Welcome to the Madison Bikes newsletter! We hope you’re keeping warm this week as you pedal your way into November.
Remember, your hands and feet will be the first to feel the cold so make sure to have good gloves that keep the water out. If you don’t have waterproof gear and you have to cycle in some nasty conditions, try this. Hack #1: Layer your normal gloves with kitchen or latex gloves. To keep your feet warm, doubling up on socks can help, but if your shoes are already snug, you’ll want to avoid it because it can reduce circulation. I’ve also found that wind still goes right through even with a second pair which is why I prefer hack #2: Wrap aluminum foil or cling-wrap around your toes over your socks. It will provide a wind-resistant layer and help keep the heat in on longer rides and it shouldn’t cause well-fitting shoes to feel too tight. Plastic shopping bags can also work in a pinch.
With those tips out of the way, here’s what you should know about bike advocacy in Madison this week.
The Street Project Film Screening
Monday night, Madison Bikes along with The Congress for the New Urbanism and the Wisconsin Student Planning Association will be hosting a screening of The Street Project, a film about humanity’s relationship to the streets. The film features real stories about traffic violence and the fight to make streets safer for bikers and pedestrians. Shot with a 500mm lens, typically used for filming wildlife, the film is intended to give a fascinating, ground-level perspective of transportation and movement and capture real-life human behavior.
You won’t want to miss this opportunity to gather with other members of the biking community and get your mind churning with ideas on how we can improve our streets here in Madison. We’ll kick things off with a happy hour at the Sett Pub at 5 PM, followed by the film screening at 6 at the Marquee Cinema, both located in the UW-Madison Union South. After the film, stick around for a panel discussion with the following members of the community at 7:
Alicia Bosscher, Organizer, Ride for Your Life
Baltazar De Anda Santana, Director, The Latino Academy of Workforce Development
Chris McCahill, President, The Congress for the New Urbanism – Wisconsin Chapter
Also on Monday at 6:30 PM, Traffic Engineering is hosting a virtual neighborhood meeting regarding Midvale Blvd Safe Streets improvements. A buffered bike lane has been proposed and would require removing some parking. The purpose of the meeting is to hear from residents, discuss impacts, and answer questions. If you bike on or near Midvale Blvd between University Ave and Mineral Point Rd, your support is needed! Check out the project page on the city’s website for more details and to register for the meeting.
Atwood Ave Bike Bridge is Here
The Atwood Ave bridge over the Starkweather Creek is up and ridable. The bridge caps off a series of improvements to the bike infrastructure along Atwood on the North side of Lake Monona. The new multi-use path goes from Lakeland Ave, past Olbrich, and down Atwood Ave and is a great way to navigate the Northern section of the “Monona Lake Loop.”
That’s all for this week. Have a safe and spooky Halloween, stay warm, and keep biking!
Madison’s Transportation Commission meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday to take up an agenda that includes a pair of Bikeways 2023 projects. The Bikeways program covers “small improvements and repairs to the city bike network,” and the projects up for review fit the bill. Each is just a skinny block long and meant to ease bikes past higher-traffic interruptions in otherwise lower-traffic routes.
One of the two projects — both scheduled for construction in 2024 — would add an off-street bike path along Seminole Highway between Manitou Way and McCaffrey Drive, providing an easier entrance to the UW Arboretum. The other project would reconfigure West Lakeside Street between Gilson and Rowell streets, removing street parking on the south side of West Lakeside and replacing it with an off-street, two-way bike path close by Franklin Elementary School, Bernie’s Beach Park and Goodman Pool.
This stretch may be fresh in the minds of bicyclists, as it was part of a detour last week while the Cap City Trail was closed for repairs along the John Nolen Drive causeway. Here’s a reminder that after a break for the weekend, those repairs restart for the work week, and this portion of the Cap City is to be closed again Monday, Oct. 23, through Friday, Oct. 27. The detour will get even more use in the planned future, when it’s time to replace John Nolen bridges.
Mineral Point Road “Widened Sidewalk” meeting tomorrow
Monday, Oct. 30, Madison Bikes, the Wisconsin Student Planning Association, and the Wisconsin chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism present “The Street Project,” a story about humanity’s relationship to the streets and the global citizen-led fight to make communities safer, at 6 p.m. in the Marquee Cinema at Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St. Before the film screening is a happy hour at 5 p.m. in The Sett Pub, also at Union South. After it, a panel discussion. Admission is free, but please RSVP here.
