Phew! 2018 is almost over! Another busy year for us and for biking in Madison. A big thanks to everyone who supported us in one way or the other. For an all-volunteer organization, support from the community is key — be it with a one-time or monthly donation, volunteering your skills, joining our newsletter and participating in our action alerts, or just sharing information with us and the community on Facebook or by email. We’re excited to see what 2019 is going to bring, but first let’s look back at 2018.
Some think that January is a quiet month for biking. But for Madison Bikes it was an exciting month, as we welcomed a new cohort of board members: Becky, Liz, Baltazar, and Pepe joined us, and they have been wonderful additions to our organization. January also saw us do a day-long strategic planning exercise to figure out our strengths and weaknesses and to determine short- and long-term goals. And of course our advocacy work never stops, and we kept working toward a better Winnebago Street.
Our first 2018 board meeting! (Photo: Dan Stout)
February means Winter Bike Week in Madison! While there were some seasonal difficulties–the ice on Lake Mendota was too slick for our fat bike sled pull, and at our Monday commuter station is was so cold that the coffee creamer froze within minutes–, I think we had a great week! With the help of our many partners, there were social rides, bike stations, and more on every day of the week. We will be back for another Winter Bike Week in 2019.
A very, very cold Winter Bike Week commuter station (Photo: Peter Gray)
Our advocacy efforts for Winnebago Street continued in March. We attended public meetings, wrote blog posts, and encouraged you to also advocate for the project. Another exciting thing in March was that the city posted the job of Director of Transportation, a position Madison hadn’t had for decades. The job posting was also part of a general reorganization of the city’s decision-making structure on transportation, and we were (and are) optimistic that the changes were a good thing for biking and active transportation in our city.
The Winnebago Street that wasn’t.
April? April. Right, that month that served us a big late-winter snowstorm! And also the month when the big Atwood reconstruction process that had begun in late 2017 started making its way through the city committees. We spent a lot of time and resources on making sure that the new Atwood Avenue wouldn’t just serve car commuters but also people walking and biking and enjoying Olbrich Park.
May is National Bike Month, and it showed: There were a lot of bikey things happening in Madison.
It was definitely the most riveting month for bike advocacy: Because of our tireless work and the support of the community, the Common Council agreed to reconstruct Winnebago with buffered bike lanes. What a disappointment it was then to see Mayor Soglin to use his veto power to block the Council’s decision because he “was never comfortable with the concept of Complete Streets.”
In more positive news, May was also the month when our city’s first LatinX bike club formed: BiciClub Latino de Madison has since organized a whole number of rides and events, and their Facebook community has almost 300 members. A great addition to Madison’s cycling scene!
BiciClub Latino de Madison on one of their rides (Photo: Baltazar de Anda)
May also saw the Wisconsin Bike Summit come back to Madison. Our board member Harald presented on our work with mapping Madison’s low-stress bike network. The low-stress network, i.e. a connected grid of bike facilities that people of all ages and abilities feel safe and comfortable on, is our organization’s top priority, and so it was great to share our work with other advocates from around the state.
Related the low-stress network, national bike advocacy group People for Bikes released their US-wide city rating. The low-stress network makes up a significant chunk of the overall score. Madison did quite well, placing 6th overall. But the fact that we only got 3.2 out of 5 total possible points shows that there is still a lot of room for improvement and work to be done. What really dragged down our overall score was the “acceleration” rating. This is an indicator of how bike infrastructure has improved in the recent past, and Madison just hasn’t kept up with some of its competitors.
One last big event in May was the nomination of Tom Lynch as Madison’s Director of Transportation. Tom previously worked with engineering firm Strand Associates, and he’s a year-round bike commuter.
June’s highlight was Bike Week. Our friends from the Bike Fed again did a great job of putting a huge bundle of events. This was also the first year that Ride the Drive took place during Bike Week. Madison Bikes had a great time hosting ABC Quick Checks at Ride the Drive, and in cooperation with HotelRED we hosted a bike commuter station with excellent coffee and baked goods.
Biking in Madison is pretty good, but only if you don’t compare with the Netherlands. In June, community member Jonathan wrote a series of blog posts about Dutch cycling and what we can learn from them. Highly recommended if you missed them or want to refresh your memory. Part 1, part 2, and part 3.
