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E-Mail In Depth

Bikes and Bus Rapid Transit: What is planned?

Bus rapid transit is coming to Madison. If all goes well, the first route will open in 2024, connecting Junction Road on the West Side with East Towne Mall. What makes BRT different from the local bus? The distance between stops is longer, the buses will have dedicated lanes for some of the route, and you can board the bus through all doors. This will make BRT faster than the local bus. The buses will also run at least every 15 minutes from 5am to midnight on weekdays. Finally, BRT stations will have features like real-time departure information and high platforms to make boarding easy and accessible. Travel time between the two ends of the line will be about one hour — much faster than today.

BRT map
Future BRT network. The Red and Blue Lines will the first to open

How is BRT going to work together with biking? We invited city staff to present what is planned and to answer questions. Mike Cechvala, Transit Planner at Metro, Tom Lynch, Madison’s Director of Transportation, and Renee Callaway, Bike and Pedestrian Administrator, joined us for a virtual meeting.

You can watch the whole discussion on YouTube or read some of the key points here. You can download the full slide deck below.

Bikes on board

Currently buses have front racks that transport up to two bikes (folding bikes are permitted on board if there is space). To keep the buses on schedule, this won’t be the case for BRT vehicles. Instead, you will be able to roll your bike on board. The catch: Even though the buses are sixty feet long, there will likely be only space for two bikes. Metro is still investigating options for different kinds of bike racks, but it doesn’t look promising. One constraint: BRT buses will have doors on both sides, which eliminates some possible bike storage options. Wheelchair users will have dedicated space near the front of the bus, and it seemed unlikely that that space would work for bikes when there are no wheelchair users on the bus. Cargo bikes and trailers won’t fit.

Bike parking at BRT stations

An alternative to taking your bike on the bus is to park it at a BRT station. Metro does have plans for bike parking at the stations, but the audience seemed underwhelmed by them. Except for the new terminal stations, space directly at stations in limited. Generally, Metro envisions having four to six ring-and-post style racks per station. Several people in the audience pointed out that this number is too low. If bike parking is not accommodated, more people will try to bring their bikes on the bus. Another aspect of bike parking: Will it be secure? Metro is not interested in providing access-controlled bike parking because of the cost and administrative effort. The stations will have CCTV cameras, providing some level of security for bikes parked right at the station.

BCycle and BRT

Another option to combine bikes and transit? BCycle! If there is a BCycle station near BRT as well as near your destination, shared bikes can be a great solution to the “last mile problem,” that is, how to get from a bus stop to your destination and back. Some BCycle stations are already near future BRT stops, and Metro is looking at adding additional stations. However, BCycle is privately owned and runs without public funding. Therefore it is not certain that these new stations will materialize. Another possible improvement: Metro is upgrading their ticketing system, and they are looking at a possible integration with BCycle. So your Metro smart card or app may also allow you to access your BCycle subscription and unlock bikes.

Dealing with conflicts between buses and bikes

On streets with or without painted bike lanes, there can be conflicts between buses and bikes, especially at stops. Buses need to pull over to the curb and back into the travel lane again, having to cross a bike lane twice. Because the average speed of bikes and buses is similar, this can happen over and over again when you bike along a bus route. BRT will address these conflicts in two ways:

Floating bus stops

When the bus is traveling in the right-most lane, most stops will have a “floating bus stop” configuration. Bus riders will wait on a platform between the bike lane and the travel lane. Unrelated to BRT, the city is currently building a floating bus stop on Bassett Street. So soon you’ll be able to check out a real-life example of this design.

Rendering of a floating bus stop. Bikes pass between the bus platform and the curb

A widened sidewalk on Mineral Point Road

On some stretches, bus lanes and stations will not be on the right but in the center lane, for example on Mineral Point Road. This completely removes any conflict points with buses. There are downsides to center-running bus lanes, however.