(disclaimer: this is a personal blog and not an official position of Madison Bikes)
On 12/5/2023 the Common Council approved the most bike-friendly version of the tree-friendly plans before it. The final path will be 10′ wide for about ⅔ of its length, and 8′ wide for the rest. There will initially be a section of 5′ sidewalk by Nautilus Park (across from Oakwood Village), but the City promises to address that in the next few years.
The path will still be a “camel”, changing width and zig-zagging dozens of times, and with several sections where path and road are uncomfortably close. But it will be a glorious camel that will come to be loved by all! And, at 2.5 miles long it will also be, by far, the longest continuous off-street side path that Madison has ever retrofitted into an existing corridor.
In 1966, the Capital Community Citizens lobbied for a bicycle way on Mineral Point Rd to serve Memorial High School, then under construction. The idea of a “bike lane” or “bike way” was such a foreign concept that one member thought it might be a series of wood planks in the ditch next to the road. Opposition was fierce. “I’ve got problems with bikes on any main thoroughfare in the City of Madison,” the police chief testified. The highway commissioner and public works director were also opposed. One Alder offered a facetious amendment to study lanes for other schools, pointing out the Pandora’s Box they risked opening.
Nearly 60 years later, Mineral Point Rd is on the verge of finally getting an off-street bike facility. Sort of.
Like the proverbial camel being “a horse designed by committee”, the City’s proposed widened sidewalk (meeting Oct 24, 2023) is unlikely to satisfy any of the interests fighting over it. The route will zig and zag, but still require cutting down plenty of trees. Its width will change seemingly at random from 10′ to 8′ to 5′, with the narrowest and most convoluted points being near intersections and danger spots like the heavily-trafficked Kwik-Trip driveway. Depending on how it’s built, the sidewalk may have a seam down the middle, leading to unevenness from frost heaves. There has also been no reduction in the number of driveways, despite a weak pledge that the City would explore doing that.
The new sidewalk will serve local needs and the High School, and for that I’m grateful. But it’s no transportation corridor and it certainly won’t tempt drivers from their cars. I’m not even sure it would have saved Taylor Dunn, the bicyclist killed last year in the final stretch of an 8-mile commute to his baking job on an e-bike he’d just purchased to save on bus fare.
How did we come to this and how can we prevent this in the future?
Bus Rapid Transit or Bust
The City’s haste to roll out Bus Rapid Transit is understandable. After decades of analysis paralysis – transportation studies, debates, and failed initiatives – it was imperative that we finally commit to mass transportation able to help Madison’s surging population. We knew the roll-out would not be perfect and that stakeholders would need to make concessions. What we didn’t expect was that those concessions would fall entirely on the shoulders of bicyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, neighborhood groups, and urban forestry. Those interests are now pitted against each other over scraps of pavement while single-occupant vehicles (SOV’s), arguably the root of most of our transportation woes, were virtually unscathed.
No one got the shaft more than the bicycling community. Despite the City painting a deceptively rosy picture of how BRT and bicycling were complimentary, bicycles have essentially been evicted from 2½ miles of East Washington Ave, 2½ miles of Mineral Point Rd, and ½ mile of University Avenue. These were high-stress routes, to be sure, but they were efficient and intuitive, and dedicated lanes helped bikers reach the many businesses that lined them (even during rush hour). As a replacement, the City offered sidepaths and widened sidewalks for Mineral Point Rd and University Avenue, and an uncommitted mish-mash of paths, widened sidewalks, bike boulevards and intersection improvements for East Washington. In the case of Mineral Point Rd, the original promise of a 10′ path soon morphed into an “8-10′ widened sidewalk”, and now it’s in danger of being crooked and having 600′ of normal 5′ sidewalk. For the 2700-3200 blocks of University Avenue, the forthcoming widened sidewalk will be technically illegal to bike on because it abuts businesses like Century House, Bagels Forever and IHOP, violating ordinance 12.76(1).
