect this section of Wilson Street to the Capital City Path and Law Park. An initial concept for this bridge was shared at the last Nolen/Blair presentation.
It’s clear that these investments to better connect our downtown and lakefront will require high quality bicycle and pedestrian facilities on both ends in order to work. That’s exactly why prioritizing space for people on bikes and people on foot on Wilson Street is so critical.
The last item for the night was an ordinance to treat mopeds like motorcycles for parking purposes. This means that they would no longer be able to park in bike parking stalls or on the sidewalk or medians in the city of Madison. Moped specific parking areas could be created by permit in the downtown/campus area.
You can watch the discussion on any or all of these items here.
Editorial note: This edition of the Calendar Highlights is brought to you by Harald. Your usual host Grant will return next week.
What diverter can look like: People walking and biking can pass; people driving cannot. Image: LADOT Bike Blog.
The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association met last week to discuss the future of the East Mifflin bike boulevard. Many in the community perceive this important corridor to be a bike boulevard in-name-only, with no measures to divert or slow down motor vehicle traffic, for instance by installing diverters that allow local traffic while keeping out through-traffic. As discussed in this Facebook thread, the meeting also raised larger questions about how our transportation network is being planned and decided on.
Rendering of an improved sidewalk/cycle track in front of Machinery Row Bicycles
On the same night there was an open house about the John Nolen Drive/Blair Street Corridor. While we are still far away from any final decision let alone actual construction, things have moved forward since the previous meeting. For instance, an overpass connecting Law Park to Wilson Street for people walking and biking now is a real option, with the Common Council taking on a resolution that would establish an easement on the Wilson Street side for that connection. For the intersection of John Nolen/Blair/Williamson many of the initially proposed solutions, such as a tunnel, are off the table at this point. You can find more details in the State Journal, the City's page for the project, or this discussion on Facebook.
One vision of what a more people-friendly John Nolen Drive could look like (Image: Madison Design Professionals Workgroup)
On Monday, there are two worthwhile overlapping meetings to choose from. At 6:00p, join the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, Alder Zellers, and staff from Traffic Engineering for a conversation on how to improve the Mifflin Street Bike Boulevard. For those that are more frequent users of the Capital City Path, join Alders Verveer and Rummel and staff from Engineering to continue the conversation on improving the John Nolen/Blair Corridor at 7:00p.
Tuesday’s Common Council meeting is the first meeting of the new council and will include a number of bike related items: final approval for the protected bike lanes on Bassett Street, approval of the Demetral Path connector at Third/Johnson, and introduction of two items of new business -- a resolution to conduct a pilot on West Wilson Street to determine the feasibility of removing one side of on-street parking and a resolution to secure an easement that will support a future ped/bike bridge from Wilson Street to Law Park and the Capital City Path. The last two items will be introduced without debate, but should be on the Ped/Bike/MV Commission meeting agenda next week.
On Wednesday, the Madison Bikes board of directors will hold its monthly meeting at the public library downtown. For anyone handy with a wrench, consider helping out at Worthington Park with a free repair night for the neighborhood. There are a lot of kids with broken bikes that really appreciate the help. Contact Steve Meiers if you’d like to participate: SMeiers@cityofmadison.com.
And on Saturday, stop in at the new Dream Bikes North for their grand opening party. For those that aren’t familiar, Dream Bikes is a non-profit that provides opportunities for youth to learn and gain experience fixing bikes. And a good spot to buy used bikes.
Do you have five minutes to spare and want to improve the situation for people walking and biking on West Wilson Street? Here's how:
The Board of Public Works will discuss the design proposed by City Engineering in their meeting on Wednesday. If you haven't been following the project, you can catch up on a lot of background here, here, and here. Writing a quick email in opposition to putting people on bike bike onto the sidewalk and in favor of real bike accommodations on the street is going to be important. I know several of you already sent emails when the item was on the agenda for the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission last week, and you can just re-use that email. One new development is that doing a pilot study, where one side of on-street parking will be removed for a while is now on the table. If done well, we think that this is a good option, and we encourage you to mention the pilot.