On Mineral Point Road what is currently a shared bus/bike lane will be replaced by a widened sidewalk on the north side of the street. People on bikes can bike on the sidewalk in both directions and will share it with people walking. Mike Cechvala compared this design to the sidepath along University Avenue toward Middleton (one difference: University Ave does have painted bike lanes).

Rendering of the widened sidewalk on Mineral Point Road at Island

There was mixed feedback on this: Why a bike facility only on one side? (Answer: Because the city would have to acquire property and/or remove mature trees.) What about the conflicts with people driving cars at intersections and driveways? (Answer: Intersections will have signals and exclusive left-turn phases; driveways may be consolidated, and the path will be put on the side with fewer driveways.) On the other hand, our board member Kyle pointed out that the new design will still be an improvement over what is there now: “I think the cycle track along Mineral Point is a big improvement. I can bike on the cycle track with my kids. I acknowledge you still have to watch for turning cars.”

Disappearing bike lanes on East Washington Ave

East Washington between Blount and Milwaukee Street: Buses in the center, bikes and parking on the right, except during rush hour

On the isthmus, one sticking point are two miles of East Washington Ave, between and Blount and Milwaukee Street. Currently there are three general travel lanes, plus a combined parking and bike lane. To convert one of the travel lanes to a center-running bus lane while maintaining car capacity, the parking/bike lane will disappear for two hours during peak times on weekdays. The idea is that people on bikes will take alternative routes during that time, and the city presented some possible improvements on parallel routes such as Mifflin, Main Street, and the Cap City Trail. However, Tom Lynch was quick to point out that none of these improvements are part of the BRT project itself. While there is some money for them in the proposed city budget, all of them will have to go through their own separate processes and may or may not actually happen.

Big picture questions

When an audience member asked, “if BRT is going to make transit faster and more reliable, why is MadisonDOT still optimizing for SOV [single occupancy vehicle] throughput in many cases?” Tom Lynch responded: I don’t think we are optimizing SOV throughput. In fact, I would say most of our initiatives right now are aimed at reducing vehicle miles traveled. We are interacting with the Wisconsin DOT so that on East Washington and Whitney Way we are reducing motor vehicle capacity. So I think our paradigm has shifted. Safety is becoming our primary consideration, and also providing multiple choices for alternate modes. […] I believe our focus is different now than it might have been five years ago.”

What’s next?

The planning process for BRT is moving full-steam ahead. This Thursday (October 28), 30% designs for the downtown portion of the BRT route will be presented at a public meeting. Metro staff offered to come back. The possible bike improvements on Mifflin, Main, etc. will each be on their own timeline. We will keep an eye on this and inform you through our weekly newsletter. If you have feedback on any aspect of BRT, biking-related or not, you can email BRT@cityofmadison.com.

Categories
Weekly Update

As cool weather approaches… Monday updates

Yes, we finally have real fall weather, and a reminder that we will soon have winter as well. We’re all digging out the layers that we haven’t used since April and trying to remember what is appropriate for 45 degrees and breezy. We’ve got you! 

Mark your calendar

Although we won’t have an indoor Winter Bike Fashion Show this year, we will have some events and opportunities to learn from others who already bike all winter. Mark your calendars, because Saturday, November 13, from noon-2 pm at the Tenney Park Shelter, we’ll have a meet-and-greet, lunch-and-learn, share-your knowledge event to get you excited about biking in colder weather. More details to follow, but we do know that Metro will be bringing a bus by, so you can try out those bike racks. 

It’s nice to have the bus as a back-up plan for nasty weather, and too many people have told me they are worried about trying to get their bike on the bus when the driver and a bunch of people are waiting. If you come to our event, you can see how easy it is to use the rack, and you’ll be ready to rack-and-roll in no time.

The week ahead

We have extended the deadline to apply to be on the board until Oct 29. We have several vacancies, and we just know there are great people out there who can bring ideas, energy, and a new perspective to our board. If not you, then maybe you know someone that would be perfect. Here’s the form to fill out (or forward to someone else.)

