This is a guest post by Kirsten Finn, executive director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. The article was originally published on the Bike Fed website.
In the overview of Governor Evers’ 2023-2025 budget he acknowledges that, with a $7 billion dollar state surplus, it is time to invest in Wisconsin’s future by addressing long neglected needs and “doing the right thing” instead of just getting by. One of the “right things” that the Governor’s budget addresses is addressing Wisconsin’s long neglected active transportation network.
According to the League of American Bicyclists most recent Bicycle Friendly States Rankings, Wisconsin currently ranks 49th out of 50 states in the amount of money we spend on biking and walking at just $.85 per capita. Under the new federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, also called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or BIL), there is significantly more money available for biking and walking.
Once stuck at $7.4 million dollars annually, the Governor’s budget calls for $18.2 million annually for the Transportation Alternatives Plan (TAP). The Bike Fed encourages WisDOT to appropriate even more of the available Federal dollars for TAP so that Wisconsin can match the national average of spending 2.2% of its transportation on biking and walking. However, this increase will allow us to address many critical bike/ped projects around the State.
Since the beginning of the year, Bike Fed has partnered with WisDOT to help small communities access TAP funding by providing technical assistance in developing proposals. We have learned that rural communities have a dire need for TAP dollars to improve safety for people biking and walking, but the required 20% local match often means they are unable to apply.
Neighboring states are using Highway Safety Improvement (HSIP) dollars or toll revenue to address this issue, but Wisconsin has not previously provided support to small communities. The Bike Fed raised this concern with the Governor’s staff and, in response, Governor Evers has proposed $1.2 million annually to provide matching funds for TAP projects for small communities. Additionally, the Governor included $60 million for traffic calming grants to combat reckless driving and make biking, running and walking safer.
The Governor’s budget also calls for two pieces of bike-friendly legislation that are critical to Wisconsin being a truly great state for cycling. A Complete Streets Policy prioritizes the safety of all roadway users over the speed of moving cars. In 2009 the Wisconsin state legislature passed a Complete Streets Law which in part stated that the Wisconsin DOT shall refuse to provide any state and federal funds to highway reconstruction projects that don’t include bicycle and pedestrian ways – i.e. sidewalks and/or marked or unmarked bike lanes. In 2015, the statute was altered to make Complete Streets a consideration, but not a requirement. Governor Evers’s proposal to make Complete Streets a requirement would eliminate the necessity of offering traffic calming grants to re-engineer streets that are built with no regard to cyclists and pedestrian safety in the future.
For the past two years, the Bike Fed has participated in the Wisconsin Non-Driver Advisory Council and Governor Evers’ budget provides further support for people who do not drive cars – including teens, the elderly and people with disabilities – to access employment, healthcare and recreation opportunities by increasing state support of mass transit by 4% each calendar year.
Finally, the Governor also recommends giving local units of government the authority to use eminent domain to purchase land for the construction of nonmotorized paths. Extending the same common sense policy to acquiring easements for sidewalks and bike paths that is used for building or expanding roads for cars, would enable Wisconsin to finish critical links in our State’s cycling network.
Cycling is good for Wisconsinites, and good for Wisconsin’s economy. The University of Wisconsin 2019 study concludes that cycling contributes over $2.52 billion dollars to our economy each year. The Bike Fed supports Governor Evers’ proposed investments in programs that will improve the safety and convenience of Wisconsin’s cycling infrastructure.
The Governor’s budget can be viewed on the State of Wisconsin website. The Bike Fed will hold an Advocacy Day at the State Capitol on Thursday, March 9th to support budget proposals that are favorable to biking and walking. Sign up to join us here.
It’s looking relatively warm this week, but keep the studs on and watch out for freeze/thaw ice patches. For more pictures of people enjoying biking in Madison, visit our Mastodon page.
Tuesday: Madison had a very strong turnout for the Spring primary election, a reflection of the critical importance of this year’s WI supreme court race. That said, kudos to all of you making your voice heard in local aldermanic and mayoral elections as well. Strong local political leadership is a key part of successful of bike safety and accessibility projects in Madison.
