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Newsletter Weekly Update

John Nolen intersection, Greenbush Safe Streets, and a Bike Week preview

A cute dog called Gigi in a backpack of someone riding a bike on the Cap City trail at Fair Oaks

I hope everybody is enjoying the long weekend. Because of the holiday, this will be a short update.

John Nolen Drive

The design for the rebuilt John Nolen Drive intersection as North Shore Drive was on the Transportation Commission’s agenda last week. A lot of people had submitted written comments in favor of an underpass solution (if you haven’t done so already, read our board member Craig’s post in support of an underpass). But staff made clear that an underpass was not within the scope of the current project and the focus of the meeting was about the at-grade crossing options. Staff presented two options: One that includes a “channelized right turn” (commonly known as a slip lane or multi-stage crossing, “Alt 2”) and a simpler intersection design with direct crossings (“Alt 4”). Neither option would preclude a future underpass.

Alt 2, the design options with channelized right turns, which was ultimately recommended by the Commission
Alt 4B, the less complex intersection design

Both designs had advantages and disadvantages for people walking, biking, and rolling across the intersection in terms of how long it will take to cross, how long one has to wait, and how safe the crossing will likely be. In the end, the Transportation Commission recommended moving forward with the channelized right turn option. Staff and consultants will now work on the details of that design option and bring it back to the Transportation Commission.

Greenbush Safe Street Meeting

The City will be hosting another neighborhood Safe Streets meeting on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30pm.

Streets in the Greenbush Neighborhood have been identified for consideration of safety improvements and improving connections for walking and biking. Streets identified include Drake St and Mills St. This meeting will also be an opportunity to discuss changes on Randall Ave to support the new Metro Transit Route including changes to the traffic calming circle at Vilas Ave and parking changes near the circle.

The meeting is virtual and you can register here: https://cityofmadison.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYqc-yupj8qH9Jqzsr_a_DeJ_gtQCvxSLjN

There is also on option to provide written feedback on safety concerns in the area: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LGBLCYF

Madison Bike Week preview

Bike Week is less than a week away! If I’m counting correctly, we are up to 50 events! New events keep coming in, and so if you haven’t checked the full schedule in a while, go take a look: https://www.madisonbikes.org/events/bikeweek-2023/

We have a great mix of events that have been around for many years and new events at new locations. Madison Bikes is hosting a few events:

  • On Saturday (June 2), our board member Craig and Alder John Duncan will go on a far west bike infrastructure tour
  • On Tuesday, we’re teaming up with Curbside Cycles and the University Hill Farms Neighborhood Association for an afternoon Bike Station at Fire Station #9 (Regent and Midvale)
  • On Wednesday morning, join us for a ride with the mayor and a press conference. Followed by a post-ride Coffee on the Square at our wonderful sponsors Wonderstate Coffee
  • On Thursday, we ride to Paoli to fetch a keg of beer for…
  • …the Friday Madison Bike Week Party at Brittingham Park!

Again, check out the full schedule — I don’t think we’ve had this many events since before the pandemic! Madison Bike Week is a community effort. All this wouldn’t be possible without the support from local businesses, community groups, city staff, volunteers, our great board. And our awesome sponsors!

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
Newsletter Weekly Update

Gear Up for Madison Bike Week: Volunteer, Engage, and Ride On!

A cyclist rides along the streets of the lake loop in Monona.
A cyclist rides along the streets of the lake loop in Monona | Photo by Christo Alexander

Welcome to another Madison Bikes weekly update! Here’s a few things you need to know about biking in Madison this week:

Wanted: Bike Week Volunteers

Bike Week is coming soon, June 3-10, and Madison Bikes is looking for volunteers! If you’re interested, we would love for you to sign up on our form here. Additionally, if you’d like to learn more and meet with the Madison Bikes crew, join us at Working Draft on Monday, May 22nd at 6-7:30 PM for a Bike Week Volunteer Open House. Did we mention there will be pizza?? Please RSVP on our Facebook event if you plan to attend. See you there!

Transportation Commission

In the May 8th weekly update, we mentioned a proposed change to an ordinance stating how members of the Transportation Commission are appointed. As of the 5/16 meeting, the following language was adopted: “The Mayor shall appoint members who meet the following requirements to the highest extent practicable… one (1) member whose primary mode of transportation in the City is the bicycle.” With the updated language, it will still be a goal to have a member whose primary mode of transportation is cycling, but it’s now stated with less firm language and more room for interpretation.

The Transportation Commission will meet again Wednesday, May 24th at 5pm. On the agenda are some important topics including an update on the transit network redesign. Bus routes are changing June 11th, so you’ll want to stay informed on how your commute could change. Also on the agenda is a session for the John Nolen Drive project where the design alternatives will be presented to commission members. You can learn more and watch the meeting online here.