Monday

At 6:00 pm we will hold our monthly Community Meeting on line. It will be devoted to hearing about, discussing, and asking questions about Bus Rapid Transit and bikes. You’ve heard that the city will have a new BRT line with larger buses, all-door boarding, level-boarding off a raised platform, pre-boardinging ticketing, fewer stops, and dedicated lanes. All this will make this line — planned to run down E Washington, then University, south on Whitney Way, and then out Mineral Point Rd. — able to travel faster along its route and carry more people. 

But what does this mean for us as bicyclists? Transit and bicycling compliment each other, and adding bike facilities at transit stops makes it easier to transition between the two. But they can also compete for space on the road. This is a special session just to address these questions and give input to the city staff and consultants working on this project. 

Will we be able to roll our bike right onto the BRT vehicles? What are the plans for bike parking? How will current bike lanes on the BRT route change? What’s planned to make getting to BRT stops easier? The Zoom link is https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84007649429?pwd=Qys5YjdLUnFQRlJFTEo5cTZMcDk1QT09. If you have trouble getting in, it’s Meeting ID: 840 0764 9429 Passcode: 648703

Wednesday 

Madison Transportation Commission meets at 5 pm online, and they will receive and update on Public Works projects for 2022. A note on the agenda says they discuss Old Middleton Rd, the Cannonball Path, and Cedar St. There are some technical drawings attached to the item on the agenda, but not much detail. I guess we’ll have to tune in to see what these projects entail, but each one could be very important connections in the bike network. You can watch online or register to speak on any agenda item here

Thursday

Another BRT community meeting will take place on Thursday at 6:00 pm. This time the topic will be plans for the downtown portion of the route. The city and consultants have already held meetings about the east side and west side portions of the route. These meetings go into more details about where the stations will be located, what they will look like, what streets the BRT will run on, and what lane configurations will be. The Zoom link and more details about the downtown route can be found on the city’s BRT project page.

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

South Madison Plan, W Wash progress, Complete Green Streets

Two people riding a tandem bicycle on the Southwest Path
A beautiful Sunday to ride on the freshly repaved Southwest Path (Image: Cyclists of Madison)

The beautiful fall weather continues to hold! We hope you had an opportunity to get out on your bike. If you need some fall riding tips, check out the Madison Bikes TV episode about extending your riding season into the colder season.

Progress on West Washington Ave semi-protected intersection

Work on resurfacing West Washington Ave is making progress. Scheduled for completion in November, the design will feature a semi-protected intersection design at Bassett Street, combined bus/bike lanes as well as buffered bike lanes on sections of West Wash, as well as the continuation of the parking-protected bike lane on Bassett for another block.

Intersection design for West Washington and Bassett street. Semi-protected design on the northwest corner, and a floating bus stop on Bassett

Transportation Policy and Planning Board

The draft South Madison Plan, which has been in the works for a long time now, will be on the agenda at the Transportation Policy and Planning Board this week. This is a comprehensive plan for the area between Fish Hatchery Rd, Wingra Creek, the Beltline, and Lake Monona. This is an area not well served by transit, walking, and biking infrastructure, and the plan describes possible improvements. This includes adding missing sidewalks to streets, extending the Cannonball Trail, adding several bike boulevards, and bus rapid transit on Park Street.

Map of proposed walking and biking improvements

No improvements to biking on Park Street itself are included in the draft, and neither are upgrades to existing, unprotected bike lanes on busy roads such as Rimrock Rd.

Complete Green Streets update

If you go to any city meeting or read public comments submitted about projects that reduce car parking or make driving ever slightly less convenient, you may get the impression that there is a solid majority of people who put driving and parking first. But are those voices representative?

The City is currently working on a “Complete Green Streets” planning process. The goal is to help us decide how we allocate limited public space to uses like sidewalks, trees, car parking, etc., with an eye to safety, equity, access, and climate change adaptation. A second round of public input just finished, and results will be presented at the Transportation Policy and Planning Board tonight.

