Madison Bike Week is from June 1 through June 8, 2024!
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Bike News

Weekly update: Lots of people biking, but not many city meetings

If anyone was out this weekend—by any mode—you probably saw a whole lot of people out biking. It is such a joy to see families and slow bicyclists on the streets, trails, and even the sidewalks. When a city has people of all ages and abilities using the public spaces, then it is a good clue that the city is bike friendly.

But how to accommodate all those people when we are supposed to be keeping farther apart? City staff have taken steps to give us more space, and some of the authorized temporary biking and walking spaces have been put in place. The new lane on Atwood near Olbrich Park, barricades to prevent all-but-local vehicular traffic on the Mifflin bike boulevard, and wider shoulders for runners or passing on the Lake Monona Path through Law Park are going to be a big relief to folks. But there are still so many pinch points where runners, strollers, dog walkers, and fast and slow bicyclists are forced into proximity.

The city is asking for your opinion about additional areas that need more space. Where are you seeing problems on your regular rides or in your neighborhood?

If you can—if you are a confident bicyclist—consider taking a different route via local streets rather than the paths as the weather warms and more people haul their bikes out of storage. The families and less-experienced bicyclists, as well as those on foot, will appreciate the consideration and additional space.

Want to know when the paths are less crowded? Here’s some data from the counters and the SW Path at Monroe and Regent and the Lake Monona Path at North Shore:

Is it possible some of these changes will stay after people go back to work, stores open up, and there is more car traffic on the roads? Hard to say. But there is already a plan–passed before the current situation–to improve the stretch of Atwood next to Olbrich Park. You can see the plans below, or take a look at all the city documents online.

The week ahead

In case you missed the memo, all city meetings are happening online, but you can still register to speak, listen in, and see all the documents. There aren’t any transportation-related meetings this week, as the Transportation Commission meeting has been cancelled. Just in case you want to watch a city meeting, you can find the schedule, agendas, and links on the city’s website.

Our monthly Madison Bikes Community Meeting—which would normally happen on Monday, April 27—is being postponed two weeks. We will be rolling out more advocacy efforts, and we want you to participate. After all, it’s our members, followers, and volunteers that make us strong, and we can’t do it without you. So mark your calendar for Monday, May 11 for the advocacy-oriented Community Meeting. We’ll give you all the details about how to participate.

Now that construction season is upon us, we will have to contend with some detours. With construction on McKee Rd (Cty Hwy PD)–including a new bridge for the trail over the road–there will be a detour for the Badger Trail starting Monday from the Bicycle Underound (junction of Cap City, SW, Cannonball, and Badger Trails) to Subzero Parkway. The detour will utilize the Cannonball/Military Ridge Trail and local streets and will be signed. PDFs of the detour are available on our Facebook Community Group. Because the intersection of Seminole Hwy and McKee is also part of the project, Seminole might not be a great option in that area either.

Also Monday, if you want to hear what cities around the country are doing to give people more space during the pandemic, the National Complete Streets Coalition will be holding a webinar at 12:30 pm CT.

For the future – virtual biking-themed bookclub!

Thank you to everyone who showed interest in our virtual bookclub! We will kick off the bookclub by reading How Cycling Can Change the World by Peter Walker. If you are interested in participating, contact Marybeth McGinnis (marybeth@madisonbikes.org). We will meet on Thursday, May 21 at 7pm. More info to come – please join us!

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at info@madisonbikes.org to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.

Categories
Bike News

Weekly Update: The streets are open; Garver Path

Happy Earth Day! This year marks the 50th anniversary of the worldwide day to celebrate environmental protection. The Nelson Institute at the UW (named after Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin Senator who created Earth Day) is hosting a virtual conference to mark the occasion today: https://earthday.nelson.wisc.edu/

Another thing to celebrate: As of last Friday, the City has started opening up some of our city streets to people walking, rolling, and biking! By restricting motor vehicle traffic to only local traffic, people now have the space they need to maintain physical distancing. More projects, including Atwood Ave, are in the pipeline already, and the City is asking for suggestions which streets would make good additional candidates. Send your suggestions by email! Another improvement in this area is the creation of new gravel shoulders on the Cap City Trail in Law Park. Work on these is starting today (April 20) and will last about three days. Thanks to everyone who helped to make this happen! If you live outside the City of Madison and would like to convince your local officials to do something similar, consider signing the Bike Fed’s statewide petition.

