The warm weather this weekend was a pleasant surprise. Hopefully you have an opportunity to get out side and take advantage of it. This mild weather makes for a great smooth transition to fall riding gear.
This is community input meeting for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan impacting the west side. The city is seeking feedback on changes to accommodate center running bus lanes on Mineral Point Road and Whitney Way. The proposed center running bus lane plan for Whitney Way is a win-win for bikes and BRT. However, the recommended changes to Mineral Point Road are a compromise between BRT operations and bike facilities (see below for more details).
Mineral Point Road
The following graphic shows the proposed Mineral Point Road cross section with center running BRT lanes. The original proposal maintained the current shared bus/bike lane with separate BRT facilities on each side of the road. The proposed change removes the shared bus/bike lane and replaces it with a widened sidewalk on one side. The proposed changes can be summarized as good for BRT and so-so for bikes. I acknowledge there aren’t a whole lot of options available to accommodate two car travel lanes and bike facilities without 1) widening the road (which is expensive) or 2) significantly expanding the sidewalk/path (which the city can’t do). However, I am concerned a shared sidewalk on one side is not a good option for pedestrians or cyclists. This would be a good meeting to attend if you use the bike facilities on Mineral Point Road and could provide feedback to make this work for both BRT and bikes (like Whitney Way).
With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been enjoying, I hope everyone has gotten a chance to take a joyful ride through the city or surrounding farms. Maybe this is a little gift for the horrible year we’ve had to endure. We all know that riding all winter is not only possible, but can even be fun. And we are here to help you with that via more upcoming Winter Bike videos. But isn’t it nice to not need fenders, extra sweaters, and big gloves in late November?
The coming week
Monday, Madison Bikes will host their monthly community meeting at 6:00 pm. This month’s topic is “BRT and Bikes and Madison, Oh My.” As the city continues to plan for Bus Rapid Transit, there are opportunities to better integrate bicycling and transit use. For instance, bikes will be able to roll onto the BRT vehicles, so you won’t have to use an outside rack.
But there could be conflicts as well. The city is trying to balance speed for the BRT via exclusive lanes, parking, and bike facilities. The discussions have been good, and keeping bike facilities on the major BRT corridors looks more likely than a year ago. But we should be aware of these issues. So join us to hear how to get involved.
Other things on the horizon
With Thanksgiving later this week, the city calendar is quite empty. But there are some pending issues we should keep an eye on as well as some decisions that will affect bicycling.
Gorham Street resurfacing is scheduled for spring 2021. At present, there are bike lanes only from Brearly westward. However, there are no bike lanes from Baldwin to Brearly. There was a neighborhood meeting last week, and you can view the slides from the meeting here. The option presented to the Transportation Commission after the neighborhood meeting has continuous bikes lanes from Baldwin the way to University Ave. But this will require removing some parking, so there will likely be opposition from surrounding residences.
The Bassett Street parking-protected bike lane has been in place for a year now. At the Transportation Commission, the consensus was that it has been a success, so it will become permanent. Eventually it will be extended past W Washington. If you are interested in looking at the presentation from the meeting, you can find it here.
The city survey on shared streets ends on December 1, so if you haven’t filled it out, you still have time to voice your opinion. The city experimented with limiting access on some streets to only one-way, local traffic, or only non-motoritzed users during COVID. Examples include E Mifflin, West Shore Dr, South Shore Dr, and Sherman Ave. Atwood next to Olbrich Park also had a lane rearrangement to try a physically-separated bike lane. If you liked these trials and want to see more, or see them become permanent, speak up!
One of the roads that was closed to motor vehicle traffic during the summer was Vilas Park Drive through Vilas Park. The city plans to reopen the road to drivers as winter approaches, but the petition to keep it closed already has over 370 signatures. If you want to add your name, here’s the link.
I hope everyone has a wonderful, joyful, safe, and bike-tastic Thanksgiving. In these tough times, I’m thankful that Madison is such a great place to get outside by bike, because that’s kept me sane this year.
While the bike paths have gotten noticeably emptier after the beautiful weather we had earlier, the calendar for next week looks surprisingly busy! Let me walk through everything that’s going on.
Speaking of empty paths: We at Madison Bikes firmly believe that biking can be a year-round activity. In past years, we have hosted the Winter Bike Fashion Show, an event where Madisonians who already ride in the cold show off their approach to all-year riding and answer the questions of the winter-bike-curious. An in-person event is not an option this year, and so we’re creating a series of short videos about fall, winter, and spring riding. We published the first episode, on fall riding, last week. Watch it here. And a big thank you to Eleanor Conrad and Eric Grycan who produced much of the video. More episodes still to come.