Friday: In case you missed it, Madison Bikes provided comments on the city’s Reconnecting Communities federal grant application. The city hopes to build an overpass connecting N. and S. Perry St. on the South Side. Currently, the Beltline cuts these two streets in half. Hopefully, this project could increase bicyclist and pedestrian access across the Beltline.
Monday:Join us on Zoom from 6:00 – 7:30 PM to discuss the three final proposals for the Monona Lakefront Design Project. We plan to assess how each proposal contributes to an all ages and abilities bike network, especially in relation to safe connections from the Cap City across John Nolen to access the Capitol. We’d love to hear what you like about the proposals, what you don’t, and any other ideas you have about the John Nolen Drive project. If you aren’t familiar, feel free to explore the links and join us to learn more.
Wednesday: Madison MPO meets at 6:30 PM this week. TAP project scoring for applications from February is on the agenda. Scores will be used to prioritize distribution of $3.5 million in TAP funds. Link here to the draft project scores plus a link to join the meeting.
In case you missed it, the WI Bike Fed recently discussed Governor Evers’ pledge to leverage more federal and state funds to support TAP projects, along with other important bike policies, in his biennial budget. Governor Evers acknowledged the state has a $7 billion budget surplus, and with Wisconsin ranking 49/50 in per-capita pedestrian and bicyclist spending, spending some of that surplus is long overdue.
Thursday: The city is hosting a public information meeting on the Autumn Ridge Path project. Plans include an enhanced crossing of Milwaukee St. east of HW51 and a bike/ped overpass for HW30 just west of Thomson Dr. The HW30 overpass would be the only low-stress crossing east of HW51, would link nicely with the HW51 overpass, and would serve as an important connection between residential and commercial areas on either side of HW30. Info and meeting registration here.
Welcome to this week’s update! We hope you have been enjoying the wide range of Winter cycling weather we’ve been having. If being on two wheels is bringing you half the joy it’s brought me this season, I’d say you’re doing great. Here’s what you need to know about bike advocacy in Madison this week.
Get out and vote! Tuesday, February 21st is the Spring Primary to nominate non-partisan candidates to be voted for at the Spring Election. By casting your vote, you are helping to shape the future of your local government and make an impact on issues that matter to you, like the quality of biking in this wonderful city. Earlier this month, we asked the candidates about about their positions on transportation, housing, and sustainability. You can learn more and read the candidates’ responses to the questions here.
Transportation Commission meeting
Wednesday, the Transportation Commission will meet virtually at 5PM. The agenda includes a contract for analysis on pedestrian and bike infrastructure gaps near BRT stations and a TAP grant application for the Glacial Drumlin Connector and West Towne Path projects. The connector project aims to connect the Capital City Trail near I-90 to the Glacial Drumlin trailhead in Cottage Grove, which is a crucial missing link for cyclists heading East from Madison. Check out this link to watch the meeting or learn more.
John Nolen Redesign meeting
There will be a public information meeting on the John Nolen Drive Redesign project on Thursday at 6:30PM. The first phase of the project addresses the causeway from East Lakeside Street to North Shore Drive. The plans include some exciting improvements like expanding the multi-use path to separate bike and pedestrian traffic and a path underpass between North Shore Drive and Broom Street. The project is scheduled to run through 2026.
Looking Ahead: Community Meeting
Finally, we want to hear your input on the Monona Waterfront Design challenge! Join us on Monday, Feb 27th for a community meeting where we will discuss the plans and what they mean for people on bikes. You can find more info on our Facebook event.
Spring 2023 is election time. The Spring Primary is on February 21; Spring Election is on April 4. The results of those elections can have a great impact on biking, walking, transit, and housing. Madison Bikes, together with Madison is for People and Madison Area Bus Advocates, reached out to all candidates for mayor and common council to ask them about their positions on transportation, housing, and sustainability.