Construction Photos

Construction of the University Bay Drive overpass is underway and we wanted to share some progress pics! You can see from the photos that the piers for the overpass are going up on the West side of the road. The project is still scheduled to run through 10/01/23.

And here’s a bonus pic of the progress on the Atwood Ave bike path. From the plans: “A 15-foot wide path with adjacent sidewalk will be constructed along the south side of Atwood Avenue from Oakridge Avenue to Dennett Drive.” The Atwood Ave reconstruction is scheduled to run through Fall 2023.

A black asphalt path under construction alongside Atwood Avenue, which is torn up to gravel with some curbs installed.
The new path under construction South of Atwood Ave at the Walter St. intersection.

Mark Your Calendar: Bike Week Events

Madison Bike Week is right around the corner and events are filling up the schedule fast! Take a look and plan your week so you can take advantage of as many awesome events as possible. We can’t wait to see you out there!

As the weather warms up and our paths get busier, remember to be an ambassador for cycling and be welcoming to beginners. The more users of bike infrastructure there are out there, regardless of the type of bike (or skateboard, rollerblades, etc.) they ride, the fewer cars there are on the road. Get out there and enjoy!

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
Action Alert In Depth

The Time is Now for a John Nolen Drive Underpass

(disclaimer: this is a personal blog and not an official position of Madison Bikes)

Last fall, Bicyclist Thomas Heninger was killed as he crossed John Nolen Drive by a distracted driver racing 60+ mph to beat a red light. His death is an exclamation mark on just how dangerous the grade crossings are at North Shore Dr and Broom St. That’s something we bicyclists know all about.

Thankfully just groceries. 2020. Photo: Tom Wilson
Car crossing slip lane against “No right turn” light. Sep 2022. Photo: Kai Mast
Slip lane knock-down. Aug 2019. Photo: Chris Collins

Danger aside, almost more impactful are the daily inconveniences of the grade crossings: tight staging areas, multiple “refuge” islands, lengthy wait times, slip lanes, complex & confusing signaling, uneven railroad tracks, and, of course, the noise and smell of 50,000 daily cars and trucks. To many, the North Shore Dr and Broom St crossings are an ordeal best avoided.

It is time to build an underpass so that bikers and pedestrians can have safe and unimpeded movement between the Lake Monona waterfront and the City’s interior.

An underpass is not a new idea, but it is a challenging one.

Why Now?

  • The City’s John Nolen Drive (JND) Reconstruction project is in full swing, and the concrete poured will shape the causeway and southern Law Park for 30+ years. When City engineers brought up various crossing ideas at a recent public information meeting, the underpass concept received, by far, the most support. If this project moves forward without an underpass, it will be nearly impossible to add one later for reasons explained below.
  • The City itself recommended an underpass as a long-term solution in 2017’s Blair/John Nolen Drive Corridor Study
  • Engineer Ron Shutvet independently researched the technical feasibility of two underpass concepts in the Dane County Master Plan Collaborative 2011 & 2017. His designs are practical and innovative.
  • In the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge, two of the three designs called for underpasses in this area. One called it a top priority. With the next steps of the Challenge, Madison’s JND project engineers will have access to technical and aesthetic expertise of a world-class urban design firm to build an underpass that Madison can be proud of.
  • The City’s long-discussed plan for two-way cycletrack along Wilson Street is now kicking off. That new path will provide the gentlest climb from the lakefront up to Monona Terrace and the Capitol Square. This new path needs a low-stress connection to the path along John Nolen Drive.

What are the Obstacles?

  • Water. A tunnel under today’s John Nolen Drive would be 3.5′ below current lake level and 6′ below the high water of 2018. I’m told it is still possible, but only with careful engineering and costly pumps.
    The workaround is to raise the streets! The City’s 2017 JND/Blair corridor study did just that, raising JND by the bare minimum of 2′. Ron Shutvet’s concepts went farther, raising the streets 6-7′, raising the railroad 4′, and also realigning the tracks. These are not far-fetched ideas. Every part of Law Park’s surface is man-made and both the road and the railroad tracks have changed many times over the last century. There’s no reason we can’t do it again to create a better, safer, and friendlier waterfront.
  • Multiple jurisdictions. Possibly the biggest obstacle is that a tunnel would involve State DOT highway, State DOT Railroad, and the State DNR. To City engineers, such multi-jurisdictional projects are hassles, adding meetings and extending timelines by months or years.
    That’s a poor excuse not to get this done! The City works with the State all the time on Hwy 151 and beltline projects. Passenger rail will require Federal coordination. Just a few years ago, County, State, and Federal agencies successfully worked together to realign the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks near the airport. When the need is there — and the underpass is a top need — multiple jurisdictions can work together to get the job done.
  • Money. An underpass will cost several million dollars, and it is not currently funded. Thanks to the $15M Federal grant secured last month for the John Nolen Drive project, the City now has much more freedom to explore underpass concepts.
    Overall, the underpass cost is also low compared to the value it brings to the City, the Bassett Neighborhood, non-motorized transport, and recreation opportunities. It would immediately become the main way to reach the lakefront from campus or anywhere south or west of the Capitol, shaving minutes off every bike/ped journey. It would also achieve many of the lofty goals of the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge at a fraction of the price.
  • Time. The City hopes to have a final JND causeway design in 2024 and do construction in 2026. An underpass would likely delay that schedule. I feel it’s worth it. As mentioned earlier, if reconstruction proceeds without an underpass, it’s almost certain that none will ever be built.

