Action Alert Guest post

Guest post: Keep the Arb to people walking, running, and biking

This is a guest post by Sally Lehner. Sally started a petition to ask the UW-Madison that Arboretum Dr remain open only for people walking, running, and biking past July 31, while the COVID-19 pandemic is going on. You can find the petition here.

Two children and an adult biking on Arboretum Drive

Arboretum Drive was closed to cars in May, early on in the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure was meant to give people more space to safely enjoy the outdoors, without having to worry about traffic. The pandemic isn’t over, but the University wants to reopen the drive to cars on July 31.

I am asking the UW to reconsider this decision and extend the temporary closure until at least regular activities are resuming (i.e. MMSD schools fully reopened in-person, organized sports for kids and adults open and running as usual, gyms reopened fully, community spread of COVID-19 under control etc.).

It has been absolutely wonderful to have Arboretum Drive closed to cars. The road has become an amazing amenity with so many grateful people utilizing it as a sanctuary and place of respite from the COVID-19 pandemic.  This has been especially true for kids confined to online classes with no organized sport activities.

The first time my younger son was able to bike on the road without having to worry about the cars he said: “This is like a short-cut to heaven!”  And it is—and also why almost every day since it’s been closed, I have been using this drive to run and/or bike with my 7 and 11-year-old children.  Without the cars, we are able to keep our distance safely and comfortably from other walkers, joggers and bicyclists.  I can also let my 11-year-old bike up ahead or on his own knowing that the threat of him getting hit by a car is diminished.

The UW’s decision to temporarily close Arboretum Drive to motor vehicles was done for safety reasons. UW-Madison Transportation Services director Patrick Kass at the beginning of the closure said: “With limited options for people to get outside, other recreational activities have definitely seen a spike — particularly people on bikes.”  “We want to provide safe locations for people to do that.” Therefore I’m troubled that a decision is being made now to open the road back up because: 1) it is still heavily used by pedestrians and bikers, much more so than before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2) we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring social distancing, masks, and massive closures of usual business, sports, and community activities.  Local school districts aren’t even able to open doors because community spread is not under control.

Late yesterday afternoon along the drive, around 4:00-5:00 pm, there were children happily riding bikes on training wheels, parents jogging with strollers, older adults on recumbent bikes, triathletes training on their speed bikes, joggers, older adults walking slowly along in pairs at a distance… and most of us weaving in and out of the middle of the street to keep socially distanced from one another.  

It is a dangerous decision to now introduce cars and trucks into the mix, especially just as the university students will be coming back and wanting to take advantage of the Arboretum for exercise and relaxation.

You can sign the petition here:

Weekly Update

Cedar Street, COVID Biking Metrics, Aldo Leopold Pilot Trail, Oscar Mayer

Most of the day to day was excellent for biking if you could put up with the heat and humidity. Lots of people were out on the south west path, but most people were taking it slow to stay cool.

Cedar Street Extension

Last week the Transportation Commission approved a design for the new Cedar Street extension on the south side. This new street is part of the Truman Olson Redevelopment project and will be the main access to the supermarket that will replace the existing Pick’n’Save on Park Street. The approved street design includes on-street car parking for the supermarket and buffered bike lanes on both sides of the street. Traffic Engineering projects that the street will see about 5000 cars per day, which means that the buffered design is necessary to make this a low-stress bike route. Still to be resolved is the crossing of Cedar at Park St. Allowing people to safely walk and bike across the four lanes of Park St is challenging, and the commission and residents testifying didn’t like any of the proposed designs. Engineering will seek additional public input before bringing the design back to the Transportation Commission.

COVID-19 Biking Metrics

Streetlight Data released a report on biking metrics during COVID-19. Based on location data from smart phones and navigation devices, Streetlight compared “bicycle miles traveled” in May 2019 and 2020. For the Madison metro area (which consists of Columbia, Dane, Green, and Iowa counties), they found an increase of 20-49%. How do these numbers compare to the two bike counters on the Southwest Path and Cap City Trail? Our board member Harald took a look: The counters also show an increase compared to last year. But the increase is smaller (9%), and compared to years before 2019, the 2020 numbers are actually lower.

Oscar Mayer Area Plan Adopted

After a very long Madison City Council meeting last week a plan preserving the high density affordable housing for the Oscar Mayer Area was adopted and expanding the preserved wetland open space to 14.1 acres. This plan is expected to create more than 2,500 affordable housing units near Madison’s urban core that will be well connected by transit, biking and walking. In addition, Coolidge street will be restricted to bike and pedestrians to reduced car traffic through the neighborhood.