Email addresses for the Board of Public Works members:
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; firstname.lastname@example.org
I recommend also included these folks in the cc line, as well as your district's alder:
MHacker@cityofmadison.com; RPhillips@cityofmadison.com; CPetykowski@cityofmadison.com; YTao@cityofmadison.com; email@example.com
Here's what I'm going to write; you're welcome to reuse the text:
Dear Members of the Board of Public Works, dear Alders:
Regarding the planned reconstruction of West Wilson street, please move forward with a street design that takes into account the needs of people biking and walking on this important connection to downtown, both going west to east, and east to west. I strongly oppose an option that mixes people walking and cycling on the sidewalk, as that is neither safe nor convenient for anyone. I support doing a well-designed and evaluated pilot project that would close one of the on-street parking lanes to put in a protected one-way or two-way bike lane.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thanks for helping out! The final decision on this will be made at City Council. We'll send out another update before that.
At the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission meeting last week, there was a presentation of the Madison Area Regional Transportation Plan 2050, a presentation of the recommended ordinance change from the Transportation Ordinance Review Committee, and an update on the Wilson Street project. You can watch the meeting here or download the audio recording here.
We’ve been following the Wilson Street project closely. At this meeting, Engineering staff reported out a summary from the Public Involvement Meeting that was held on 3/20 and shared the same recommended design proposal that was originally shared with the commission in February. This is the concept that widens the sidewalk on the south side of the street to 8’ and does not include any facilities for east- or westbound bike travel. The idea of mixing foot and bike traffic on the sidewalk was squarely rejected by almost all in attendance on 3/20.
A new development was that Engeering plans to run a pilot this summer that will remove the southside on-street parking in order to put up a temporary contraflow bike lane (allowing bike travel from west to east). There was some good discussion about the goals and measures of success for such a pilot and agreement that we should not expect to see high volumes of bike traffic with this two-block pilot.
Unfortunately, in spite of all the discussion about a bike lane pilot, the current wide sidewalk plan will be in front of the Board of Public Works on Wednesday for approval. If this design is approved there, it will still need to go through the Common Council, where we’ll need a large presence to ensure appropriate bike facilities are included in the project.
Tonight (Monday) on 89.9 WORT at 7:00 pm, Access Hour will be about Living Carless in Madison. Panelists will share how they get by using bikes and not cars to meet their primary transportation needs in town.
On Tuesday, Madison Bikes Communication Committee will meet downtown. This is the group of volunteers that keeps our website running, blog posts coming, and deals with all things communication related for Madison Bikes. For those that don’t know, Madison Bikes is 100% volunteer run. So if you’d like to join in and help out, consider attending one of our monthly committee meetings or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
As mentioned above, on Wednesday the Board of Public Works will meet and consider “Approving Plans, Specifications, And Schedule Of Assessments For West Wilson Street and South Henry Street Assessment District.” If you shared your thoughts with PBMVC last week, consider forwarding them onto the Board as well. Regardless of the outcome of this meeting, plan on attending the Common Council meeting where it will be up for debate. This is a project that needs to include comfortable and safe accommodations for people on bikes in both directions.
And finally, on Sunday, Fitchburg Cycles and Spoke Haven are hosting a women-trans-femme friendly fix-a-flat clinic.
There are a few important projects in the works in Madison that were reviewed last week. Some updated Bassett Street designs were in front of the Board of Public Works (BPW) on Wednesday, and a concept similar to the one recommended by Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission was approved and will be forwarded to the Common Council in April. This is a concept that includes one-way protected lanes on both sides of the street from University to Dayton.
The Demetral Connector that was approved at Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission was also in front of Board of Public Works. It was referred to their next meeting in order for Alder Palm to solicit feedback from his constituents. This is the path that will connect across Johnson and Third Streets into Demetral Park. There are currently two alternatives under consideration: one that requires the use of eminent domain (and $300K of land acquisition costs) and another that uses the existing public right of way. A recommendation is expected to be in front of the Common Council in April for this project as well.
And of course, on Monday there was the very well attended public meeting on the upcoming West Wilson Street project. Check out Harald’s blog post for a summary of that meeting and next steps in the project.
Join Madison Bikes Events Committee for their monthly meeting at Cafe Domestique on Monday at 6:00pm and sign up to help with some of our upcoming events.