Does an Underpass Have Other Benefits?

  • Street-level crossings would still be needed but could be engineered to a more car-friendly standard, meaning less delay to drivers, less idling, better air quality, and less acceleration & braking noise.
  • One of Ron Shutvet’s options includes stormwater filtration. All three Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge firms also included stormwater management to reduce the amount of pollution reaching Lake Monona.
  • One of Ron Shutvet’s options also realigns the railroad tracks so that Broom St only has a single track crossing instead of two. This simplifies our streets and enlarges Brittingham Park 2.
  • Raising JND where its causeway meets North Shore Drive might allow for higher boat clearance into Monona Bay, which could be helpful during high water events like 2018.
  • The 4-acre “Brittingham Park 2” west of JND with the courts and dog exercise area is difficult to reach and lightly used. An underpass would seamlessly connect it to the lake, increasing its exposure and making it a good place for amenities sought by lakefront visitors such as playgrounds, picnic areas, bathrooms, etc.
  • Although this is a bicycling blog, an underpass would naturally benefit pedestrians of all types and especially people who have mobility challenges. My wheelchair-bound mother lives on West Main St. I pushed her across the Broom St crossing — two traffic islands, six ramps, two sets of railroad tracks with uneven pavement, three signal phases, and cars whizzing by in front and behind us non-stop; I will never do that again.

For an exhaustive list of underpass pros & cons, please see Ron Shutvet’s Master Plan Collaborative document.

Wouldn’t an Overpass be Better?

To clear the railroad tracks, an overpass would need to be 50% longer and almost twice as high as the current bridge over East Washington near Starkweather Creek. It would eat up much of Law Park, block views, have long ramps, and add ½ mile and 30′ of climbing to anyone’s journey. At a JND public information meeting, a majority of attendees said they would take a street-level crossing rather than use such a bridge.

Some attendees did express concern that underpasses can be dark, wet, unsafe places, especially at night. The hope is that any John Nolen Drive underpass will be a showpiece of Madison, acting more of a natural corridor than an out-of-the-way tunnel. The City has experience in this, and underpasses built in the past decade under Verona Rd and Gammon Rd are wide and inviting (see the ride-through videos on YouTube).

Next Steps?

May 2023 is the critical month. My impression is that City Engineers are inclined to keep the overpass concept on the back-burner. It is now up to the City’s Transportation Commission to insist that an underpass be included in the project. Public input can help! Please follow the John Nolen Drive project, take its surveys, and email your thoughts to JNDproject@cityofmadison.com. Please submit comments to the Transportation Commission in advanced of its meeting on Wed May 24, 2023. Also, reach out to your Alders to let them know how important the underpass is, so that they are informed when the project finally comes before them.

Categories
Newsletter Weekly Update

Volunteering, Fundraiser, Path Fixing, MTB For Teens, Group Rides

https://botsin.space/@cyclists_of_msn

Bike Week Volunteering

Bike Week 2023 is fast approaching! Madison Bikes is looking for volunteers to help with a few activities. We’re hosting a volunteer open house at Working Draft Brewery on Monday, May 22nd from 6-7:30PM. Come hang out and eat pizza on us. Link here for more details and to volunteer during Bike Week. If you use Facebook, RSVP so we know how much pizza to bring. Make sure to check out the Bike Week page as new events continue to roll in!

Volunteering for 2 hours will also get you a “good deed” stamp for Bike BINGO. You can buy a BINGO card at local Bike Benefits locations.

Freewheel Fundraiser

Madison Freewheel Bicycle Co is a local nonprofit bike shop focused on transportation justice. Donations and sales help provide free and low-cost bicycles to individuals in need, while also subsidizing bike building, repair, and maintenance classes. Freewheel was not able to cover operating expenses after the pandemic squeezed their ability to safely keep their doors open and offer in-person classes. They recently had to move out of the Madison Bike Center and are fundraising to find a new physical space. For more information and donation options, you can find their GoFundMe here.