Aldo Leopold Pilot Trail Project

Madison Parks in conjunction with IMBA is developing a professionally built mountain bike park off the Cannonball Path on the City’s south side. This week good progress was made, the first trail was “burned” in and updated/larger signage will be put up soon. IMBA is also working with City Staff to build skills development features along the trail.

Additional development phases are planned over the next two years. Phase 1 design work will be taking place late summer and through the fall with the goal to build Phase 1 summer 2021. Phase 2 is planned for 2022. Visit Capital Off Road Pathfinders or Facebook to learn more.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.

Bike News

Besides a great week to ride, what’s up this week?

With the heat temporarily behind us—it’s coming back this weekend—we have a great week to get out and ride. We rely on you, our followers and members, to help us know both what’s good about our biking network and what needs to be changed. Our Facebook Group Community is an invaluable resource for both you and us. Although we know that there are still many gaps in our network (we’re working on that) and many places where the infrastructure could be better—places where some may feel comfortable, but others don’t—we also know that more people are biking every day, and we love to see the success stories as well.

I just got back from a little getaway to give myself some relief from the same scenery. I drove to my destination in the UP, and passed through a number of Wisconsin communities that tout their great biking environment. Yet the infrastructure I saw would not be appropriate for families, timid riders, people just getting back on their bikes after decades away, or middle school students trying out their independence. (OK, the kids might be willing to ride on a busy road with just a painted bike lane, but their parents would probably veto the idea.) Whenever I go away, I come back appreciative of the wonderful bike environment we have and heartened by the number and variety of riders I see on the streets.

We know that there is still much to do—we want everyone to feel comfortable biking anywhere, at any time, all year—but sometimes I think we have to pause to appreciate the community we have built, both the human community and the physical community.

What’s up this week?

One of the reasons I thought I should wax on about Madison is that there isn’t much on the calendar, and the Monday update would be pretty short.


The Council will be considering the plan for the former Oscar Mayer site. The Plan Commission has recommended a development plan that went through a thorough vetting with many community groups (including low-income and communities of color, a process led by a wonderful community group) and provides an opportunity to build dense, walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly housing. Part of the property is being preserved as a park, but there are proposals to make this park much larger, an idea that has been opposed by the Parks Department. They do not think there is a need for a larger park, and do not have the funds to develop and maintain the larger site.

Why should bicyclists care? Because if the housing is not built here, it will be pushed out to the periphery, to less multimodal-friendly sites. More habitat will be destroyed on the edge of town, and our biking environment will suffer.

You can register to speak or submit a letter to the Council. Instructions are here.


The Transportation Committee will meet. They will be considering the Cedar Street intersection with Park St. If you can’t picture the location, it’s that weird one where Cargo Coffee is located. More importantly, it’s where the new grocery store for the area will be built, so it’s important that people be able to safely cross Park St. At present, Cedar does not continue across Park St, but it will when that parcel is redeveloped. The crossings proposed were not very good for either pedestrians or bicyclists, so we are hoping a better design is presented.

A proposal will be presented at the meeting to add buffered bike lanes to Cedar St, but there is the perennial conflict with on-street parking, in this case to serve the grocery store. (Personal aside: Aren’t they building parking when the store is built? Why should we sacrifice infrastructure for those walking and biking in order to provide parking for a commercial building?)

Also note that the committee is considering changes to the traffic calming program. A subcommittee has been meeting, and they aren’t ready to present a report, but we’ll be keeping an eye on that.

Down the Bikes—a program run by former MB board member Pepe Barros—will be doing free bike check up at 2613 Stevens St (my driveway) from 8-11 am. They’ll check your bike and see if repairs are needed. If there is time, you can have them do the repairs. We did this last week, and it was very popular. The program runs on a pay-what-you-can model. If you are able to pay for the repairs, or if you just want to make a contribution when they check out your bike, that will enable them to provide services across the community to people who aren’t able to pay.

Also on the horizon

Don’t forget that there is a state primary election coming up on August 11. For some areas, because of a heavily-Democratic electorate and/or a lack of a Republican candidate, this election will likely determine who will be your state representative or senator.

Absentee ballots can be requested and you can check to be sure your registration is up to date at You can also get information on who’s running, where you polling place it located, and all sorts of other useful information.

Your vote is important. Ask questions. And make sure the candidates know you can about transportation issues and how our state money is spent. If you live in Madison, you can also find out about in-person absentee voting, drive-up absentee voting, and all the information you need to vote at the City Clerk’s website. (They always need poll workers too, so you can sign up for that on the Clerk’s website as well.)

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.

Bike News Weekly Update

Monday Update: Wilson St, Vision Zero, Traffic Calming

The resurfacing of the Southwest Path unfortunately got a little delayed by the heavy rains last week. It seems like the contractors were mostly done by Friday, but apparently some work remains to be done. Please respect the closure signs and follow the signed detours.

