City Asks: Where to Invest in Bike Infrastructure?

Bad bike infrastructure

Where should the city invest in bike infrastructure in the coming budget period? That is the question that the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission (PBMVC) is asking you. And we want to hear from you too, as well as provide guidance on how to maximize the impact of your suggestions. The meeting is already today, June 28 at 5:30pm, but you will have time to provide written input until July 8. Let's start with the actual announcement from PBMVC:

The Madison Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission will hold a public hearing to receive comments on potential pedestrian and bicycle projects the City should consider undertaking in the 2017-2019 Capital Budgets to increase opportunities for walking and bicycling in Madison.

The intent of the public hearing is to hear suggestions for new capital (construction) projects. Please note that concerns about routine maintenance and operational issues can be directed to the appropriate agency or the City's Report-a-Problem webpage http://www.cityofmadison.com/reportaproblem.

The hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Room 260 of the Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. NOTE: If you need an interpreter, materials in alternate formats or other accommodations to access this meeting, please contact the Traffic Engineering Division at 608-266-4761. Please do so no later than 9:00 a.m. on the Thursday preceding the meeting so that proper arrangements can be made.

Written comments will also be accepted through Friday July 8, 2016, and should be addressed to the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission, c/o City Traffic Engineering Division, PO Box 2986, Madison WI 53701-2986, or email to traffic@cityofmadison.com.

The results of the public hearing and written comments will be used to develop a list of projects to be considered for inclusion in the 2017-2019 construction work program.

Sounds slightly complicated, doesn't it? What exactly is a "new capital (construction) project"? How much money are we talking about? What happens to your suggestions once they have been submitted to the PBMVC? Is sending your suggestions to PBMVC the most impactful way to improve biking?

Here's our advice:

  • Any input is valuable. The only way that gaps in Madison's bike infrastructure network will be addressed is if the city hears from you. So consider taking the time attending the meeting or submitting your comments in writing.
  • That said, there is no guarantee that your input will lead to action. One of our goals at Madison Bikes is to hold the city accountable for not merely asking for public input but actually transforming it into concrete action. One way to help with this to cc'ing your Alder in your email. You can look up your Alder and their contact information here.

  • Don't assume that someone else has already made the same suggestion. Yes, most likely someone will send in input about the horrible intersection at John Nolen/Blair/Wilson/Williamson. But the more people voice their concern, the more likely it is that something will be done to fix it.

  • Consider including examples of what has worked well. If there is bike infrastructure that you think has worked well and should be considered elsewhere (e.g. bike-specific signals, turn restrictions, a buffered bike lane), mention it in your input. 
  • Try to be specific. Instead of only saying "The intersection at John Nolen is a big mess," consider adding detail, for example "When crossing from the Capital City path towards Machinery Row Bikes, you can't make it across the intersection in one signal phase" or, "Drivers turning across the park into the Law Park parking lot frequently don't pay attention to people cycling on the path."

  • Don't be afraid to think big. Yes, some projects may be "too expensive" or "not politically feasible" right now. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't work on changing that.

  • Don't be afraid to think small. Sometimes it's a little thing that can make your and everyone else's biking experience so much better. A missing curb cut, a traffic signal that doesn't detect bikes, a bike lane that ends just half a block before a popular destination, ...
  • If you have a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member who's interested in biking but thinks it's not safe enough, encourage them to provide input as well. It's important to create facilities that people of all ages and all abilities feel comfortable on.

Here are some text snippets that you can use:

Dear PBMVC members, dear Alder [name]:

Thank you for asking the public for input on improving biking and walking in Madison. 

I’d bike more if [...]

A gap in the system that is a problem for me is [location].

A road that really needs better accommodations for cycling/walking is [...]

I can’t get to [location] by bike because [...]

There needs to be more bike parking in the following public areas [street, park, library, public building, etc.]

[Location] is an intersection/road that is hard to cross, and that keeps me from biking/walking.

Thank you for considering my suggestions.

[Name and full address]

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  • commented 2016-06-29 15:55:05 -0500
    OK, I just have to give some context to that photo at the top. It is the PERFECT example of bad infrastructure, and quite honestly, I can’t believe that no one has sued to get it changed. It looks like they have painted a bike symbol (now almost gone) in the “bike lane.”

    Here’s the rest of the story from the Todd Drive “bike lanes.” http://frontporchcoffeetalk.blogspot.com/2011/06/todd-dr-bike-lanes-are-not.html

    “So imagine my chagrin when I went down to Johannsen’s Greenhouse, next to the rebuilt intersection, and found that the “bike lanes” were to the right of a right-turn-only lane! Uh huh. So you are riding along in the “bike lanes” – note that they are not actually marked as such, because they are in the wrong place – and all those cars are going to be cutting you off to get on the Beltline. Great.

    “So, less than two months after I wrote this, and several years after I brought it up to City, MPO, and State officials (City project, funded by MPO, under a State highway), we have a real life example of the dangers.”
    http://bit.ly/pAzDdp

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