The process involved both a survey, as well as targeted outreach and focus groups in BIPOC communities, and a separate survey for people with disabilities. The results seem clear: Large majorities support a hierarchy where people walking and rolling are on top, followed by transit, biking, driving and freight, and car parking at the very bottom.

Proposed modal hierarchy for Madison

Almost 80% of survey respondents agree that safety is a higher priority than convenience and speed for driving; less than 10% think that car parking is more important than space for trees; over 65% agree that safe and comfortable bike infrastructure is more important than on-street car parking. 82% of people support prioritizing the needs of historically underserved people. And so on. You can find all the results here. So yeah, maybe the loudest voices that testify at public meetings aren’t representative of our city’s values.

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

October 25: Let’s talk about bikes and bus rapid transit

A draft map of Madison's bus rapid transit routes.
The draft route for Madison’s BRT system (Image: Metro)

Madison will soon have its first bus rapid transit (BRT) route, going from Junction Road on the west side to East Towne Mall on the East Side. How does biking fit in with BRT and local buses? Join our meeting for a presentation from Metro and an opportunity to ask questions and provide comment! Possible topics:

  • How are bikes are accommodated onboard buses?
  • What kind of bike parking should be provided at stations?
  • What is important for making safe and comfortable interactions between bikes and buses in bus lanes?
  • What improvements for biking come as part of the BRT route?

The virtual meeting will take place on October 25 from 6 to 7:30 pm. https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84007649429?pwd=Qys5YjdLUnFQRlJFTEo5cTZMcDk1QT09 Meeting ID: 840 0764 9429 Passcode: 648703

For more information about the BRT project, go to https://www.cityofmadison.com/…/route…/bus-rapid-transit

Categories
Weekly Update

Review the budget, take a survey

Look at those new Whitney Way bike lanes! Photo credit: Ben Sandee

Join Our Board of Directors!

We are seeking applicants for our Board of Directors! Harald covered the gig in detail here; I also tried to list as much as I could remember about the work Madison Bikes has accomplished in just the past few years. Please share the Board application with those who you think might be a good fit. If you are at all in doubt, we would love to talk with you.

Last Week

The city held a session about John Nolen Drive, which is set for reconstruction in the next few years. Take their survey if you haven’t yet, and please share with others who get around by bike, bus, wheels, and feet. So far, the city has noted that the survey indicates “John Nolen Drive should be an automobile centered corridor” route, although as someone who has witnessed crashes on the narrow trail along the causeway, and has looked wistfully over at the multiple, mostly-empty traffic lanes while the multi-use trail was packed with cyclists, children, workers, couples, and joggers, I would argue that John Nolen could actually be much more than just what it is. This is especially important given the reality that we will very likely see denser development in areas like Bram’s Addition and other surrounding neighborhoods, and we should be doing better to connect those folks to the city safely and easily (including by bike and by transit).

Speaking of surveys, take the second Let’s Talk Streets survey. In direct contrast to the John Nolen discussion, this survey is looking for your approval to move forward with a vision of our streets being first for people and their safety. Really, take the survey!

This Week

Whoosh! It’s budget season. You might want to spend time brushing up on the Executive Budget, both capital and operational. Finance Committee hearings kickoff this week. On Monday, October 11, the Finance Committee will hear about Transportation (Public Works will come on Tuesday, October 12). Meetings start at 4:30 pm. I’d recommend checking out the map of the Capital Improvements budget items. Dane County also has a proposed Executive Budget out from County Exec Joe Parisi; I’m actually going to pass you over to Madison Bikes Community Facebook member Craig Weinhold, who summarized the bike-related items in that budget well here. You can read the budget memo here (bike stuff on pages 19-20).