And if you’re a healthcare worker, you can get a free Madison BCycle membership. With reduced Metro Service, the BCycle system is an even more important part of our transportation system, and the stations are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Interested in reading books about biking and talking about them? Madison Bikes is hosting a virtual book club! Sign up here by April 27 and vote for which book you’d like to read. Candidates are:

Common Council Meeting

All transportation-relevant city committee meetings have been cancelled this week with the exception of the Common Council meeting on Tuesday. There are three transportation topics on the agenda: The Council will vote on the final design for the Garver Path. This new path will connect the Cap City Trail near Olbrich Gardens with Milwaukee Street — and at some point in the future maybe with a new trail to Sun Prairie. Path construction will probably take place next year.

Also on the agenda for approval is the University Ave reconstruction between Shorewood Blvd and University Bay Dr. From a bike perspective, there is little to be excited about with the project: By and large the reconstruction won’t change the character of the car-centric street: All three travel lanes will remain general travel lanes, with no bike or bus lanes. There are some improvements for people walking, i.e. a new sidewalk on the north side, a slightly widened sidewalk on the south side, and a few small improvements to the crossings. One piece of the project that could be good for people on bikes: A planned overpass of University Bay Drive, connecting the Campus Dr bike path with the Blackhawk Path. This is currently a busy at-grade crossing. Additional turn lanes from University Ave and a parking ramp that the VA Hospital is going to build will make crossing even more difficult. Therefore an overpass is proposed as part of the project (see image below). Because of space constraints (part of the land is owned by the VA), the current design includes sharp turns and a lack of good connections between the path and University Bay Dr. And even the current design isn’t guaranteed to be built as part of the current project.

The third transportation item on the agenda is the confirmation of the new Metro Transit General Manager, Justin Stuehrenberg. Stuehrenberg was heavily involved in Indianapolis’s bus network redesign and creation of their Bus Rapid Transit System. In a profile article, he cites a trip to Germany in 2007 as his inspirational moment: “Seeing cities in rural Germany with much lower density than Indianapolis operating robust transit systems struck a chord for me. I saw young kids able to navigate their cities, older adults not reliant on others, and everyone, regardless of economic status, with the ability to get to work. I knew that I wanted that for Indy.”

If you want to provide public comment to the Common Council, register here. Full meeting agenda here.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at info@madisonbikes.org to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.

Categories
In The News

Madison traffic lanes to close to help cyclists and pedestrians keep social distance – WKOW 27 News

Robbie Webber of the advocacy group Madison Bike says bicycle volume on city paths was high before the pandemic. People are now seeking an exercise outlet in the face of significant restrictions in an effort to thwart the spread of the coronavirus. “You throw in the need to stay six feet or more apart and you have a real problem.”

Robbie Webber

Categories
Bike News

Weekly update: our letter to the City and of course, more COVID-19

Person riding family cargo bike in front of Wisconsin State Capitol

We might be social distancing, but Jake Foley sent us this photo of his family enjoying an Easter ride downtown.

COVID-19 and social distancing continue. Because I worked at the polls, I’m currently completely quarantined in my apartment. My biking activity is limited to sadly looking at my locked-up bike from my fire escape – but for those of you allowed to leave the house, stay safe out there and read our updates below!

Madison Bikes letter to the City of Madison on creating space for people during COVID-19

Madison Bikes sent a letter to the City of Madison supporting the idea of opening some lanes and roads to pedestrians and bicycles during the pandemic. These proposals are not meant to encourage group rides or group walks. Across the city, there are severely reduced traffic volumes and a need for folks to be able to safely exercise, as well as for essential workers to get to work across the city, especially with restrictions placed on buses. We believe the City should follow in lead of other cities like Oakland in opening roads to people. Consider, for example, that the average sidewalk is less than 6 feet wide; without opening streets to people, it is impossible for folks to walk to work, the grocery store, or walk their dog without passing close to others.

