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In Depth Weekly Update

2020: A Madison Bikes year like no other

Once again, it is time for a review of another year for Madison Bikes. And what a year it has been, for our organization but more so for all of you, all of us. It’s hard to summarize all the things that have gone on, but I will try anyway.

And before I forget: If you want to support Madison Bikes financially, donate here.

Also a thanks to my weekly update coauthors, Robbie, Ben, Marybeth, Kyle, and Jim. A lot of work goes into these emails, and we can only do it because we have an awesome team.

A good start

The year started out splendidly: To promote year-round riding for people of all ages, we invited the community to join us for a short bike ride through the Holiday Fantasy in Lights course at Olin Park. About 75 people, including many kids, heeded the call on the first Saturday of 2020.

A group of people biking through the Holiday Fantasy in Lights course at Olin Park
Holiday Fantasy in Lights Ride (Photo: Mark Renner)

While we had gotten lucky with the weather for the Holiday ride, things looked a little different on Winter Bike Day. In previous years we had tried hosting a full week of events to celebrate winter riding, but conditions were often tough in February in Madison. This year we focused all our energy on a single day — and of course it turned out to be one of the coldest ones of the year! Well, we were out out there anyway, serving coffee and pastries around a fire pit on the Cap City Trail.

A group of people standing around a bike trailer with three coffee urns on it. Frozen Lake Monona and a rising sun in the background.
Winter Bike Day 2020 on the Cap City Trail

With two events already under our belts, we were getting ready for the next one: An early spring ride to the murals of Madison. Then COVID happened and would shape the whole rest of the year.

Pandemic this, pandemic that

The early days of the pandemic saw us and our community jump into action. During the first lockdown, bike shops were considered essential businesses, but many of them had reduced or changed hours. Our board member Heather started a simple spreadsheet keeping track of Madison’s shops, and we, with assistance from the Bike Fed, eventually expanded this to an interactive map of the shops around the whole state. Nowadays we still maintain a map of all Dane County shops and outdoor repair stations.

Another thing early in the pandemic: Keeping your distance on the bike path. We didn’t have a great understanding of the risk of outdoor transmission yet, and public health orders mandated a 6-foot distance outdoors as well. A great opportunity for a fun PSA on the SW Path:

A person lying down in the middle of the bike path, with lines marking the edge of the path and the inner 6 feet of it. Text: "Be safe on the path. Always keep 6 feet away from people, including when passing people"

One of the few positive aspects of the pandemic: Like in other cities, Madison designated some of its streets as shared streets. In some cases, cars were kept out completely (Vilas Park Dr), in others “local traffic only” signs were used (e.g. N Sherman, Mifflin), and on Atwood Ave we got a temporary protected bike lane! And for those worried about crowded bike paths, we crunched the bike counter data to tell you when the paths were emptiest.

Temporary bike lane on Atwood Avenue A line of barrels separates the right travel lane from a two-way protected bike lane. Two people are biking in in the bike lane.

Madison ranked #2 biking city

In June, Madison received some good news: People for Bikes had ranked Madison the second most bike-friendly city in the US! We took a closer look at that ranking and concluded that biking in Madison is indeed pretty good compared to other places in the US. But it could be much better still. One important indicator: The number of people biking has stagnated for several years, as we explored in a blog post.

Racism, Black Lives Matter, Vision Zero

At the end of May, police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. Suddenly, racism and the Black Lives Matter were in everyone’s minds and out on the street. White people, myself included, faced hard questions about their own actions and the systems of privilege and racism that we are entwined with and that we perpetuate. It’s was a difficult topic then, and the fight against racism is here to stay.

One intersection of racism and our bike advocacy was around Vision Zero. Vision Zero is an approach to traffic safety that recognizes that humans will make errors and that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. In other cities, part of Vision Zero has been increased traffic enforcement. But it is well known that this enforcement has disparate and sometimes deadly impacts on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). When Madison was about to adopt its own Vision Zero policy, Madison Bikes submitted a letter (you can download it below) to the Common Council. And the adopted Vision Zero policy does include a clause that acknowledges the harm from both traffic violence and police enforcement and asks for a plan to eliminate that harm.

Cyclists of Madison

One project I was really excited about this year is the Cyclists of Madison Twitter bot. Since the early days of Madison Bikes, we wanted to fight stereotypes about who does and doesn’t ride a bike in Madison. I greatly enjoy taking photos of people out riding, and the technical expertise of our volunteer Ben Sandee allowed us to create a Twitter bot that posts one photo a day.

Screenshot Cyclists of Madison

Wilson Street: In the works since 2017

One significant advocacy victory for Madison Bikes in 2020 was the adoption of the Wilson Street Corridor Plan. We had been working on this from the very beginning, back in 2017. And what a long way the project has come since then. Originally, the plan was to keep this important corridor into downtown more or less as it is, except for a widened sidewalk on parts of W Wilson. Through our (and your) tireless advocacy, the final plan looks very different: Ultimately, there will be low-stress bike facilities along the whole corridor, from the SW Path to the intersection at Machinery Row! Should it have taken this long to acknowledge that we need bike facilities for all ages and abilities? No. But Wilson St shows the power of advocacy and persistence.