Path Fixing

Lately we noticed a few conversations on our Facebook community page discussing path closures. It can be very frustrating to find what is sometimes the only low-stress route to wherever you are riding is closed (although who doesn’t love a freshly resurfaced path)! It part of our mission to work towards a city where there are multiple safe, low-stress bike routes to any destination. For now though, you can check the city’s path resurfacing schedule to be aware of resurfacing schedules (updated regularly as resurfacing progresses).

Youth MTB Informational

Monday from 5:30-7PM, the Madison East / Lafollette Mountain Bike Team is hosting an informational meeting at East High for students in grades 6-12 interested in joining the team, as well as adults interested in becoming a coach.

Schwinn Bike Drive

Saturday from 12-4PM, Schwinn is hosting a bike drive at their HQ to support FreeBikes4 Kidz. Your donations help give bikes to kids in need! More info here.

Spring Group Rides

Monday evening you can join the Monday 40 social ride. Tuesday evening is looking great for the Madison Women’s Cycling Club and the Slow Roll Ride. Saturday morning is looking nice for Brazen Dropouts’ morning Row Ride.

Saturday evening, don’t miss Black Saddle Bike Shop’s bike ride and overnight campout! Ride leaves from the shop (601 N Sherman Ave) by 5:15pm on a 9.1 mile leisurely ‘no drop’ ride to McCarthy Youth & Conservation County Park. More info and RSVP here!

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 E-Mail Newsletter Weekly Update

Proposed TC Changes, West Side Advocacy Outreach, Bike Week Schedule

A person on a bike riding on the Kendall Bike Boulevard. The photo is focused on Magnolia blooms that partially obscure the person on the bike, who is out of focus.
A cyclist surrounded by springtime (h/t Cyclists of Madison)

This Week

On Wednesday at 5pm, the Transportation Commission (TC) meets virtually to discuss all things transportation. One of these things is a proposed amendment to modify how the makeup of the TC itself is determined. To re-summarize a summary (what could possibly go wrong…):

In its current form, most of the eleven TC membership spots have specific requirements: one must have knowledge of equity issues, another must have knowledge of people facing disabilities, another must have primary transport mode of walking, and the list goes on. Of particular relevance to cycling advocacy, one must have a primary transport mode of cycling. The change, proposed by Mayor Rhodes-Conway, would revise the ordinance to say that “[t]he mayor shall strive to appoint members who represent the following perspectives or experiences: people knowledgeable about equity issues and the needs of marginalized communities; people with disabilities; bicyclists; walkers; and transit users.”

There is no doubt it can be difficult to formulate a working commission with the current disparate list of requirements, but this challenge in governing mirrors the challenges a commission like this will face in balancing the needs of a diverse constituency. Unfortunately, this proposed change removes the teeth from the ordinance, changing a firm set of requirements to a broad suggestion that can be interpreted in ways that might leave groups under-represented, or potentially outright ignored.

If you’d like to comment on this item or register your support or opposition, you can do so here while choosing agenda item #4.

If you need to relax after all that, on Wednesday at 6pm the Madison Queer Bike Ride departs from Law Park for the monthly, party-paced meetup ride.

Yet Another Wednesday activity, this time in the form of an open house for Upcoming Plans in the West Area. Drop by the Lussier Community Education Center (the third wheel of the Memorial HS/Jefferson MS/LCEC education mega-campus) between 6:30pm to 8:00pm “to hear directly from City staff about proposed improvements aimed at serving the needs of residents in West Madison, between Midvale Boulevard and the Beltline.” Families welcome, and ooh-ooh, there will be snacks, there will! You can also browse a high-level project map at your leisure, from the comfort of your own home.

Last Week

In case you missed it, the Bike Week event list went live last week. We’re processing new events almost every day so keep checking back. Bike Week runs from June 3 to June 10 and of particular note, on Friday, June 9 from 4pm to 7pm we’ll have our big end of week party at Brittingham Park with free food, music, and probably some fun. Mark your calendars!

Last Wednesday, May 3, City Traffic Engineering held a Safe Streets public meeting focusing on Midvale Blvd between University Ave and Mineral Point Rd. If you missed it, you can see the presentation and feedback summary. [Author’s personal feedback: It’s a stretch that I ride often (usually downhill/NB from Sequoya Library to University Ave). It takes a modicum of vigilance and determination, requiring regular diversions into the main travel lanes while negotiating parked cars. Alternatives can be scenic and enjoyable but add some tiresome crossings, a few poorly maintained roads and/or significant time and distance increases.]

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.