The old pavement was already ground off last Tuesday.

As of today, there is an extensive public health order in place that require everyone older than 5 to wear masks/face coverings when inside in Madison and Dane County. More and more people have also been biking with face masks, even though that is not required at this point. Madison Bikes is working on making masks and mask DIY kits available to the community — our custom fabric order has just shipped! Stay tuned for more details. Please follow this and all order public health orders to protect yourself and others.

Madison Bikes custom fabric

The new week starts of with the inaugural meeting of a new city subcommittee. The current process by which we/the City decide who does and doesn’t get traffic calming (most often in the form of speed bumps) has been problematic in several regard. Probably some of the readers of this post have tried to get speed bumps on their street, signed a petition in support or opposition, or have shown up to a public hearing on the topic. To fix some of the issues and develop a more systematic and equitable approach to traffic calming, the Traffic Calming Subcommittee was created. (Disclaimer: I’m one of its members). Tonight, Monday 5pm is the committee’s first meeting, and you can watch it online. The full agenda is available here–mostly administrative stuff such as selecting a chair and defining the scope and timeline of the work.

The Common Council meets on Tuesday. One important on the agenda: There will be a vote on the Vision Zero resolution that we mentioned in last week’s update. The Transportation Policy and Planning Board during their meeting last week added an important amendment to the initial resolution, which acknowledges that eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries (the goal of Vision Zero) must not come at the expense of racist traffic enforcement:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Vision Zero Action Plan will document the disproportionate effects of traffic enforcement and the impacts of traffic injuries and fatalities on people of color and that a plan is developed that works to reduce and eliminate those harms; and,

Other cities and organizations, such as Our Streets Minneapolis, the Vision Zero Network, or the Safe Routes Partnership have spoken out strongly about the dangers that traffic stops pose to Black people, Indigenous People, and People of Color, and Madison Bikes shares these concerns. A street on which you’re safe from traffic violence but not from police is not a safe street.

The Transportation Policy and Planning Board is back to a bi-monthly meeting schedule. On Wednesday, some of the items on the agenda are:

  • A presentation on the Department of Transportation’s (DoT) budget request. Our city’s budget is under tremendous financial strain, and we’ll have to see how the DoT is going to prioritize capital and operations expenses for the upcoming budget period. In times of budget crises, there is always a risk that investments in walking and biking will be cut back, even when they only make up a minuscule proportion of transportation spending when compared to the cost of car infrastructure
  • The Wilson Street Corridor Study will be on the agenda once more. We’re getting quite close to finalizing this important bike corridor, and the proposed designs look promising. You can read the full report here. One key recommendation is a two-way cycletrack on Wilson between Broom and Blair!
Screenshot from the Wilson Street Corridor Study, recommending a two-way cycletrack.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.

Bike News

Monday Update: Vision Zero at TPPB, new bike lane on Ingersoll

The Southwest Commuter Path will close today, July 6 through Friday, July 10 at Odana Road to Glenway Street; and Commonwealth Avenue to Prospect Avenue for resurfacing. Follow the detours!

Good news: there is a new counterflow bike lane on Ingersoll between Gorham and Sherman. While this is a short segment, it adds important infrastructure in crossing the isthmus safely.

This Week

On Monday, July 6, the Transportation Policy and Planning Board will meet. On the agenda includes the adoption and endorsement of a Vision Zero policy. Vision Zero is a framework that recognizes that humans will make errors and that all traffic deaths are preventable, specifically through better systems. Since the adoption of Vision Zero, cities such as Oslo, Norway eliminated all pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

Madison Bikes strongly supports Vision Zero, with the belief that police enforcement should not be a part of achieving this goal. Enforcement places BIPOC people at disproportional risk of violence at the hands of the police. Smart engineering and offering safe, convenient alternatives to driving is the best way to avoid the most common way Americans interact with the police – traffic stops – as well as to keep all road users safe. The Madison Bikes board will be releasing a statement about Vision Zero soon.

On Wednesday, July 8, the Board of Public Works will meet. A number of projects will be featured, including roadway geometry around Fish Hatchery-South Park Street; developments around McCormick Ave/Commercial Ave; Kipp Street; and 4003 E. Washington Ave. have new bike and pedestrian infrastructure proposed.


One of our community members, Margie Franzen, is inviting everyone to join for a virtual book club on August 14 at 7 pm. The book is Cyclescapes of the Unequal City. A Look at Bicycles and Gentrification. The Facebook event is here.

New website

As you may have noticed, we recently launched our new website. This took a great deal of effort, including from a few super-volunteers, to make the back-end migration a success. This is one of many ways volunteers can help Madison Bikes with our mission – if you want to get more involved, sign up today!

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.