Schematic of the W Wilson St Cycletrack

Madison Bike Week

Madison Bike Week as usual was not an option this year. We had only taken over the organization of Madison Bike Week last year and were all excited about our second round. First, we decided to delay a decision. Then we decided to delay Bike Week. And then we seriously considered canceling Bike Week completely for 2021. In the end, we went ahead and ran a Madison Bike Week as best as possible given the circumstances. I really, really hope that 2021 will get us back to an in-person Madison Bike Week.

A Metro Transit bus on State St, heading toward the Capitol. A Madison Bike Week ad is on the side of the bus
Bike Week ad on a Metro Bus

Looking forward

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about what 2021 will bring. I’m excited to to welcome three new people to our board of directors! We’ll stay involved with the bus rapid transit project moving forward, and we’re going to do some education for the Common Council elections in April. We have also allocated some funding for a small grant program, supporting BIPOC-led organizations for transportation-related projects. Stay tuned. And thanks for your support.

Categories
Weekly Update

No City Meetings, More Time for Winter Biking

Bike paths cleared near Atwood. Image Credit: Angela Richardson

This Week

Unsurprisingly, it’s a light week for city meetings, and there are no meetings on the calendar with bike-related items.

A few non-meeting things to keep in mind:

  • Vilas Park Drive is reopened to car traffic despite its Draft Master Plan recommending its closure to cars and a petition that collected hundreds of signatures.
  • Be the eyes of the city and report issues with snow clearing on streets or paths; additionally, report snow or ice covered sidewalks.
  • Since we have a few weeks light on meetings, start thinking about- and submitting – those ideas for Pedestrian Bicycle Improvements. This is a great program; you can see the 2020 funded project list here. You can email Renee Callaway with 2021 projects ideas.

Did You See?

West siders, rejoice! Have you used the new Gammon Underpass yet? It’s a nice present in time for the holidays, and we hope to see the city continue to close gaps in the biking network.

Coming Soon: More Madison Bikes Winter TV

As is apparent from a recent post in our Facebook community, how to ride safely and comfortably throughout the Wisconsin winter is one of the most popular questions we hear! We released our first video last month about riding in fall (check it out below). With a first major snow and temperatures expected below 20 this week, we’ll be releasing the next video soon. Thank you to our community for spreading the word: “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.”

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
Weekly Update

Weekly Update: Bike-Related Meetings Galore

Image Credit: Harald Kliems

Last Week

On Monday, the Transportation Policy and Planning Board unanimously passed a resolution to end the City of Madison’s Bicycle Registration Program. The city is instead planning on encouraging registration through a national program that they will coordinate with. This change will not be official until passed by the Common Council.

On Wednesday, the Board of Parks Commissioners voted to reopen Vilas Park Drive to through car traffic. This is despite a petition with over 500 signatures and testimony that the Drive’s closure has been a net positive. The Board expressed openness to reconsidering interim Drive closure in April, noting that the Draft Master Plan recommends the Drive remain closed to through car traffic. This decision dealt a massive blow to people wanting Vilas Park Drive to continue being safe and comfortable to non-motorists using the park. Alder Tag Evers’ blog post from December 12 goes into more detail.

This Week

Wednesday

On Wednesday there are two bike-related meetings woth mentioning. The first is a regular meeting of the Board of Public Works. The second is a Public Involvement Meeting about Phase 2 of the Demetral Park Path.

Board of Public Works

The Board of Public Works will be meeting at 4:30 PM. There are two bike-related items worth mentioning.

First up on the Agenda is approving plans for the Garver Path between the Capital City Trail and Milwaukee St. This path is part of a larger planned network to connect the near east side to the north east side of Madison.

The next bike-related item is a report on the Bassett St Protected Bike Lanes. The report recommends continuing the parking protected bike lanes and extending it as planned in the Bassett St Corridor Plan.

Demetral Park Path – Phase 2

Also Wednesday, at 6:00 PM, there’s a Public Information Meeting about the Demetral Park Path Phase 2. Phase 2 completes an off-street connection between the path along Johnson St and the Demetral Park Path. Previously the City improved the Demetral Park Path and connected it to Commercial Ave in 2018. Property acquisition issues led to some delays, but the city is moving forward with this key connection.

Thursday

Moving on to Thursday, there are two bike-related meetings happening at around the same time. The first at 6:00 PM is a BRT-related meeting. The second at 6:30 PM is related to the reconstruction of E Dean Ave on Madison’s east side.

BRT Update

The BRT Update meeting is primarily going to focus on Whitney Way and Sheboygan Ave. Whitney Way is notable because it currently lacks high quality all-ages and abilities bicycle infrastructure. Center running the BRT buses would improve bicycle infrastructure on Whitney Way. This would require sacrificing on-street parking, which was opposed to by many participants at the last meeting. If you are available please consider attending this meeting to show support for better bicycle infrastructure. Alder Arvina Martin has a blog post going into more detail.