On Tuesday, consider attending the Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission meeting beginning at 5:00pm. There’s a presentation of the Madison Area Regional Transportation Plan 2050 and an update on next steps for the Wilson Street project.
And on Wednesday at noon, catch a webinar hosted by Safe Routes to School National Partnership on Innovative Bicycling Programs for Youth.
Last week a public input took place to discuss the reconstruction of West Wilson Street. Robbie's previous post has more background about what is planned and why this is an important project for bike advocates. Here is a quick update on how the meeting went, what the next steps in the decision making process are, and how you can speak out in favor of a Wilson Street that works for people biking and walking.
To recap, the public input meeting was the second one about the project. But the first meeting had been only announced to immediate neighbors. This second meeting was scheduled at the request of the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Vehicle Commission, after they were presented with only one option for the project from Engineering, an 8' widened sidewalk on the south side of the street that was supposed to mix travel on foot and bike. The Commission asked Engineering to develop additional concepts that would provide better accommodations for people travelling by bike and to present them at a new, publicly-noticed meeting for input.
The meeting was well attended, and I spotted many Madison Bikes stickers, t-shirts, or other other accessories that identified attendants as supporters of safe and convenient bike facilities. Alder Verveer also attended. A video recording of the whole meeting is available on Facebook. Engineering proposed three different designs:
- Keep all general travel lanes and both parking lanes. Narrow the terrace (the space between sidewalk and curb) to install a contra-flow bike lane (a bike lane going the opposite direction of the one-way traffic in the general travel lanes) right next to the sidewalk.
- Keep all general travel lanes and the current terraces. Convert one parking lane into a contra-flow bike lane, separated from oncoming traffic with a painted buffer but without physical protection.
- Keep travel lanes, parking, terraces. Widen the sidewalk on the south side to 8 ft. This was the recommendation of Engineering.
Two of the proposed options. Apologies for the image quality -- the slides from the meeting haven't been made available yet by the city
An option for a two-way protected bike lane was not even on the table. A lively but civil discussion ensued about the impacts of each of the proposed solutions, such as on street trees, for people with reduced mobility, and of course for those who currently bike on Wilson or would do so if there were safe and convenient options available. One issue raised both by bike advocates and local residents was that putting people on bike and people walking together on the sidewalk seemed like a really bad idea. Residents pointed out that even just walking on the sidewalk right now at times felt dangerous, especially for those with impaired mobility. Adding more bikes to that mix was a no-go for many, widened sidewalk or not. If you want to see what riding on the sidewalk looks like right now, watch this video:
Another issue pointed out by bike advocates was the lack of bike accommodations for people going east to west in all of the proposed plans. Currently--and in the foreseeable future, if the proposed design goes forward--people biking have to ride in the general travel lane, next to parked cars. And at the bottom of the hill, at the intersection with Henry and Hamilton, people on bikes find themselves in a right-turn-only lane or have to merge to the left lane at high speed.
The point at which the meeting started to unravel was when the question of next steps came up. One would think that the point of a public input meeting would be to gather input and then use that input to modify your plans. That didn't seem to be the case: City engineers were planning to just go forward with the same design that they came to the meeting with, the widened sidewalk option. City engineers rightly pointed out that there was no consensus in the audience that clearly favored one design over the other. But it was just as clear that a large majority of the audience (and not just people who regularly bike) did not like the idea of mixing people walking, biking, or using mobility devices on the sidewalk. I was probably not the only one leaving the meeting disheartened by what appeared to be a flawed process.
What are the next steps? What can you do?
The proposed design is going to be on the agenda of the Ped/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission this coming Tuesday. I encourage you to submit a brief public comment to the commission members, Alder Verveer, and your own alder. It can be as easy as pasting these recipients (plus your Alder's email address) into an email and writing something like:
Dear Members of the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission, dear Alders:
Regarding the planned reconstruction of West Wilson street, please move forward with a street design that takes into account the needs of people biking and walking, both going west to east, and east to west. I oppose an option that mixes people walking and cycling on the sidewalk, as that is neither safe nor convenient for anyone.
Thank you for your consideration.
