Hope you were able to avoid the worst of the rain this week and enjoy a few nice rides between showers. Its not always fun to get wet while biking, but we should be thankful for a little rain when so many places are threatened by drought, wild fires or worse. Both my kids and my garden were smiling after the Saturday afternoon deluge.
East Washington pedestrian death/Vision Zero
I was greatly saddened to hear a pedestrian was killed on East Washington by a automobile driver last week. This is a stark reminder of the urgent need to improve the safety of our transportation system to protect vulnerable users like pedestrians and bicyclists. I live near East Washington and cross this road everyday when biking my kids to school. I believe the recent changes to lower speed limits is both good and insufficient. If you would like to get involved and discuss ways to bring more awareness to this issue, you should attend our Community Advocacy meeting this Monday at 6pm.
Looking to the future, there is a concerted effort by city leaders to implement Vision Zero to eliminate (yes, eliminate) all transportation related deaths in Madison by 2030. A draft version of the Vision Zero plan will be presented at the TPPB meeting this Monday June 28th @ 5pm. This brings me great hope that Madison will become a city where anyone and everyone can feel safe biking or walking to school, to the grocery store, to work or for recreation.
Please join us for a conversation about bike advocacy in our community. This week the discussion will likely revolve around the tragic pedestrian death on East Washington and steps we can take to bring awareness and change.
How to “report a problem” to the city
In case you weren’t aware, Madison has a convenient web portal to Report a Problem with various city owned or managed infrastructure. This is a great way to report weeds overgrowing a path, illegally parked cars, blocked sidewalks, dangerous bike path cracks, etc… I have personally used this portal a number of times and found city staff usually responded within 24hr.
Not a lot on the calendar this week, which is surprising, since it’s summer and all. See the bottom of this blog post to find out how to make sure your event or meeting is included in the Madison Bikes weekly update.
If you use the Alicia Ashman bridge to cross Campus Dr, it’s closed for repair from June 23 – July 9. If you aren’t sure where this is, the north side is just west of the Stock Pavilion, and the south side is the 1700 block of old University Ave.
Common Council approves buffered bike lanes on Whitney Way
At their Tuesday meeting, the Madison Common Council unanimously approved buffered bike lanes on Whitney Way, together with a slew of safety improvements around the city. Despite the unanimous vote, several alders appeared to be skeptical of project, raising questions about whether there had been sufficient opportunity for public input (there had been three public meetings, in addition to the Transportation Commission meeting). The district’s alder, Arvina Martin, did a great job describing the engagement process and the purpose of the project:
“The accidents that had been happening on Whitney Way last summer — a motorcyclist was actually killed during one of our meetings because he was speeding.-The number of complaints that we get from people who try to cross Whitney Way and have trouble with that because of the speeding. This was a way that Traffic Engineering thought would not only provide better and safer access for more modes of transportation besides single rider vehicles. But this also was going to help with speed control. […] I mean people in this neighborhood — and this is my neighborhood! I live here — it’s referred to as the “Whitney Way Racetrack”. And these are some of the ways we can slow down traffic and make it safer not only for cars but make space for the BRT to take cars off this street, but also to provide space for bikes and bike traffic as well as making it safer for pedestrians that walk down there all the time. You know, we have a lot of people from my neighborhood that walk across on South Hill and walk to Garner Park. It’s a huge park and it gets used quite a bit by neighbors. And a lot of people — there are people who will drive across because they don’t want to cross that street [on foot]. So this is a whole big package of ways to make Whitney Way safer as well as bring it into alignment with Complete Streets and Vision Zero.