E Dean Ave Reconstruction Meeting

Finally the meeting on E Dean Ave. Anyone with experience biking on the east side of Madison, especially from Monona, knows that E Dean Ave is in rough shape. The city is currently proposing three options.

Advisory Bike Lanes with 2 bikes and 1 car. Currently proposed with Option 1.

Option 1 is the narrowest option, and would best promote traffic calming. Option 1 proposes Madison’s first ever advisory bike lanes. What is an advisory bike lane? A video by the City of Ottowa best sums them up. Bicyclists have right-of-way in the cycling lanes, but cars may use them to pass oncoming car traffic as long as no bicyclists are present.

Options 2 and 3 propose more traditional bicycle infrastructure solutions. Option 2 would have no street markings and an 8 foot sidewalk on the south side of the street. Option 3 would feature a wider street with marked bike lanes for part of the street and pull out parking.

In summary, there are four bike-related public meetings this week. The best way to get comfortable, all-ages and abilities cycling infrastructure is for the cycling community to stay engaged with the public process. If any of the above meetings strike your interest, I encourage you to attend.

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
Weekly Update

Cannonball Detours, Several Big Meetings, Last Call for BCycle Season

Santas on the Bike Path during the Santa Cycle Rampage (credit: Cyclists of Madison)

It’s a busy week for meetings! With plenty of free content, who needs Netflix? You’ve got a real life Parks and Rec episode at your disposal.

Join us in congratulating Pepe Barros, who was awarded a Live Forward Award from Sustain Dane for his work with Down With Bikes, a free mobile bike repair non-profit! Pepe is the city’s Pedestrian Bicycle Outreach Specialist and a Madison Bikes board alumnus.

This Week

Starting today, a.k.a. Monday, a.k.a. December 7, the Cannonball Path and Military Ridge Path are closed between McKee Rd and Seminole Hwy. Sadly, this includes what we’ve crowned the best roundabout around, both southwest- and east-bound, but take the opportunity to look around at the detours that abound:

Cannonball Path and Military Ridge Path Detour (credit: City of Madison)

Hey, maybe explore the under-utilized Sprocket Drive option that passes by the Saris headquarters and give ’em a friendly wave!

While a closure of this length is never ideal, it’s evident that a lot of careful planning has gone into developing the alternatives for this popular section of path. Several major projects were completed in advance to help provide convenient and comfortable detour options:

  • New Badger State Trail bridge over McKee Rd
  • New trail segment linking Badger State Trail and Capital City Trail along Seminole Hwy
  • Rebuilt Capital City Trail between roundabout and Seminole Hwy
  • Widened sidewalk+multi-use trail along McKee Rd, connecting Badger State Trail and Military Ridge Trail

Also on Monday, the Transportation Policy and Planning Board (TPPB) will be considering the elimination of Madison’s mandatory bicycle registration program. It’s worth noting that this change is sponsored by Alder Grant Foster, who’s also on the Madison Bikes board. Check out the entire meeting agenda or just watch online at 5pm.

At this same TPPB meeting on Monday, an amendment to the plan for the development of the Triangle Monona Bay Neighborhood (bounded by S. Park St, W. Washington and Regent St.) will be discussed that changes a proposed new through-street for all traffic to just bikes + peds + emergency vehicles. If you’re interested, Tag Evers, the district’s alder, wrote an informative blog post discussing it.

On Wednesday, the Board of Park Commissioners will meet to discuss a variety of interesting items. Aside from the whether or not Madison Log Rolling LLC will continue to have permission to conduct their log rolling activities in Lake Wingra, the big issue is the Vilas Park Drive Winter Operational Plan: Will it be opened up to cars again after a successful summer closure? Register for the virtual meeting here and check out a related petition link.

Last Week

Last Thursday, there was a public meeting to discuss the West Side Roadway Refinements for the Bus Rapid Transit project. We covered this in detail in last week’s update and now you can watch the action-packed replay yourself (passcode: #xG*J8Gi). Gleaned from the meeting: The Mineral Point Road multi-use trail is slated to be on the North side of the road (CUNA, Garner Park, Memorial HS). One question we had was how wide would this new section of path be? The answer from Tom Lynch, the City’s Director of Transportation, was (paraphrasing): 10 ft where possible, as narrow as 8ft in certain areas where the right of way is restricted.

Next Week

We’re just a week away from the end of the BCycle bike share season on December 15. The good news is they will probably be around for at least another ten years because the city and BCycle have signed a new long-term operating agreement. After more than doubling in 2019 due to the introduction of e-bikes system-wide, ridership was pretty flat this year due to the pandemic. If you used the service, you might grace them with your end-of-season thoughts in their 2020 Rider Survey.

On December 16 at 6pm, there will be a virtual public meeting discussing phase 2 of the Demetral Park Path (registration required). “Phase 2 completes the off-street, shared-use path (bicycle & pedestrian) connection from the Yahara River Parkway Path to Commercial Ave, linking the surrounding Eastside neighborhood to downtown and the future Public Market.” It’s a small section of path, but it should make a big difference for the people in that neighborhood.

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.