June also saw the end of an era: It was the very last meeting of the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission. Several of our board members had been on the commission over the years (most recently: our president Grant). So it was bittersweet to see “PBMVC” go and have it and other transportation-related committees be integrated into the Transportation and Planning Policy Board and the Transportation Commission. Bittersweet because we do believe that the reorganization of the city’s departments and commission in the long run is a positive thing.
In the midst of summer, one of our favorite bike trails, the Cap City, was closed for repairs. In a multiyear project, the trail will have its crumbling surface replaced. Little did we know the closure would last much, much longer than planned…
At the Common Council, the Atwood Avenue was approved. We were quite happy with how the plans turned out: While it would have been nice to get safe bike facilities along the whole project, from Fair Oaks to Cottage Grove, the project as approved included many improvements for people biking and walking.
July also saw the release of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Low-Stress Mapping tool. Similar to the People for Bikes tool mentioned above, the MPO analyzed all of Madison’s street and classified them by stress level. Levels 1 and 2 are low-stress, i.e. comfortable to ride on for almost everyone, whereas levels 3 and 4 only work for a small minority of people. It’s amazing to see how many low-stress facilities we already have in Madison — and how by closing a few key gaps we could connect the existing network even better.
August was overshadowed by the big flood. The impact of the flood was with us for months, and some of the impact is still very visible — for example, the Pheasant Branch Trail in Madison is still closed. However, natural disasters also provide an opportunity for the community to come together. For Madison Bikes this was most clearly evidenced by the crowd-sourced map of flooding issues. Started by Madison Bikes community member Paul Wilson, the map was viewed over 90,000 times, with dozens of community members adding information about the current status of paths and roads. As HealthTIDE wrote about the map:
Sharing this kind of timely, actionable information is what Madison Bikes is all about. This, while also giving a place for members to organize their bike advocacy and promote cycling makes them an amazing community resource in Dane County.
The flood brought a lot of destruction, but August also saw great new things: We showed off the new Vilas Park bridges, and the new Crazylegs plaza was finished.
In September, we hosted an awesome party for our members and community. Thanks to Starting Block and American Family Insurance, we got to party in the shiny new Spark Building on East Wash. Thanks for everyone who was able to attend and have a good time with us.
A wonderful Madison Bikes party (Photo: Dan Stout)
We also had the opportunity to participate in a great workshop on the “Art of Bike Commuting” at the Cargo Bike Shop. We know that getting started with bike commuting can be intimidating, and so we were happy to share our knowledge with people new to getting to work by bike.
Speaking of people new to biking: The Tour de la Familia Latina celebrated its first birthday in September. The tour, as well as the Unity Rides that started this year have been great in creating a safe and fun space for people who otherwise maybe wouldn’t ride their bikes. Big kudos to Baltazar for getting the rides off the ground and for the BiciClub Latino for keeping them going for over a year now.
In October, Yang Tao was hired as the city’s new Traffic Engineer. Like his boss Tom Lynch, Yang is another year-round bike commuter and we’ve had many great conversations with him.
An insightful take on equity (and its lack) when it comes to bikes in Madison appeared in the Cap Times in October. As part of the Unity Rides, Baltazar who worked for the Bike Fed and is a Madison Bikes board member, took a reporter on a ride of Madison’s south side and discussed the inequities in our city’s bike infrastructure — and bike advocacy.
Board member Heather demonstrating how to put a bike on a Metro bus rack
In November, we hosted another successful edition of the Winter Bike Fashion Show. Enabling people to bike year-round is a key part of our organization’s vision, and so we were happy to have almost 100 people attend the show and learn from our awesome amateur models. And because especially in winter it can be nice to have the option of taking your bike on the bus, we partnered with Metro. They brought a whole bus to the event so that people could practice using the bike racks without being stressed.
In December there was a lot of advocacy to be done again: The public input process for two key downtown corridors — Wilson and Bassett — started. We spent a lot of time attending meetings and figuring out how to best accommodate riders of all ages and abilities on their way to the economic and cultural heart of our city, the Capitol Square. Stay tuned for more of that in 2019.
Happy New Year!