Pedestrians didn’t fare much better. Since 2021, the near-Capitol section of East Washington Ave has seen twelve pedestrian injuries and one fatality, easily crowning it the City’s most dangerous road for pedestrians to cross. Despite that, BRT required the removal of curb bumpouts, a pedestrian safety feature installed a decade earlier. BRT’s center-loading stations will also bring many more pedestrians into the traffic lanes, with some choosing to do it “Frogger” style.
In contrast, motor vehicles feel virtually none of the pain. With the exception of Whitney Way’s road diet (which pre-dated BRT), not a single traffic lane, driveway, or intersection is being shrunk, closed or restricted. The only changes I’m aware of are to turn lanes and traffic signal phases.
In Praise of Trees
The emotional pull of saving trees is undeniable. E.g., anyone taking a ride this fall along Devil’s Lake’s South Shore Drive will feel gut-punched by how many trees were cleared with that road’s recent reconstruction:
But there’s a tremendous difference between quality trees like the glorious oak at Homestead Shoppes or the large stands in Garner Park, and the terrace trees planted over the last five decades. These terrace trees are intended to compliment the road and they’re often on or near sanitary sewers, stormwater drains, and utility lines. They’re limited to species that won’t shower debris onto the roads and whose roots won’t damage curbs or the underground utilities. They are as natural as trees on a golf course or at Disneyland. These trees are indeed infrastructure and, like any other infrastructure, the City must be allowed to make improvements to them.
When thinking about climate and climate action, it’s important to maintain perspective about the real villains and solutions. For example, consider that it takes 80 mature trees to offset the carbon footprint of one electric car, and 250 trees for one gas car1. This means about 200 square miles of forest is needed to absorb the CO2 from drivers who use Mineral Point Rd each day. Meanwhile, a single bicyclist or e-bicyclist with a 12-mile round-trip commute is annually offset by just 3 mature trees.
If quality bike infrastructure helps convince just one driver to take up bicycling, that’s an instant savings of 77 – 247 trees for CO2 absorption alone. Add to that reductions in pollution, the heat islands due to roads and parking spaces, the construction costs, and the daily danger vehicles pose to bikers, peds, and each other, and one can’t help but conclude that quality bicycle infrastructure is part of the climate solution and it deserves everyone’s support.
Where do we go from here?
The City is now focused on North-South BRT, with public input meetings in November 2023. Prepare and SHOW UP. Just as with the East-West BRT meetings in 2021, many of the most critical choices have already been decided and public input will be brushed aside due to the tight timeline. For example, with talk so far focused on the much-needed South Park St redevelopment, I fully expect bicycles to be quietly evicted from 1½ miles of South Fish Hatchery Rd and 1½ miles of Northport Drive. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Similarly, the rollout of North-South BRT would be a fantastic opportunity to create new bike and ped facilities along Packers Avenue and the eastern part of Northport drive. These would serve the Oscar Mayer redevelopment, the airport, Madison College, the area around the shuttered South Transfer Point, and the neglected north side. So far, there has been little discussion and no budget for any of this.
Speaking of … isn’t it absolutely bonkers that BRT will pass within ½ mile of the airport but not stop? And, if if BRT is so smart with jump queues, connected signaling, and 15-minute intervals, why can’t both directions of BRT use the same lane between stops? (like how trains at Detroit and Minneapolis airports work) I digress…
Independent of BRT, here are a few concrete things I plan to keep front-of-mind at future City meetings:
Get the City to stop widening sidewalks or building side paths without also reducing the number of driveways and crossings. The current approach is reckless and endangers bicyclists, as studies show that sidewalk riding is over twice as dangerous as road riding2. With Mineral Point Rd’s north-side widened sidewalk, over half the driveways could be removed without limiting business access. Of particular benefit would be the removal of driveways at Kwik Trip (2x), Capitol Petro, and Culvers.
We need an ordinance stating that all major streets get bike lanes regardless of the existence of a nearby path or widened sidewalk, even if that means sacrificing car lanes or on-street parking. It’s tragic how major reconstructions like Monroe St, 2700-3200 University Ave, and Atwood Ave did not get bike lanes while Mineral Point Rd is losing the bike lanes it had. This trend must be stopped.
There’s a fine line between protected lanes and Death Star trenches. E.g., the Bassett St protected lane is a both a success and a nightmare. The City really needs to do another protected lane experiment, this time with terraces on both sides. This is very relevant to South Park St.