On Monday night, you have to choose between three options:
The Transportation Policy and Planning Board (TPPB) is having its regular meeting. Some items on their agenda:
Vehicle Miles Traveled update: Way back in 2009, then-Alder Satya Rhodes-Conway introduced a resolution to the Common Council that would have set a goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 25% by 2020. During the legislative process, the resolution got watered down significantly, and the final version no longer contained that 25% reduction goal. All that remained was a mandate to produce annual reports, “describing trends in traffic and mass transit volumes, including, to the extent possible, aggregate vehicle-miles traveled (VMT).” It seems like even this weak goal of annual reports was abandoned after a few years, but now the TPPB is receiving an update. Did we reach a 25% reduction? Well, we don’t know sure, but looking at things like traffic counts, it looks like VMT have hardly shrunk at all. Driving is alive and well.
On-street parking goals: There’s an on-going effort to change the residential parking permit program, as part of a larger rethinking about we use the public right of way. In certain parts of the city, the RP program provides local residents the option to store their car on the street, whereas “commuters” don’t have that option. The permits costs a mere $3.50 per month — less than what it costs the City in administrative costs…
Bus Rapid Transit: There will be an update on the routing of the initial BRT line, mostly around the question of “center-running” bus lanes on parts of the corridor. One thing important for people on bikes: Whereas side-running bus lanes allow for the option to have a shared bus/bike lane, center-running takes away that option, and unless we reduce the space for motor vehicles, it is challenging to create safe and comfortable bike infrastructure.
Speaking of BRT: There is a public input meeting specifically about the plans for East Washington Ave on Monday night as well, starting at 6 pm. The currently favored alternative would have buses running in the center, and the outside lanes, which currently are parking/bike lanes, would be turned into general travel lanes during rush between Blount and Milwaukee. In other words, when traffic volumes are highest, there would be no bike accommodations whatsoever. Or as the report says, “During peak hours, cyclists would need to travel within the general purpose travel lane, or use a parallel route such as the Capital City trail or the Mifflin Street bike boulevard.” Sign up for the meeting here.
Finally, Monday is also the day for the Vilas Park Master Plan public input meeting. You can find all the details in the blog post that we published yesterday. Sign up here for the meeting here. Somewhat related to the meeting, a reminder that you can sign a petition to keep cars off Vilas Park Drive (this is not part of the master plan).
On Wednesday, the Transportation Commission is meeting. Some bike-relevant things on the agenda:
Update on the Parking Protected Bike Lane Project on Bassett Street. If you have feedback on Madison’s only(?) parking-protected bike lane, email TransportationCommission@cityofmadison.com or sign up to speak at the meeting. This project was a temporary arrangement to test how it would work, and it’ll be good to get feedback from those who have actually used it.
Gorham Street resurfacing: There will be an update on this project. Gorham Street was identified as a missing link in Madison’s bike network. Several blocks don’t have any bike infrastructure at all, and the rest of it has a narrow combined parking/bike lane. The Transportation Commission asked staff to look into options for improving this, and we’ll see what they were able to come up with.
On Wednesday is aninformational meeting about the “Nine Springs Valley Interceptor.” This is a construction project by the Sewerage District — which will unfortunately close down parts of the Military Ridge and Cannonball paths at the “Velo Underround” for the better part of a year. The closure starts on December 7 and you can find detour maps here.
On Thursday at 7pm, Madison Bikes is co-hosting a meet and greet with the General Manager of Metro Transit, Justin Stuehrenberg. Justin started his job this year, amidst the pandemic, and the Madison Area Bus Advocates invited him to a meet and greet that will allow you to ask questions. Find more information and a registration link here.
On Saturday it’s time for Cranksgiving. This food-drive-meet-alley-cat-race is organized by the Trek Stores this year. I haven’t seen anything about a possible cancellation, but given the current public health situation, please check in with the organizers to see if anything has changed. Sign up here.
Finally, a reminder to take the Shared Streets Survey that the City has put together. Except for the Vilas Park Drive, the Shares Streets program has been ended for the winter, and the survey is a great way to provide feedback on what the program should look like next year.