Also on Wednesday at 6:30 pm, the Parks Commission will meet. A few of its items are relevant to the biking community, including options for a new multi-use path through Olbrich Park. You might also be interested in learning more about the PARC and Ride grant from Dane County.

There’s a lot going on with transportation in Madison and Dane County these days, and it’s hard to follow. I wanted to shout out to Madison Bikes’ President Harald Kleims (who also serves on the Transportation Commission) for writing a great Twitter thread about his perspective on the Bus Rapid Transit discussion and stop options. I’m the first one to jump into some jokes on this issue, but if you haven’t been following, I think Harald lays out clearly why no options are perfect (turns out, nothing is!), but why State Street is generally a better routing option.

Wow, did you get all the way to the end of this post? Sounds like you might be a great fit for our Board of Directors. We’d love to have you.

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.

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E-Mail

Join our board!

Want to become more involved in local bicycle advocacy? Consider joining the Madison Bikes board of directors.

Madison Bikes is looking for people who are dedicated, passionate, strong communicators, good compromisers, organized, and able to commit time and energy to promote biking as a priority in the city of Madison. There are no paid staff and everything we do—from fundraising to advocacy to communications to events—is done by our 15-member volunteer board and volunteers.

We are currently accepting applications for at least one seat on our Board of Directors, with elections taking place in December.

Our organization is committed to the goal of building a culturally diverse and pluralistic board committed to equity and anti-racism in our work. We strongly encourage applications from people of color, women, and other groups who are underrepresented in bike advocacy.

The Madison Bikes board is an all-volunteer working board. At a minimum, we expect board members to:

  • Attend our monthly board meetings (6-8 pm every third Monday of the month, virtual for the foreseeable future), and our community/work meetings (6-7:30 pm on the fourth Monday of the month)
  • Commit to doing work outside of meetings, for example organizing Madison Bike Week, attending public meetings, or writing for our blog.
  • Have a passion for our organization’s vision: Making Madison a city where anyone can ride a bicycle conveniently and comfortably to any place in the city and neighboring communities year-round.
  • Be committed to be on the board for at least one year

Other examples of things our board members do:

  • Write for our blog
  • Plan, organize, and promote events like Madison Bike Week, Winter Bike Week, or the Winter Bike Fashion Show (online or in-person events when those return)
  • Attend city-held meetings (public input meetings, City Council meetings, local and regional transportation committee meetings)
  • Mobilize the community to advocate for bike projects
  • Meet and liaise with community partners (neighborhood associations, non-profits, other bike advocacy groups)
  • Contribute to fundraising and organizational development efforts

If you are interested in joining our board, please complete this application form by October 22. If you would like to nominate someone other than yourself, please forward this post/email to them and ask them to apply.

Are you unsure whether being on our board is right for you? We’d be happy to answer questions by email or schedule a Zoom chat with one of our current members! Just email harald@madisonbikes.org.

Categories
Weekly Update

Velo Underround Opens, Meetings

Velo Underround. Photo credit Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District

Last Week

As of Friday, the bike roundabout that links the Capitol City, Military Ridge, and Cannonball trails, commonly known as the Velo Underround, has been officially reopened! The roundabout had been closed for several months this summer to improve storm water drainage from the site. According to the MMSD, this project finished two months ahead of schedule.

This Week

On Monday, the City’s Transportation Policy is meeting online at 5:00 PM. Much of the agenda will be focused on transit planning. There will be at least two semi-bike related items. The first is a discussion item on the lowering of speed limits on East Washington. The second is about the Draft Vision Zero Action Plan.

On Wednesday, the more region-focused Greater Madison Metropolitan Planning Organization is meeting at 6:30 PM. On the agenda is adopting the five year 2022-2026 Transportation Improvement Program. This is a planning document that goes into detail about projects that should be considered over the next five years in Madison and Dane County. There will also be an update on the Connect Greater Madison Regional Transportation Plan 2050. This is a more forward thinking plan about where we would like to see Dane County’s transportation network by 2050.

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.