After that, the proposed design will go to the Common Council, which is the ultimate decision making body. We'll keep you updated on when that's going to happen and what the most effective way to advocate is going to be for that.
This is a guest post by Linda Larsen, a Madison Bikes supporter and volunteer. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your experience with biking more and more and more... If you're interested in writing a post (and Madison Bikes is for everyone, no matter how little or much you bike), just shoot an email to email@example.com
I love to bike. I bike a lot. I bike almost every day. I'm the one my friends think of when they see something cool that is bike related on social media and tag me or post it on my page. Have I mentioned that I love to bike?
While I've always enjoyed biking, several years ago I started making bicycling a major lifestyle change for me and began keeping track of my miles. Since then my annual mileage has kept increasing. I try to bike instead of drive any time I can. I find ways to overcome deterrents, such as cold weather, snowy or icy paths, or just plain lack of motivation. Yes, as much as I love biking, it is not always easy for me to get out there. But many factors have helped me get out, almost every day, and maybe some of them will work for you as well. In 2016 I biked over 6,000 miles, a personal record for me.
First, I keep track of my miles. It can make you feel good that you have gotten that much exercise, or that you have avoided driving that distance somewhere, or it can give you a goal to surpass. Every time you bike a little more than you are used to, it can encourage you to do more the next time.
How did I get there? Setting goals and overcoming challenges.
I had started with a goal to bike to work at summer school, which at the time was seven miles away. Once summer ended, I continued to bike to work and began looking for and coming up with ideas for being able to bike in the cold weather. There are many resources for researching this, and a lot of trial and error while making sure you have the right balance. I understand that not everyone is interested in biking in the cold. But remember: many other winter activities are enjoyed despite the cold – why not add biking to that mindset? Rain gear is also important to have, as well as winter tires such as fat tires for snow or studded tires for ice. I am still working on finding what I am comfortable with, and each year I manage to overcome more obstacles and avoid driving more and more.
There’s a lot cooking this week, but for those that can only spare time for one thing it should be the Wilson Street Reconstruction Public Meeting on Monday. Robbie’s blog post gives some background on the project and tips for how to participate. Another take on the project is on the Imagine Madison blog. Showing up for this public engagement meeting is one of the best ways to really participate in democracy and to help build the community you want to live in. If you’ve never come to a public meeting like this before, give it a shot and help us achieve our vision of a connected bike network for people of all ages and abilities.
Tuesday at noon, America Walks is hosting a webinar entitled Advancing Neighborhood Change through Equity and Inclusion where panelists will discuss ways to work towards positive changes that are rooted in respect and authentic engagement with residents. These are really important conversations and Madison Bikes is committed to working towards equity and inclusion in our advocacy efforts.
On Wednesday, the Bassett Street protected bike lanes that were unanimously approved at Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission last month are up for reconsideration. The Board of Public Works is the controlling body of this project and may choose to recommend a different plan to the city council for approval. Consider attending the meeting and voicing your support.
And on Thursday, the Long Range Transportation Planning Committee will take up the Transportation Ordinance Rewrite Committee’s draft update to the City’s transportation ordinance (3.14). This draft was in front of Transit and Parking Commission last month. At the end of this month, it will be considered by the Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission and may be in front of the Common Council sometime after May.
On Monday, March 20, there will be a meeting to hear from the public–yes, that’s you–about changes to West Wilson Street between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Hamilton/Henry Streets. The meeting will be in room 351 of the City-County Building, and we need your voice!
Some more information, including plans and past presentation can be found here on the City Engineering website. Also stay tuned for another post on the project tomorrow.
What’s the problem?
This section of Wilson Street is a scary stretch for people cycling west: Two westbound lanes of traffic, parking on both sides, and no bike facilities. At the bottom of the hill and the intersection with Hamilton and Henry, you have few good options when biking. South Hamilton climbs steeply up to the Square and also lacks bike facilities. The same is true for South Henry. If you continue straight, West Wilson becomes two narrow lanes–now one in each direction–with no bike lanes. To the south of the intersection there are two dead-end streets. Worse, people on bikes must choose between staying in the right lane of Wilson, which is right turn only, and the left lane. Being in the right lane sets you up for a “right hook” from turning cars. But riding in the left lane requires merging on the downhill--not really an option for most people cycling.