The in-person meeting was cancelled last week due to weather and will probably be rescheduled soon. In the meantime, you can make comments on the interactive map. It’s a good opportunity to highlight areas where you enjoy biking or where you wish there were better connections.
In case you missed it last week, the Bike Fed’s summer youth camp programs are open for registration. Also, plenty of good info on the site even if a youth camp isn’t your bag!
On Friday morning, many hearty cyclists came out and stopped by our bike station despite the attempted knockout blow delivered by the big, wet Thursday snowstorm. It was somewhat treacherous conditions for all road, path and sidewalk users due to the late-night freeze following a day of sloppy conditions.
With warmer temperatures than we’ve had in the past, it was good to see faces (both old and new) and sunshine. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, along with our sponsors and partners for the coffee and good times.
Finally, Groundhog’s Day was two week ago, but we still seem to be in this time loop where we get the same big storms on Thursdays. Until then, we’ll see great melting conditions that should leave paths and sideroads pretty rideable (sorry skiers). Watch out for refreezing, but otherwise enjoy!
In case you missed it: This week is International Winter Bike to Work Day. Or as we like to call it: International Winter Bike Anywhere Day. As per usual, the weather will be dubious, but we have a great line-up of events!
7-9am: AM Bike Station at the Monona Terrace (look for us just off the path next to the bike elevator parking lot). We will have hot coffee donated by Cafe Domestique, snacks and swag! Be ready to share why you winter biking… The first 15 people to show up will get a Madison Bikes buff!
4-7pm: Bike Happy Hour at the Settle Down Tavern’s (117 S Pinckney St.) outdoor Tundra Club! There will be Tundra Club hot toddy drink specials, solo stoves and fire pits to keep us toasty.
Starting at 5pm: $10 cocktails at the Hilton Garden Inn Madison Downtown (770 Regent St, right off the SW Path) AND $8 flatbreads from 5-7pm!
noon-10pm: $1 off your first pint at Working Draft Beer Co (1129 E Wilson). Just mention Winter Bike Day and the discount will be applied.
As the days grow longer in the new year, it’s time for Madison Bikes to look back on everything that happened in 2022. In 2021, we were responding to traffic violence, strategic planning, and adapting to the challenges Covid continued to present for getting together. This year saw similar challenges, and lots of encouraging signs for the future.
Bike Events and News
Madison Bikes hosted and participated in a number of events in 2022. In February, we were out on the Capital City Trail with a coffee and pastry station for International Winter Bike to Work Day. Thanks again to our generous local partners for providing coffee, treats, and discounts to keep commuters warm.
Ride the Drive was canceled for only the second time since 2009 (2020 being the first). Madison Parks hosts this event and chose to prioritize other programming this year, citing challenging staffing shortages that had contributed to an understaffed and poorly executed event in 2021.
In July, we were excited to check in with Dr. Dirk von Schneidemesser at the Memorial Union Terrace for our first in-person social since 2020. Dirk visited us in 2019 to talk about his key organizing work that helped pass the first bike law in Germany, and shared some good tips for keeping a community focused on bike safety, including ensuring language used when covering crashes does not blame victims or use euphemisms like “accident” that can make traffic deaths feel mundane and unpreventable
We worked with the WI Bike Fed for their Healthy Communities Summit event in September and had fun leading summit attendees on an afternoon tour of local bike infrastructure. On Halloween, Madison Bikes board members Harald Kliems, Robbie Webber, and Caitlin Hussey joined city Pedestrian and Bicycle Outreach Coordinator Colleen Hayes on the WORT Access Hour to talk about biking and walking in the winter. We talked about how to get started if cold-weather biking is new to you. If you’d like to listen to the program, you can find it in the WORT archives (Monday, Oct 31 at 7:00 pm.).