This is a guest post by Jim Lorman. Jim is Professor Emeritus at Edgewood College, and he represents the Greenbush Neighborhood Association on the Vilas Park Master Plan Resident Resource Group. We asked Jim to provide an update on the Vilas Park Master plan ahead of the public input on meeting on Nov 16 (see end of the post for details). Jim also started a petition to continue keeping Vilas Park Drive as a shared street closed to motor vehicles.
There is a lot for bicycle advocates to like about the final draft of the Vilas Park Master Plan, including a major reconstruction of Vilas Park Drive into a largely multi-use path, and an improved bike and pedestrian entrance on Drake Street. On the down side for motorless motion advocates, expanded parking lots are proposed near the entrance to the zoo and near Vilas Beach.
Community input to the plan has been underway since the first public meeting in June of 2019, and is expected to wrap up with approval of a final plan by the Board of Park Commissioners early next year. There are many issues at play in the draft plan – what I’ve selected here are what I believe to be of most interest to the Madison Bikes community.
The final draft design proposes to replace the main vehicle entrance at Drake and Randall with a separate pedestrian and bicycle gateway (“G” in graphic above, at a mysteriously-proposed new possible location of Annie Stewart Fountain). Car access would be relocated to a new entrance/exit on Drake opposite Campbell (lefthand “G”).
The parking lots in this area (“P”) would be greatly expanded. This has been a source of continuing contention among those who greatly value the green space that would be lost along South Randall, particularly nearby homeowners. The current drive and diagonal parking that exits to the Drake/Grant intersection (upper left corner above) to the west would be converted to a path with more adjacent green space.
For those of us who feel that motor vehicles have become overly dominant in our transportation planning and public spaces, perhaps the most positive aspect of the draft master plan is the proposal to reconstruct much of Vilas Park Drive into a multi-use path (“N” in the graphic below). This design option, which has received overwhelming community support, will restrict motor traffic from using a large segment of the shoreline, allowing motor vehicle access to the beach and the main park shelter only from the east.
The strong support for this design can be seen as one of the few good things to come out of the horrific Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to the motor vehicle restriction associated with the City’s Shared Streets program, 96% of all motor vehicle traffic along Vilas Park Drive was commuter and other pass-through traffic, amounting to more than 200 cars per hour during the afternoon commute. Over half of those vehicles were recorded as exceeding the speed limit of 25 mph, much too fast for a lane shared by walkers, runners, and bikers traveling in two directions.
The exclusion of pass-through motor vehicles resulted in a major transformation of this Vilas Park lakeshore area to a vibrant multi-generational public space for people with many interests and all abilities. There has been a dramatic increase in its use by pedestrians, bicyclists, and other park users, including small children riding scooters and bikes with training wheels; adults with walkers and canes; people with wheelchairs; and people hammocking, picnicking, and fishing along the Lake Wingra shoreline.
Although the final draft of the Vilas Park Master Plan proposes to permanently restrict motor vehicles from driving through the entirety of Vilas Park Drive, it will be at least 2024 until that design is implemented. Meanwhile, however, the Shared Streets program has been terminated for the year; and the City is considering opening up Vilas Park Drive to commuter and other through traffic this winter. The Board of Parks Commissioners will likely be taking this issue up at its December meeting, after it was referred to them by the Transportation Commission on Oct 28.
In response to this, many of us are advocating for keeping the current restriction on drive-through traffic until the proposed reconstruction can occur. Separate from the public input associated with the Master Plan process itself, we are distributing a petition asking the Parks Department to keep the current motor vehicle restriction on pass-through traffic on Vilas Park Drive during the upcoming winter months and until the Master Plan is eventually implemented.
Key points in support for this are:
The pre-pandemic motor vehicle situation along Vilas Park Drive was untenable, endangering the safety of our community and deterring the use of the drive and adjacent park shoreline by park users. A decision to return to that situation now, after the demonstrated success of the current Shared Streets configuration, would be dangerous and irresponsible.
It is important to have continuity in the restriction on cut-through motor vehicle traffic. As a result of the current barriers, motor vehicle commuters have found alternative routes; non-motorized park users are able to fully utilize the park and Lake Wingra shoreline area in myriad ways that are comfortable and more enjoyable than ever before.
While park usage (including bicycle and pedestrian traffic) does drop significantly in winter weather, many people continue to use the area in a variety of ways, especially on nicer winter days and in early spring. Younger children, older people, and people with disabilities will be the first to stop using the drive and adjacent shoreline if commuter and other pass-through motor vehicles are allowed again.