Single-occupancy vehicles (SOV’s) and cross-town traffic on the isthmus are the twin root causes of most of Madison’s transportation headaches. The City should work to increase travel times for cross-town traffic. Brussels did this and within just one year saw a traffic drop of 27% in the city center, plus an “astonishing 36 percent jump in the number of cyclists.” Some ideas to achieve this:
High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane restrictions.
Stoplight timing to slow traffic without lowering volume.
Asymmetric roads with more outbound capacity than inbound.
Turn restrictions to limit shortcuts.
Lastly, it is important that we continue to support Bus Rapid Transit! Despite maybe feeling like we’ve been run over by one, BRT will provide tens of thousands of people a viable alternative to their SOV’s, and that benefits us all.
Speaking of John Nolen Drive, last week the Transportation Commission approved the design for the intersection of Broom Street and John Nolen Drive. The new intersection will be a great improvement of the current design: The bike/pedestrian crossing will become much wider and have space for people queuing at the crossing; a slip lane from John Nolen Drive to Broom will be removed, and there will be a connection to the to-be-built bike path on the north side of John Nolen Drive. And in case you were wondering: Yes, the City is making sure that the placement of the path will be compatible with a potential underpass at the North Shore Drive crossing.
Atwood Ave almost done
In other good news: The Atwood Avenue project is getting close to completion. The street is now open to two-way traffic. The only big missing piece is the completion of the bridge approaches for bike path on the south side of the project. Here are some pictures from last weekend of the path on the north side:
Save the date: Car-Free Holiday Fantasy in Lights, Nov 14
After we had hundreds of people walking and biking through the holiday Fantasy in Lights at Olin Park in early January, the organizers granted us permission to have another car-free event this year. Unfortunately we were given only a two-hour window before the cars come roaring back, but at least it’s earlier in the season. So save the date for November 14 at 5pm. We’re still working out some of the details and will keep you posted.
In 2010, the small community of specialists who pay attention to US road safety statistics picked up on a troubling trend: more and more pedestrians and cyclists were being killed on American roads. In fact, pedestrian deaths have increased 51 percent since reaching their low point in 2009. In addition to the loss of human life, it is estimated that road injuries will cost the world economy $1.8 trillion from 2015–2030.
THE STREET PROJECT is the story about humanity’s relationship to the streets and the global citizen-led fight to make communities safer. Digging deep into the root causes of traffic violence, the filmmakers engage a diverse array of experts. These expert interviews are interwoven with the stories of real people working to make their communities safer.
To discuss what the movie’s lesson are for our work in Madison to make streets safer for everyone and to reduce all traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero, we invited a number of speakers for a panel discussion following the movie. On the panel will be
We’re breezing right into fall this week- and it’s time to bundle up. Here are your weekly updates.
Photo: Rico Bucci, Bike Path Closure sign at John Nolan Dr. and Lakeside St.
John Nolen Drive Reconstruction Project— Broom Street Segment
The city’s monumental reconstruction project on John Nolen Drive continues to make progress. On the Transportation Committee’s agenda for Wednesday, October 11, 2023 is the approval of the roadway geometry for the reconstruction of John Nolen Drive. This proposed transformation spans the North Shore Drive, S Broom Street and John Nolen Drive area and carries significant benefits for Madison’s cyclists and pedestrians. In particular, the proposal will remove a dangerous “slip-lane.” The type of lane at the John Nolen Dr-Broom St junction that allows motorists to change roads without actually entering the intersection. These dangerous lanes are certainly one factor in a number of high-profile collisions in Madison in recent years. It is about time these widely known issues with the lanes are addressed.
Upcoming Bike Path Closure
Attention riders! We’re still a week away, but it’s time to prepare for upcoming closures and chilly weather on the Capital City Trail, between October 16-20 and October 23-27. You can expect the detour to add approximately 1.3 miles to your commute, so plan accordingly. The path will be open for the weekend of Oct. 21-22.
“The Capital City Trail will be closed along the John Nolen Drive causeway for two consecutive weeks for bridge repairs. The path will reopen for weekends.