When Alder Wehelie asked whether Martin’s constituents supported the project, she responded:
“Like with any project, we get mixed results. There are a lot of people that like it, there are a lot of people that don’t. Not surprisingly, the folks that don’t like it are the ones that either live on Whitney Way or within a block in that section. The further you get out, the more support there is for this project. And I very much understand the concerns of losing parking in front of one’s home. I live next to a school, and there is a no-parking zone in front of my house. So I understand: it can be difficult. But at the same time, being an Alder means taking into consideration not only my constituents and their concerns but the needs and the impact that this decision has city-wide. And due to the support that I got from many other constituents and understanding that those that don’t want it are the ones that unfortunately are directly affected. But I felt in my decision to help move this forward was that this is something the city is going to need as we gain more residents and as we will need more transportation options other than people just taking their cars to work. That’s why I’m supporting this.”
Thanks, Alder Martin, and thanks to everyone in the community who expressed their support for this key piece in our city’s low-stress bike network!
From our Facebook Community: In May, one of our wonderful friends started a Google map to track construction projects that might affect those going out for a ride. The map extends far outside the city of Madison, so it’s really useful if you plan to stretch your legs farther afield. Pea gravel, new asphalt, a new parking lot installation, and unexpected construction projects really can kill your rhythm when you go for a ride, so check out the map and help keep it updated here.
Also, Wisconsin Public Radio ran a nice piece on how much a bike meant to a local guy when he was a kid and how biking with his daughter now has kept them close. I think we all remember the feeling of a bike as a kid: freedom to explore the world. Hopefully we all still have that feeling now.
And the big question for the Facebook Community this week seems to be, “Why are the redwing black birds so aggressive recently, and does the color of your helmet make a difference?”
The week ahead
The Women Cycling Club will have their weekly women’s social ride from Black Saddle Bike Shop at 6:00 pm. This is a great ride for those who are just getting into cycling, getting their strength back, or just want a casual/social ride for all ages, body types, and styles of riding. The ride typically goes about 12 miles. They also have a longer, hillier ride leaving at the same time. First Tuesday of the month they do a Taco Tuesday ride that starts in a different location. (I showed up at the wrong place on June 1, but found them at the taco location.) More info and Facebook sign up for more news can be found here.
Also Wednesday, the city Transportation Commission will meet at 5:00 pm (virtually.) There aren’t any burning issues on the agenda, but there will be the annual BCycle update to the city as well as updates from the Traffic Calming subcommittee. If you want to tune in or look at the transit items on the agenda — mostly accepting federal grants — you can find all the details here.
MB board member Marybeth McGinnis will host an advocacy meet-up. I’ve copied her announcement below.
Madison Bikes will host a biking advocacy meet up Saturday June 26 at 10:30 am – noon at Memorial Terrace (with yours truly facilitating). This is meant to be welcoming to those new to biking advocacy – for the seasoned veterans, you are more than welcome to join us, just please keep in mind that this is a relaxed space where all levels of knowledge are expected. We’re intending to create a space that is as productive as it is focused on community-building. We also already had great ideas for discussion, including tactical urbanism; bike parking in residential areas; safety; bike shares; removing the trick riding ordinance; and more.
Please register in advance (please also feel free to register to mark your interest in the future, even if you can’t make that date). Registration helps me plan facilitation, coffee purchasing, and grabbing tables and chairs more easily.
Our community meeting at 6 pm on June 28th will be something of a follow up to this event, so plan to hear more about that.
As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at email@example.com 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.
Tonight at the Transportation Policy and Planning Board there will be a progress report on how the bike network expanded in 2020 and how it will grow in the future. In 2020, Madison got 3.6 new miles of bike lanes and paths; in 2021 we will get 7.7 miles, including the Garver Path, buffered bike lanes on W Wash, and a protected bike lane on Broom St. See the whole list here. Other topics on the agenda: A planned freeway expansion of the Beltline and several items regarding bus rapid transit.
Loop the Lake 2021
Our friends from the Clean Lakes Alliance are hosting their annual Loop the Lake fundraiser. You can either bike around Lake Monona at any time between June 12 and 20, or join the main event on June 19, starting at Olbrich Park. More info here.