Transportation Commission

The Transportation Commission will meet virtually at 5 pm on Wednesday. If you have never been to a Transportation Commission meeting (or any other City meetings), this is a great opportunity. Expect to hear updates from the staff about the work that has been done thus far to address COVID-19 impacts. The Commission will also discuss the Garver Path and the proposed University Avenue reconstruction, which includes a multi-use overpass. We’ve written about this project before.

You can register to speak at this virtual meeting.

If you enjoy being able to access these meetings from your home, consider letting the City know that you would appreciate this service after the pandemic. Virtual meetings are great for parents, folks who live far from the Capitol (especially those dependent on bikes and buses for transit), people with disabilities, and more.

Staying safe while riding

More vulnerable riders, such as those with children, may feel more comfortable on the bike paths. If you are a more experienced rider, consider riding on streets when possible, as paths have at times been crowded. If you usually feel intimidated by riding on the road, we recommend giving it a try – lower car traffic means a lower-stress ride! If you’re looking for tips and tricks, we recommend joining our Facebook group.

Governor Evers has closed 40 state parks, forests, and recreational areas due to “unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism and the need to protect the health and safety of…visitors and staff.” Trails and other areas that are maintained by Dane County and the City of Madison remain open, but your help is needed to keep these places available. When you ride or walk in these areas, give people at least 6 feet of space. Only pass when you can pass everyone near you with at least 6 feet of space. Wear a cloth mask, stay home if you or someone in your household feels sick, and remain patient. Remember that many of us are cooped up inside, including those with kids. If you are riding recreationally or for mental health, try to choose times that are less busy.

Need a bike or a tune up?

As a reminder, bike shops are deemed essential businesses. Before turning to your local shop, refer to our map for more information. We appreciate any updates you may have about the status of bike shops. Please keep staff safe by washing your hands, disinfecting your bike before dropping it off, wearing a cloth mask, and keeping your distance. We encourage you to give your business to these shops.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at info@madisonbikes.org to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.
Categories
Bike News

Creating space for people during COVID-19

Walking, rolling, and biking remain important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Madisonians need to have enough space to stay mobile while being able to maintain physical distancing. This has become increasingly difficult. Yesterday, Madison Bikes submitted a letter to the City, requesting the creation of more space for people by re-allocating underused space from cars. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have been way down, and this provides an opportunity to restrict motor vehicle access and open up room for those walking, rolling, and biking. Of course, City resources are strained, and so we also offered our help. We can leverage the power of our community to mobilize volunteers, connect to local businesses who can provide barriers, gather feedback from and get messages out to the community. And we have already heard back that “Mayor Satya has directed staff look into these opportunities and we are working on some potential projects. Some top locations suggested by you coincide with our recommendations as well. We hope to share more information and potentially implement some of these very soon.” Read our letter below:

To: Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway
Tom Lynch, Director of Transportation
Yang Tao, City Traffic Engineer

Subject: Creating Space for Rolling, Walking, and Biking During COVID-19

Dear Madam Mayor, dear Tom, dear Yang:
The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous challenges for our city that impact almost every aspect of daily life, including transportation. Governor Evers’s Safer at Home orders and current recommendations from our public health authorities allow people to use the many shared use paths in our city while practicing physical distancing. Madison has many people who already commute and travel to essential businesses by bicycle, and reduced Metro service has further increased the number of people who rely on bikes for transportation. The warmer weather has also increased the number of people using these paths and trails for walking and other activities to the point that it is becoming difficult to impossible to use these facilities while maintaining the required physical distance.

We greatly appreciate the measures you have already taken, such as changing signal cycles, deactivating “beg buttons,” and public outreach campaigns to promote safe and healthy behavior. However, there are limits to what those measures can achieve. We encourage the City of Madison to identify select streets and lanes where motor vehicle traffic can be restricted in order to alleviate crowding on sidewalks and multi-use paths.