Motor access to the shoreline and the ice skating shelter can occur without allowing pass-through motor vehicle traffic along Vilas Park Drive. There are alternatives and accommodation options available that could be implemented easily and without great expense. For example, relocating the eastern barrier further west would allow more convenient access to the shelter (to the lot by the boat landing or even to the shelter lot itself).
While there may be minor challenges in accommodating all of this, these are not serious obstacles that justify allowing cut-through motor vehicles into the park.
The Parks Division and its consultants will hold a community input meeting via Zoom at 6:00-7:30 pm on Monday, November 16. Here is the agenda for the meeting, and you can register here. (Pre-registration is required.
What a wild week: yes, there was an election, but there was also 70 degree weather in November. A bit concerning, but I hope every Wisconsinite was able to get out on bike before the temperature dips down again.
Madison’s Shared Streets program has ended for the winter. Early into the COVID-19 pandemic, the city restricted traffic on a number of streets Atwood Avenue, Mifflin Street, and Vilas Park Drive. This program was similar to many programs in other cities. On a personal note, I use the Mifflin Bike Boulevard nearly daily; amazingly, the simple ‘Road Closed’ barrier made such a substantial difference in not only my physical safety but in my mental health. We encourage every Madison Bikes community members to reply to the city’s survey (in English and in Spanish) and to consider what it means to riders – and not-yet riders – to have streets with slow-moving, safer traffic patterns.
Madison city budget discussions start this week, with a meeting held on Tuesday that includes public testimony, and meetings on Wednesday and Thursday without public comment. As we discussed at a previous Community Meeting, the Madison budget is relatively good for biking investment. However, we also discussed how city officials are most often used to hearing from members of the public who disagree with proposals. We encourage reaching out to your alder to support budget items such as Vision Zero and bike infrastructure – in a tough budget year, this helps to reduce the chances of these items being removed throughout the process.
Traffic alert: Babcock Drive between University Ave and Lot 40 will be closed to motor vehicle and bicycle traffic on Wednesday 11/4 from 9 AM to 3 PM. The sidewalk will remain open.
Last Wednesday’s Transportation Commission featured a number of important topics relating to comfortable and safe bicycling in Madison.
First up was the discussion about Madison’s shared streets program. In order to facilitate comfortable spatial distancing during the pandemic, the city enacted a number of restrictions on several streets. Atwood Avenue, Mifflin Street, and Vilas Park Drive were some of the restricted streets. The city is planning on removing these restrictions for the winter, and will evaluate their effectiveness. Public comments strongly supported keeping the traffic restrictions on Vilas Park Drive throughout the winter.
During the discussion, Alder Grant Foster made a good suggestion to look at mid-term solutions to keep some of the shared streets restrictions that are planned in future projects. A mid-term solution is more permanent than barricades and traffic cones, but less permanent than a complete reconstruct. For example, a mid-term solution could include concrete planters.
Click here for more information on the shared streets item.
Also discussed at the meeting were the 2021 Public Works Transportation Projects. Bikeways in the 2021 projects include new bike lanes on Odana Rd, a path connection to Demetral Park from Johnson Street, and the Russell Street bike path crossing. Click here for more information.
Watch the meeting here on the City’s YouTube page, and review the Agenda here. The Shared Streets item (#7) was moved to the beginning of the meeting due to the large number of registrants.
Monday, the TPPB is meeting at 5:00 PM in a virtual meeting. Topics of discussion include possible branding for Bus Rapid Transit and the vision zero high injury network. For full details, here’s the Agenda.
Tuesday is election day. If you haven’t already voted absentee, make sure to have your voice heard by voting at your local polling place. Although the presidential election is dominating headlines, there are down-ballot races for the House of Representatives, State Senate, and State Assembly. These races are important because they can affect local transportation policies.
Wednesday, the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board is meeting virtually at 5:00 PM. Not much biking related, but here’s the agenda.
Saturday, November 7th, Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison is providing another chance to donate bikes! From 12pm-3pm, nine bike donation stations will be setup throughout the area where you can drop off your gently used bike donations.
The list of donation stations is below.
While the most important donation you can make is a gently used bike, the next best donation you can make is a financial donation! This allows FB4K to purchase all of the supplies to repair bikes and to hire mechanics and staff to get the work done. It costs us about $100 to give a bike away.