Healthy Communities Summit. Photo: Madison Bikes
We organized a packed Madison Bike Week from June 5-11 with dozens of local organizations hosting events throughout the week, along with a ridealong with the mayor and a Madison Bikes party outside to cap things off. We also gave out $1500 to local organizations hosting bike week events for the first time in our first series of small grants. Sadly, we cannot mention 2022’s bike week without remembering Taylor Dunn’s death. On June 7th he was riding his bicycle to work around 4am when he was struck and killed by an intoxicated motorist at the intersection of Mineral Point Road and High Point Road. A vigil was held, and a ghost bike was placed to create a memorial for Taylor.
While data show overall reductions in crashes causing serious injury as Vision Zero projects are implemented, the number of driver vs bicyclist crashes causing serious injury has not significantly changed. TOPS data show 2022 was the deadliest year for Madison bicyclists on record (going back to 2001), with 3 riders killed by drivers. Predictably, all crashes involved roads and intersections designed for high vehicle speed with minimal separation of drivers and bicyclists. Will Cummings was killed in August while riding his bike on Pflaum Rd. A ghost bike placement and dedication was held on August 17th with Will’s family and friends. MPD blamed Will’s death on a poorly designed bike lane. In October, a man was killed after being struck by a driver while crossing John Nolen Dr. at the N. Shore Drive crossing of the Capital City Trail. An investigation into this crash is ongoing.
Madison Bikes Participated in the city’s World Day of Remembrance talk on November 15th, where Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway gave a moving speech in remembrance of her grandfather and brother, who were killed in a car crash, and reaffirmed her commitment to fulfilling the city’s Vision Zero goals.
Later in November, Madison Bikes board member Aaron Levine gave a presentation to the Lake Monona Waterfront Ad Hoc Committee to convey the huge opportunity for bike safety and capital accessibility presented as the John Nolen and Lake Monona Waterfront are slated for a massive design and rebuild project that intends to transform the parkway in the coming years.
The Monday after the new year, we hosted Holiday Fantasy in Lights at Olin Park without cars! The Sheraton graciously hosted a pre-party from 4pm-5pm with hot chocolate, snacks, and swag. A very large turnout, and relatively mild weather made for a great event.
Big Safety & Efficiency Plans
A number of consequential city plans and programs relevant to our mission were funded/approved this year. The city’s Vision Zero Action Plan was approved. This lengthy document outlines where crashes causing severe injury and death are occurring, who is affected by them, steps the city will take to eliminate these crashes completely by 2035, and how progress will be measured. Madison Bikes has been a stakeholder in the engagement group providing input on this plan. Unfortunately the city did not get a multi-million dollar federal Safe Streets For All grant it applied for to help jumpstart this program, but can reapply again for FY23. This program gives out $1 billion per year of grants over 5 years to local governments for safe streets projects as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The Complete Green Streets guide was finalized in late 2022 and complements the Vision Zero Action plan in reframing the goals of street design to be focused first on safety and accessibility for users of all modes of transportation, rather than moving traffic first and squeezing any other priorities afterwards.
The Safe Streets Madison program approved its first two batches of smaller-scale projects designed to increase traffic safety, and improve bikeability and walkability. These projects range in estimated cost from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, with total approval of about $1,000,000 in projects. The High Injury Network created as part of the Vision Zero process guides project selection, with most projects focusing on intersection modifications and vehicle speed reduction strategies.
An updated Transportation Demand Management program will help ensure large residential or commercial developments, employers, and institutions are incentivized to accommodate modes of transportation other than driving alone when applying for new building or parking permits. This effort works in tandem with the new Transit-Oriented Development Overlay Zoning District encouraging higher-density development within ¼ mile of high-frequency transit and BRT. A big Transit Network Redesign centered around BRT was approved in June, and the project broke ground in December.
While these ambitious new programs align with our mission in a number of ways, there will inevitably be many bumps in the road as individual projects are designed and implemented. We look forward to many new opportunities to advocate alongside all of you in the coming years.