Madison Bikes, on behalf of our hundreds of members and thousands of people who use bikes for transportation or recreation in our City, request that you take bold steps to address the crowding on our paths and trails. Allowing crowding on our paths and trails is inconsistent with the recommendations of public health professionals, and closing or banning the use of the trails is inconsistent with our community’s values toward equity, sustainability, and the health benefits of walking and biking. Fortunately Madison has extensive experience closing streets and car lanes so that bikes and pedestrians can use this public space, from the annual Ride the Drive events to our frequent marathons, triathlons and other public events.

Some areas that we have received specific feedback about and that we think may be good candidates for temporary closures:

  • Cap City Trail from Williamson North Shore (and potentially Olin Park): To separate people on bikes and walking, repurpose a travel lane on John Nolen Drive, similar to what has been done during construction and flooding. Crowding is a huge issue here, it is an important transportation corridor, and there are no good alternative routes
  • Vilas Park Dr and Arboretum Dr: These low traffic routes would be easy to block off and increase the availability of park and recreation space
  • Atwood Avenue: Sidewalks are narrow, the parallel Cap City Trail is crowded, and adjacent park land reduces parking and driveway access issues
  • Outer Capitol Loop: Consider maintaining the time-restricted bike lane all day
  • Areas without a terrace between sidewalk and the roadway, or where sidewalks do not exist at all
  • Access routes to hospitals and medical facilities
  • Multi-lane roadways that have excess capacity for moving or parked vehicles
  • Areas of the city with a high proportion of transit-dependent residents

Madison Bikes is prepared to help in this effort. We understand that you face constraints in terms of staff time, availability of materials, and competing priorities. As an all-volunteer non-profit dedicated to making Madison a community where anyone can ride a bicycle conveniently and comfortably to any place year round, we want to do our part. In the past Madison Bikes and our strong community have been a part of many efforts to promote and encourage people to bike even during difficult times. Madison Bikes has helped to identify impacted bike facilities and alternate routes during the 2018 flooding as well as working with the City and our partners on community-wide events like Madison Bike Week. We offer our assistance in identifying the paths, trails, and routes most impacted by crowding and working with our partners to find local equipment and volunteers to deploy street and lane closures. We have already begun to identify potential partners who can provide barricades and traffic cones used for events such as the Madison Marathon and are ready to offer the same volunteer force we have used at previous events. We will continue to work closely with you to amplify public health messaging about safe and healthy behaviors. We look forward to helping Madison respond to COVID-19 and address our short and long-term needs for healthy and safe transportation options.

Respectfully,

Harald Kliems, on behalf of the Madison Bikes Board of Directors

Categories
Bike News

Weekly Update: Spring election, and (of course) COVID-19

Since everything is effectively canceled for the foreseeable future, this will be a bit of a short update. Bike shops are able to remain open under the Governor’s Safer At Home order, but they are all operating with precautions in place to protect public health and the health of their employees. Madison Bikes, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Bike Fed, has created a statewide visual map of bike shops dedicated to information about how your local bike shop is operating during these difficult times. The page is constantly updated as new information rolls in.

Speaking of the Bike Fed: They have just launched a new website! Looks pretty slick and has lot of content. Check it out.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin’s Spring Election and Presidential Preference Vote is set to go forward, with curbside voting available at all of Madison’s polling locations. Biking to the curbside voting station is an option. Voters are being encouraged to bring their own blue or black ballpoint pens. The election results are set to be announced April 13 to allow for people who requested absentee ballots by last Friday to fill them out and mail them in. Some voting locations have changed, so please check this map or enter your address here.

In addition, biking has been listed as an appropriate activity, when practiced alone or within a household, and adhering to appropriate social distancing, during this crisis. In order to make sure people stay safe, the city has posted signs by all its paths in an attempt to educate path users on proper distancing during this pandemic. Madison Bikes President Harald Kliems used himself to demonstrate what six feet means on a path, and the post was even retweeted by none other than Gary Fisher, the legendary bike maker!

On our Facebook Group there have been a lot of discussions on how to bike, roll, walk, and run safely and courteously. And the City has put together these guidelines (en español).