Let’s Talk Streets
Several city initiatives around transportation, safety, and how our streets work are underway at the moment: Vision Zero (focused on eliminating traffic deaths and injuries), Complete Green Streets “for everyone, no matter who they are or how they travel,” and others. Public engagement is really important to these initiatives, and in order to not burn out the public with several separate engagement processes for each initiative, the engagement process is going to be unified. It starts off this week, and you can choose between virtual meetings either at 5pm on Tuesday or noon on Wednesday. Sign up here: https://www.cityofmadison.com/transportation/initiatives/lets-talk-streets
We want to know what you think about the streets you use to work, live and play in the City of Madison. What do you value about our city streets, what worries you, and what type of street user are you? How can the City design streets around people? The purpose of Let’s Talk Streets is to learn from each other about how we design streets for the future in Madison. It’s a conversation with YOU that seeks to gather public input to influence several different street-related initiatives while ensuring you know what we mean when we “talk streets” and we learn from you what is important about how you talk streets.
There have been reports of two bike crashes in the past week. One involved a collision of two people biking on the SW Path overpass of the Beltline. According to reports, the collision happened in one of the turns, possibly with one of the people riding outside of their lane. Visibility is limited there because of the tall fence and a tree, and several people reported having had close calls there. We reached out to the city to see if any safety improvements can be made.
Another notorious location for bike crashes is the crossing of the Cap City Trail at Syene Rd. In 2016, a person driving on Syene Rd struck Cheri Maples on her bike, eventually leading to her death. Several other injury crashes have happened in the years since. The area is currently under reconstruction, and minor improvements of the crossing appear to be included.
On our Facebook group, someone asked how the Cannonball Path got its name. It didn’t take long for our board member Grant to post the correct answer:
For many years there were two passenger trains and two or more freight trains traveling the line each way daily. The “Cannonball” freight train, pulling a passenger coach, left early in the morning from Lancaster and returned from Madison late in the day.
This didn’t stop other from spinning yarns about alternative explanations: Maybe there is a brotherhood that “sets up a cannon at an undisclosed location along that path and absolutely smokes a random cyclist passing by. If they survive, they are permitted to join the brotherhood.” Or was it named after “John J. Cannonball,” an early bike advocate who in 1920 tried to prove that high-wheeler bikes were superior by racing from Dodgeville to Madison, ending in the collision with a cow…? No, it’s really named after a historic train run.
Did you have a chance to enjoy this year’s Ride the Drive? The event, usually on John Nolen Drive, happened at a few neighborhood streets. Folks shared photos from the event in the Madison Bikes Community Facebook.
I missed Ride the Drive this year, as I was traveling to Salt Lake City, UT (yes, it felt weird to travel!). In many ways, Salt Lake is similar to Madison – a big college down, similar populations, and a capitol city. They’re also lucky enough to have BCycle (“Green Bike”), a regional light rail system, and frequent buses, all of which I used to get around. Traveling always makes me see my home in a new light. For example, SLC’s roads – even those in neighborhoods – were wide and fast, yet I saw cyclists on nearly all of them. I didn’t see any off-street paths, but for someone like me, that wasn’t necessarily a downside: I like to ride on streets so I can easily find my destinations. SLC, despite its wide roads and sprawl, seems to be changing for the better.
I like to use vacations as a way to communicate about biking with others. After all, when you’re traveling to a new city, enjoying the sights on foot or on wheels is often pleasurable and desirable. We can use these experiences to help our neighbors see their city through the lens of possibility: what if our city felt like that, for everyone?
Speaking of advocacy…would you like to join other Madison Bikes community members for a casual yet productive conversation about advocating for biking in Madison? Register here. Folks who are new to advocacy, organizing, and biking are especially welcome!
On Wednesday at 5:30, the Transportation Commission will meet, but it’s a fairly internal-facing agenda, mostly focused on updates and work planning.
From 4:30-6:30 at Garver Feed Mill, Bcycle will unveil its Art Bikes! Twenty bikes will be presented by local artists, not-for-profits, and businesses.