New Infrastructure, Planned and Built
Overall, it was a slow year for new bike infrastructure with projects postponed due to staffing shortages, contractor availability, and design conflicts. A handful of exciting projects were approved in 2022 to be constructed in 2023. Highlights include a number of significant bike/ped safety and usability improvements slated for the Atwood Ave. rebuild from Fair Oaks to Cottage Grove Rd. A compromise plan endorsed by Madison Bikes was approved for this project after extensive advocacy efforts and strong alder support. A plan for the Hammersley Road project from the Southwest Path to just west of Whitney Way will create a new multi-use path and eliminate turn lanes to make crossing Whitney Way safer. Community and alder support for on-street parking removal were key to making this project happen. Remember to talk to and thank your alders!
A handful of projects were completed this year. A stretch of Tokay Boulevard was upgraded from unbuffered to buffered bike lanes. Buffered bike lanes were also installed on Old Middleton Road from Eau Claire to Capitol Ave. Previously, there was an unbuffered bike lane between N. Eau Claire Ave. and Old Sauk Road, and no bike infrastructure further West. Getting buffered bike lanes required removal of on-street parking from almost 2.8 miles of road!
Resurfacing of the notorious “hairball” intersection (John Nolen Dr., Williamson St., S Blair St., and E. Wilson St.) was also completed. Making this intersection safe for all ages and abilities would require accepting a reduction in motor vehicle throughput. While Madison residents are generally willing to make this tradeoff, the Wisconsin DOT often is not. That said, we did win some safety improvements. Crossings of John Nolen/Blair from the North and South are better separated from traffic, and the slip lane onto Willy St. is narrowed. A vehicle lane on E. Wilson up to S. Franklin St. was replaced with a buffered bike lane and significantly more pedestrian space.
The Cap City Path intersections at Ohio Ave., Jackson St., and Russell St. were all upgraded to at-grade crossings when surrounding streets were resurfaced, while Ohio Ave. and Jackson St. were both narrowed to one lane. We are excited to see more of these raised intersection crossings and intersection narrowing planned for a few 2023 bike projects!
The Aldo Leopold Pump Track project that began in 2021 completed an awesome Skills Loop in 2022, and plans to add a “shred to school” trail in the future to allow kids to easily ride between Leopold Elementary and all of the fun at the park. The collaborative work between the city’s MadBAT program and local residents, businesses, and nonprofits that allowed this project to happen is truly inspiring. After much debate, the western end of Vilas Park from Edgewood Avenue to the shelter was finally closed to motor vehicle traffic in June, with plans for more bike/ped improvements to come.
2023: Good Things to Come
Persistence from elected officials, nonprofits, and our large community of advocates is essential to ensuring the many ambitious plans enacted this year can eventually create a city any person of any age or ability can comfortably navigate without a car. We are grateful for the many individuals and organizations that have taken time to join us this last year in organizing for bike events and projects, reaching out to elected officials, and partaking in so many other impactful actions. Happy New Year.
It’s the 2023 International Bike to work Anywhere Week! Unlike prior years, the weather for winter bike week is expected to be quite balmy with afternoon temperatures exceeding freezing most days. In celebration, the City of Fitchburg and Madison Bikes will be hosting bike commuter stations on Tuesday and Friday respectively. See below for more details…
The Transpiration Policy and Planning Board (TPPB) will be meeting at 5pm this week to primarily discuss amendments to the City of Madison Official Map to include future streets in accordance with the Odana Area Plan.
Celebrate Wisconsin Bike Week 2023 with a pit stop at the Velo UnderRound from 7am to 9am, the confluence of the Badger State and Capital City State Trails and the Southwest, Cannonball, and Military Ridge Paths! Hosted by Bike Fitchburg, the City of Fitchburg, and the Fitchburg Chamber of Commerce. Enjoy bagels and coffee, pick up Dane County bicycle maps, and get minor mechanical adjustments. Learn more about Bike Fitchburg and our local advocacy for everyone who rides or walks. Learn more…
The Transportation Commission will be meeting virtually at 5pm. One potential topic of interest for cyclist is the Davies/Dempsey Project Review and Feedback. This project follows the popular Lake Monona bike route and provides neighborhood access to Frank Allis Elementary School. Traffic Engineering is proposing a 10′ shared-use path along the entire route and a realignment of the Maher Ave. intersection improve pedestrian visibility. It would be great if you could register your support for agenda item #2, if you live in this area or use this route frequently.