Some tips:

  • stay single file
  • consider avoiding the paths and ride in the streets if you’re comfortable doing so (much less car traffic than usual!)
  • ride the paths early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds
  • discover some less popular paths
  • slow down

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at info@madisonbikes.org to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.

Categories
Bike News

Make a paper bike, or: Finding community during social distancing times

The other day, I noticed a neighbor had put a lot of paper hearts in her porch window. Two days later I noticed that the neighbors across the street had painted hearts on their windows facing the house with the paper hearts. I came home and started sifting through my crafting supplies to find some colored paper to decorate my windows with paper hearts.

These past two weeks have been a little more screen heavy with my kiddos than I would like to admit. I have joined social distancing parenting groups on Facebook, trying to find the best practices for home educating kiddos during this weird time. I need my children to log onto their tablets, and chromebooks to occupy themselves so I can buy time to process this new world we live in, out of their view. My husband works from home, and aside from all his trips cancelling, nothing has changed much with his job. ( Thank god!) He gets up, makes the family breakfast, and excuses himself to work in our four years old’s bedroom. He was previously working from our living room- but in doing so, was confining the rest of the family and the dog to the basement or the bedrooms. Dad’s office had to move. I am not able or willing to quiet my rambunctious kiddos during this time that we are all confined to our home.

We have it a lot easier than most families right now. We have a huge yard, a playset, a basement filled with legos, and a (pandemic impulse purchase) 14 foot trampoline. I am trying to get my husband on board with building a backyard pump track, but no luck yet. He has been building wooden obstacles for riding mountain bikes on, but they admittedly are pretty sketch. The wood he is using has been out in the backyard for a few years, and wobbles too much for my taste. Pump tracks are stable! It’s compacted dirt! We have a big yard and wiggly children and are my husband and I are a couple that happens to have an enormous amount of energy! This is not a new push from me- it is not the result of pandemic panic, not from fear of never getting to ride bikes with friends in the woods again- I want a pump track in our yard because I want one. We are both mountain bikers, but the kids have little interest in hitting the (currently closed) trails. They have fun when they get there, but the struggle is real to get out to the trails without a tantrum. A pump track in the yard solves everything! The kids get to jump, or swing, or do whatever they want while we get to play bikes around them! No neglecting or ignoring necessary! We will see what they are doing as we look through our turns!

I am not sure I am going to get my pump track, so back to the paper hearts. Our one neighbor put up paper hearts, the neighbor across the street painted hearts, and it inspired me to put up paper hearts on our porch windows as well. As I was cutting away at the paper hearts, I started to think about other shapes that we could decorate the windows with. I always have bikes on the brain, so I started crafting a paper bicycle to join my paper hearts . Then, I made some paper trees for my bikes to adventure through. I feel connected to my neighbors though these hearts. It brightens my day, and gets the kiddos out on walks. These hearts are like little high fives, or hugs from my community. These neighbors putting hearts on their windows make me feel joy, hope, and I love that they spent the time to send this energy out to the world.

I have heard in (much) bigger cities, the bike paths are closed. It is a direct result of too many people on the path at the same time. I rode by the Cap City Trail the other day, and it was packed. People enjoying their bikes or runs without a care in the world. It looked normal. Too normal. I counted the number of times my nose ran on my bike ride. I remembered the last time I went on a group ride with pals ( on a frozen Lake Monona) and all the snot rockets that were blown. So. Much. Mucus. It is nearly impossible for me to ride a bike and not get mucusy. Snot rockets are always an issue if you are too close to other people. Now they are especially dangerous, not just gross. No more acting like Puck from the Real World: San Francisco. Keep your snot inside your homemade face mask that you crafted together with friends on Zoom.

Riding off the crowded bike paths is important right now. Meandering through the different neighborhoods in our city on the streets is much safer than the amazing paths that our fair city boasts. Get lost in your city. Find new routes. Look up and notice paper hearts or paper bikes along the way. Notice these intentional reminders that you are not alone right now. Make paper hearts and paper bikes to socially-distant embrace your community. Social distancing is important, so that one day we get to ride bikes together like we did last year.