Aerial view of the intersection of Wilson, Henry, and Hamilton (Source: Google Maps)
Even more difficult is trying to travel eastbound. In theory, Wilson would make a great connection to the Capitol Square and points east, as it is less steep than any of the parallel streets. Many residential buildings, offices, and other destinations are along Wilson Street, and with the Judge Doyle Square redevelopment and the proposed bicycle center, this will be even more true. Finally, there are already concrete plans for connecting Wilson Street with the Capital City Trail by building a bridge across John Nolen Drive and the railroad tracks. But of course: Wilson Street is a one-way street, and so this is not an option.
So many bicyclists going both directions end up riding on the sidewalk. On this particular stretch it is legal. But as you can see in this video, it is not pleasant, and once you get to East Wilson, riding on the sidewalk is prohibited.
The proposed street reconstruction offers an opportunity to fix many of those issues. We have a chance to West Wilson Street (and eventually all of Wilson) safer for all users, but especially for people biking and walking. We could have a two-way, protected bike lane on the south side of the street. And that is one of the ideas we can discuss at the meeting on Monday. Pretty exciting, huh?
But there is a lot of pushback against that idea. Those who don’t want to lose any car parking on the street may be opposed to accommodating people on bikes on Wilson. A protected bike lane would replace car parking on one side of the street.
So we need your help to convince the city and your fellow citizen that the safety of bicyclists should be more important than a few parking spots. After all, there are literally hundreds of public parking spots on the street and in parking garages within a couple of blocks of West Wilson Street.
Besides Madison Bikes, who says we need better bike facilities here?
There are many public studies and plans that have identified West Wilson Street as a critical gap in the biking network. These gaps hold us back from achieving the goals to make transportation more sustainable and make getting around by bike a real alternative to driving for people of all ages and abilities. The South Campus Transit Oriented Development Plan looked at the entire area south of the Capitol, and that plan also identified a need to improve bicycle facilities on Wilson, especially for eastbound travel. The City and the Transportation Planning Board both have "complete streets policies" that make it a requirement to accommodate all modes of travel when a street is being reconstructed. And the Wisconsin Bike Fed wrote a letter pointing out the need for eastbound accommodations, especially with the soon-to-be-completed Judge Doyle Square Bike Center.
OK, you convinced me and I'll come. What should I do or say at the meeting?
The Monday meeting is not a formal city committee meeting. It will be a presentation of options for the street, and then questions and comments from those in attendance. You can just come and watch, but make it obvious that you are someone riding a bike and wants safe conditions for that. Bring your helmet or wear a Madison Bikes or Bike Fed t-shirt. Fill out a comment form with something as simple as, “I want safe biking conditions on Wilson Street.” Ask questions or share stories about how biking on Wilson Street currently feels.
Madison Bikes supports a two-way protected bike lane. We think that having facilities for people biking, separated from people walking and protected from people driving, is the best option. A slightly widened, eight-foot sidewalk that mixes two-way bike traffic with pedestrians would be frustrating and dangerous for all.
If you can’t make the meeting, you can still weigh in. We will have a separate blog post that will outline some of the future engagement opportunities. But for now you can email your support: The Engineer in charge of the project is Jim Wolfe, and you can email comments directly to him. The alder for all of Wilson from Proudfit to Williamson is Mike Verveer. And you can email your own alder or the whole Council as well, since this project will eventually have to be passed by the entire Council. To find out who your alder is, check the map or look it up by address on the Council website. To send an email to the entire Council, you can use the address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Being involved in decisions is actually pretty easy.
A few voices can really make a huge difference, and your alder needs to hear from you. You may actually know a lot more about these issues than they do, since you ride the streets and paths every day. You are the expert on what makes a city easy and safe to bike. But also keep in mind that we want a city where everyone can bike, not just the brave and the experienced. So think what kind of street your neighbor, child, friend, or parent would feel safe and comfortable on when biking to work, go shopping, school, or errands.
A short email, a phone call, a written comment at a meeting, or even your presence all contribute to a better biking city for us all. Everyone’s opinion is important, and everyone’s voice is needed. See you on Monday!