International Winter Bike Day 2023!
7-9am: Madison Bikes will be hosting a bike station at the Monona Terrace (next to the bike elevator parking lot). We will have hot coffee donated by Cafe Domestique, snacks and swag!
4-7pm: Bike Happy Hour at the Settle Down Tavern’s (117 S Pinckney St.) outdoor Tundra Club! There will be Tundra Club hot toddy drink specials, solo stoves and fire pits to keep us toasty.
In preparation for the upcoming City of Madison Common Council and Mayoral election, Madison Bikes will be asking candidates to respond to our questionnaire about biking and transportation in Madison. We will post their responses on Feb 16th (my birthday!). We encourage you to take a look and make an informed decision about who to vote for on April 4, 2023.
Bike Network: Madison Bikes wants all residents to have access to a low-stress bike network that makes biking safe and convenient for people of all ages and abilities, no matter where they live in the city. As mayor, what would you do to makes this vision a reality and close the current gaps in our network?
Transportation Climate Impact: In Madison, about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. How do you think the city should go about reducing emissions from that sector over the next 5 years?
New Policies: Over the past years, the city has implemented a number of major policy initiatives around transportation: The Metro Network Redesign, Complete Green Streets, Transit-Oriented Development, Vision Zero, and others. As a mayor, what is next? What are your major policy initiatives around transportation for the next 5 years?
Complete Green Streets: Madison recently adopted a Complete Green Streets policy that prioritizes walking, biking, transit, and green infrastructure over driving and car parking when it comes to allocating our public right of way. Are you committed to implementing this policy, especially when a project requires the removal of car parking or inconveniencing drivers?
Vision Zero: Madison committed to eliminating all fatalities and serious injuries from traffic crashes by 2035. Yet in 2022, 14 people were killed, including 3 people riding bikes, and 74 were seriously injured. Which roadways and intersections in your district should be prioritized for safety improvements, and what strategies would you use to ensure improvements are implemented?
Bike Network: Madison Bikes wants all residents to have access to a low-stress bike network that makes biking safe and convenient for people of all ages and abilities, no matter where they live in the city. Where in your district do you see major gaps in this network and how would you propose to fix these gaps?
Transportation Climate Impact: In Madison, about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. How do you think the city should go about reducing emissions from that sector over the next 5 years?
Adventure Bike Summer Camp
This summer Bike Fed is running two youth Adventure Bike Camps (ABC). Campers will experience Madison by bike, and learn to be a safe, independent cyclist. Travel via the Capital City Trail, Southwest Commuter Path, Cannonball Path and more to explore the lakes, UW Arboretum, parks, local shops, and the city’s hidden gems!
June 12-16th from the Madison Bicycle Center for grades 5 and 6
August 7-11th from the Middleton Wheel & Sprocket for grades 6,7 and 8
Job Opportunity: Madison Pedestrian Bicycle Improvement Technician
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has an opening for a part-time bike/ped improvement technician covering the Madison area. Please get the word out to anyone you know who maybe interested.
The Pedestrian Bicycle Section of the Traffic Engineering Division within the Department of Transportation is looking to fill a part-time position that is a key part of making Madison one of the most bicycle and pedestrian friendly cities in the United States. The work involves direct responsibility for a range of specialized programs, projects and activities relating to the support of traffic engineering pedestrian and bicycle projects. In particular, this work involves management of pedestrian bicycle parking and other small infrastructure, assisting with gathering data and counts, assisting with pedestrian and bicycle wayfinding and other signage, and managing bike and pedestrian map creation… Learn more