The closure periods will be: 7:00 a.m. Monday, 10/16 until 5:00 p.m. Friday, 10/20 7:00 a.m. Monday, 10/23 until 5:00 p.m. Friday, 10/27
A signed detour will be in place to route path users around Monona Bay using W Lakeside St, S Shore Dr, W Shore Dr, and N Shore Dr.
The work is to repair the steel expansion joints on the bike path portion of the bridge until the full reconstruction of the John Nolen Drive causeway, scheduled for 2025-2026.“
In the news
Madison’s Department of Transportation plans to revitalize Park Street, prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists by introducing protected bike lanes and increased greenery as part of the bus rapid transit project.
The reconstruction, contingent on $6.8 million in local funding and $10 million in state money, also involves dedicated bus lanes, improved sidewalks, and potential federal Small Starts funding. The project covers Park Street between West Washington Avenue and Badger Road, aligning with the city’s broader plans for growth and redevelopment in South Madison. The city council is set to vote on the mayor’s capital and operating budgets on Nov. 14-16. If you want to learn more, see the full story here.
The Street Project Screening October 30th
Save the date for this exciting event organized by Madison Bikes, the Wisconsin Student Planning Association, and the Wisconsin chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism: On October 30, we will show “The Street Project,” a story about humanity’s relationship to the streets and the global citizen-led fight to make communities safer. Before the screening at 6pm, join us for a happy hour at the Sett Pub, and following the movie, we will host a panel discussion with local experts and advocates on street safety.
Alicia Bosscher, Organizer, Ride for Your Life
Baltazar De Anda Santana, Director, The Latino Academy of Workforce Development
Chris McCahill, President, The Congress for the New Urbanism – Wisconsin Chapter
Collin Mead, Wisconsin Bike Federation
Juliana Bennett, Madison Alder, Dist 2
Morgan Ramaker, Downtown Madison, Inc.
The event will take place at the Marquee Cinema at Union South. Admission is free, but please RSVP here. We are super excited about this event and hope to see many of you there.
Wow. The weather has been really spectacular for fall riding. I hope everyone is enjoying the opportunity to get out , whether for a ride, whether it’s commuting, doing errands, longer rides after work and weekends, or just bopping around seeing friends on the street. Soon we’ll be talking about tips for dealing with snow, ice, and cold, so let’s enjoy these last days.
Two rides this last week were blessed with perfect conditions. We had a good-sized group for the second social ride in partnership with Madison Is For People, starting at Machinery Row and ending at Garver Feed Mill after a ¾ loop of Lake Monona.
Then on Sunday, around 700 people joined the Ride For Your Life on a slow roll through the near west side and ending at the Capitol to honor Sarah Langenkamp – killed in Bethesda, MD, two years ago, and whose sister lives in Madison – and Tom Heninger – musician and teacher who was killed crossing John Nolen Drive. The ride also honors and remembers all the other people who have died from traffic violence. We ride to bring attention to the need for safer conditions for those walking, biking, and rolling on our street. Thanks to Bike Fed, Trek, and the City of Madison for helping make the ride happen.
The week ahead
The upcoming week is pretty quiet as far as city meetings. Budget season is upon us at the city, but there aren’t any budget meetings this week.
However, we got some good news recently when it was announced that money to design an underpass of John Nolen Drive was added to the budget by Alder Mike Verveer. This is a big win, and we can thank the people that both pushed for the city to look at this possibility and then testified about how much it was needed. This underpass is an example of the power of your voice.
The design of John Nolen Drive from North Shore Drive to Broom Street – the area where this underpass will be located – will be coming before the Transportation Commission on October 11. We’ll have more on that meeting in next week’s Monday Update.
Wednesday, the October Ride for Joe will be leaving the Fitchburg Senior Center at 10 am. These rides are geared to seniors, but anyone is welcome. The rides are in honor of Joe Imilkowski, long-time Fitchburg resident and avid bicyclist and senior center patron. Each month there is a little bike education along with the ride. This month the topic is Wisconsin Bike Laws.
On Thursday, two local TV stations ran stories about bike theft in Madison, and then the Wisconsin State Journal ran an article on Friday morning. We’ve seen a huge uptick in theft, as anyone who has followed our Facebook community discussion has seen. If you want to check out the news stories, as well as tips for keeping your bike safe, here are the links: