Creating space for people during COVID-19

Walking, rolling, and biking remain important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Madisonians need to have enough space to stay mobile while being able to maintain physical distancing. This has become increasingly difficult. Yesterday, Madison Bikes submitted a letter to the City, requesting the creation of more space for people by re-allocating underused space from cars. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have been way down, and this provides an opportunity to restrict motor vehicle access and open up room for those walking, rolling, and biking. Of course, City resources are strained, and so we also offered our help. We can leverage the power of our community to mobilize volunteers, connect to local businesses who can provide barriers, gather feedback from and get messages out to the community. And we have already heard back that "Mayor Satya has directed staff look into these opportunities and we are working on some potential projects. Some top locations suggested by you coincide with our recommendations as well. We hope to share more information and potentially implement some of these very soon." Read our letter below:



To: Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway
Tom Lynch, Director of Transportation
Yang Tao, City Traffic Engineer

Subject: Creating Space for Rolling, Walking, and Biking During COVID-19

Dear Madam Mayor, dear Tom, dear Yang:
The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous challenges for our city that impact almost every aspect of daily life, including transportation. Governor Evers's Safer at Home orders and current recommendations from our public health authorities allow people to use the many shared use paths in our city while practicing physical distancing. Madison has many people who already commute and travel to essential businesses by bicycle, and reduced Metro service has further increased the number of people who rely on bikes for transportation. The warmer weather has also increased the number of people using these paths and trails for walking and other activities to the point that it is becoming difficult to impossible to use these facilities while maintaining the required physical distance.

We greatly appreciate the measures you have already taken, such as changing signal cycles, deactivating “beg buttons,” and public outreach campaigns to promote safe and healthy behavior. However, there are limits to what those measures can achieve. We encourage the City of Madison to identify select streets and lanes where motor vehicle traffic can be restricted in order to alleviate crowding on sidewalks and multi-use paths.

Madison Bikes, on behalf of our hundreds of members and thousands of people who use bikes for transportation or recreation in our City, request that you take bold steps to address the crowding on our paths and trails. Allowing crowding on our paths and trails is inconsistent with the recommendations of public health professionals, and closing or banning the use of the trails is inconsistent with our community's values toward equity, sustainability, and the health benefits of walking and biking. Fortunately Madison has extensive experience closing streets and car lanes so that bikes and pedestrians can use this public space, from the annual Ride the Drive events to our frequent marathons, triathlons and other public events.

Some areas that we have received specific feedback about and that we think may be good candidates for temporary closures:

  • Cap City Trail from Williamson North Shore (and potentially Olin Park): To separate people on bikes and walking, repurpose a travel lane on John Nolen Drive, similar to what has been done during construction and flooding. Crowding is a huge issue here, it is an important transportation corridor, and there are no good alternative routes
  • Vilas Park Dr and Arboretum Dr: These low traffic routes would be easy to block off and increase the availability of park and recreation space
  • Atwood Avenue: Sidewalks are narrow, the parallel Cap City Trail is crowded, and adjacent park land reduces parking and driveway access issues
  • Outer Capitol Loop: Consider maintaining the time-restricted bike lane all day
  • Areas without a terrace between sidewalk and the roadway, or where sidewalks do not exist at all
  • Access routes to hospitals and medical facilities
  • Multi-lane roadways that have excess capacity for moving or parked vehicles
  • Areas of the city with a high proportion of transit-dependent residents

Madison Bikes is prepared to help in this effort. We understand that you face constraints in terms of staff time, availability of materials, and competing priorities. As an all-volunteer non-profit dedicated to making Madison a community where anyone can ride a bicycle conveniently and comfortably to any place year round, we want to do our part. In the past Madison Bikes and our strong community have been a part of many efforts to promote and encourage people to bike even during difficult times. Madison Bikes has helped to identify impacted bike facilities and alternate routes during the 2018 flooding as well as working with the City and our partners on community-wide events like Madison Bike Week. We offer our assistance in identifying the paths, trails, and routes most impacted by crowding and working with our partners to find local equipment and volunteers to deploy street and lane closures. We have already begun to identify potential partners who can provide barricades and traffic cones used for events such as the Madison Marathon and are ready to offer the same volunteer force we have used at previous events. We will continue to work closely with you to amplify public health messaging about safe and healthy behaviors. We look forward to helping Madison respond to COVID-19 and address our short and long-term needs for healthy and safe transportation options.


Harald Kliems, on behalf of the Madison Bikes Board of Directors


Weekly Update: Spring election, and (of course) COVID-19

Since everything is effectively canceled for the foreseeable future, this will be a bit of a short update. Bike shops are able to remain open under the Governor’s Safer At Home order, but they are all operating with precautions in place to protect public health and the health of their employees. Madison Bikes, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Bike Fed, has created a statewide visual map of bike shops dedicated to information about how your local bike shop is operating during these difficult times. The page is constantly updated as new information rolls in.

Speaking of the Bike Fed: They have just launched a new website! Looks pretty slick and has lot of content. Check it out.

On Tuesday, Wisconsin’s Spring Election and Presidential Preference Vote is set to go forward, with curbside voting available at all of Madison’s polling locations. Biking to the curbside voting station is an option. Voters are being encouraged to bring their own blue or black ballpoint pens. The election results are set to be announced April 13 to allow for people who requested absentee ballots by last Friday to fill them out and mail them in. Some voting locations have changed, so please check this map or enter your address here.

In addition, biking has been listed as an appropriate activity, when practiced alone or within a household, and adhering to appropriate social distancing, during this crisis. In order to make sure people stay safe, the city has posted signs by all its paths in an attempt to educate path users on proper distancing during this pandemic. Madison Bikes President Harald Kliems used himself to demonstrate what six feet means on a path, and the post was even retweeted by none other than Gary Fisher, the legendary bike maker!

On our Facebook Group there have been a lot of discussions on how to bike, roll, walk, and run safely and courteously. And the City has put together these  guidelines (en español).

Some tips:

  • stay single file
  • consider avoiding the paths and ride in the streets if you're comfortable doing so (much less car traffic than usual!)
  • ride the paths early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds
  • discover some less popular paths
  • slow down

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.

Make a paper bike, or: Finding community during social distancing times

The other day, I noticed a neighbor had put a lot of paper hearts in her porch window. Two days later I noticed that the neighbors across the street had painted hearts on their windows facing the house with the paper hearts. I came home and started sifting through my crafting supplies to find some colored paper to decorate my windows with paper hearts.

These past two weeks have been a little more screen heavy with my kiddos than I would like to admit. I have joined social distancing parenting groups on Facebook, trying to find the best practices for home educating kiddos during this weird time. I need my children to log onto their tablets, and chromebooks to occupy themselves so I can buy time to process this new world we live in, out of their view. My husband works from home, and aside from all his trips cancelling, nothing has changed much with his job. ( Thank god!) He gets up, makes the family breakfast, and excuses himself to work in our four years old’s bedroom. He was previously working from our living room- but in doing so, was confining the rest of the family and the dog to the basement or the bedrooms. Dad’s office had to move. I am not able or willing to quiet my rambunctious kiddos during this time that we are all confined to our home.

We have it a lot easier than most families right now. We have a huge yard, a playset, a basement filled with legos, and a (pandemic impulse purchase) 14 foot trampoline. I am trying to get my husband on board with building a backyard pump track, but no luck yet. He has been building wooden obstacles for riding mountain bikes on, but they admittedly are pretty sketch. The wood he is using has been out in the backyard for a few years, and wobbles too much for my taste. Pump tracks are stable! It’s compacted dirt! We have a big yard and wiggly children and are my husband and I are a couple that happens to have an enormous amount of energy! This is not a new push from me- it is not the result of pandemic panic, not from fear of never getting to ride bikes with friends in the woods again- I want a pump track in our yard because I want one. We are both mountain bikers, but the kids have little interest in hitting the (currently closed) trails. They have fun when they get there, but the struggle is real to get out to the trails without a tantrum. A pump track in the yard solves everything! The kids get to jump, or swing, or do whatever they want while we get to play bikes around them! No neglecting or ignoring necessary! We will see what they are doing as we look through our turns!

I am not sure I am going to get my pump track, so back to the paper hearts. Our one neighbor put up paper hearts, the neighbor across the street painted hearts, and it inspired me to put up paper hearts on our porch windows as well. As I was cutting away at the paper hearts, I started to think about other shapes that we could decorate the windows with. I always have bikes on the brain, so I started crafting a paper bicycle to join my paper hearts . Then, I made some paper trees for my bikes to adventure through. I feel connected to my neighbors though these hearts. It brightens my day, and gets the kiddos out on walks. These hearts are like little high fives, or hugs from my community. These neighbors putting hearts on their windows make me feel joy, hope, and I love that they spent the time to send this energy out to the world.


I have heard in (much) bigger cities, the bike paths are closed. It is a direct result of too many people on the path at the same time. I rode by the Cap City Trail the other day, and it was packed. People enjoying their bikes or runs without a care in the world. It looked normal. Too normal. I counted the number of times my nose ran on my bike ride. I remembered the last time I went on a group ride with pals ( on a frozen Lake Monona) and all the snot rockets that were blown. So. Much. Mucus. It is nearly impossible for me to ride a bike and not get mucusy. Snot rockets are always an issue if you are too close to other people. Now they are especially dangerous, not just gross. No more acting like Puck from the Real World: San Francisco. Keep your snot inside your homemade face mask that you crafted together with friends on Zoom.


Riding off the crowded bike paths is important right now. Meandering through the different neighborhoods in our city on the streets is much safer than the amazing paths that our fair city boasts. Get lost in your city. Find new routes. Look up and notice paper hearts or paper bikes along the way. Notice these intentional reminders that you are not alone right now. Make paper hearts and paper bikes to socially-distant embrace your community. Social distancing is important, so that one day we get to ride bikes together like we did last year.

Monday Update: Path Guidelines and Virtual Meetings

COVID-19 multi-use page signage, detailing 6 ft buffers

It’s a unique and uncertain time to be alive on our planet Earth. For many of us, COVID-19 dominates our daily lives and we find ourselves unable to focus on much else. Nonetheless, our collective journey around the Sun continues and that means that in the northern hemisphere, the spring cycling season is rolling northwards. We’ll soon find ourselves enveloped in a warm blanket of sunny days, budding trees, blooming flowers, and (for those of us with seasonal allergies) itchy, watery eyes. We’re ready for it this year, more than ever!

This week, many city meetings have been cancelled. However on Monday the Transportation Policy and Planning Board (TPPB) meeting is scheduled for 5:00 PM. You can use Zoom to attend the meeting virtually, as described in the agenda. Top billing is probably the COVID-19 transportation update but some BRT goodness will be discussed as well.

One construction item to note is that on Wednesday, Old Sauk Rd between Pleasant View and Pioneer will be closed for the month of April. Separate bicycle and car detours will be posted, but you may have your own preferred route. This is a very popular way to get out of town on bike, but what’s your favorite these days? Let us know on Twitter @MadisonBikes.

One bit of good news we can pass along is that on the east side, improvements are planned to help cyclists navigate the High Crossing Boulevard/Nelson Rd intersection. Thanks to our friends at Sun Prairie Moves for the heads-up!

A commuter bicycle leaning against a statue of Bucky Badger

Here in Wisconsin we’re all players in the Safer at Home game, but thankfully the rules allow for and encourage safe cycling. Here are some guidelines from the city (espanol) with respect to safe usage of our multi-use paths:

Tips for Everyone

  • Do not go out if you or someone in your household feels sick.
  • If you can, choose less frequented paths or go at less popular times.
  • Always keep 6 feet away from people you do not live with including when passing people.
  • If you use earbuds to listen to a portable device, keep the volume low enough to hear what is happening around you.

Tips for Walking /Running

  • When in busy areas, walk single file lines or with just one child when out with household members. .
  • Avoid stopping on the path as it makes it hard for other users to pass safely. If you need to stop, step off in an area as far off the path as possible.
  • When walking with your dog, please keep it under control and away from other users.

Tips for Bicycling/Rolling

  • Ride cautiously and within your ability level.
  • Do not forget to let others know you are passing.
  • Only pass when you can maintain 6 feet of distance from other users.
  • Do not pass in between people walking in opposite directions.
  • No group riding or rolling with people outside your household.
  • When active with household members, keep your group small.

For more about this, including some more pictures of the new signage on the paths, you can check out a facebook post and engage others in a (hopefully) productive discussion.

Many businesses are closed as part of the COVID-19 response, but from the start Wisconsin has identified bicycle shops as essential services. It’s worth noting that other parts of the country weren’t quite so fortunate and had to advocate for that recognition.

Continuing the work from last week, Madison Bikes and the Bike Fed have collaborated on a statewide visual map of bike shops and their status. We will continue to keep this updated as new information rolls in.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.

Weekly Update: Enjoying spring biking while social distancing

Hopefully everyone had a chance to get outside this weekend and enjoy the crisp spring weather. We noted tons of youngsters in our neighborhood likely out for their first bike of the year. During these times of social distancing I have noticed more people outdoors, whether it be biking or walking, to take a break from being cooped up at home.

The past week

Not much biking news to report this week, due to the cancellation or delay of all city meetings and social events.

If you missed it, for now bike shops in the Madison area by and large are open. However, many shops have limited hours or are open by appointment only. More information can be found in the blog post Is my bike shop still open? This is a tough time for small businesses and bike shops are no exception, so encourage you to still bring your bike in for service. Bike shops are taking measures to sterilize and sanitize to keep everyone healthy.


The week ahead

All city meetings and community events for march are cancelled at this point, so there is very little happening this week. The city is working on a solution to host meetings remotely, however nothing has been announced yet. We will keep you posted when things start back up.

The Madison Bikes Community Meeting on Monday 3/23 at 6:00pm is cancelled this week.


As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.

Is my local bike shop still open?


UPDATE 3/27: In collaboration with the Bike Fed, we're now offering information for the whole state. Please go here for a map of all shops.

A bike parked in front of the Cargo Bike Shop

That's a question that many Madisonians may have been asking themselves. With reduced Metro bus service, many of us are relying on our bikes for transportation or exercise. Bike shops are essential in keeping us going. San Francisco mayor London Breed just today clarified that bike shops are considered "essential services" just as much as car repair shops:

Screen cap of tweet by London Breed: "Clarification for those who have asked: just as auto repair shops are considered essential so people can conduct essential travel, so are bicycle repair shops and mobile bicycle repair companies..."

So what's the situation in Madison? Our board member and VP Heather put together this handy spreadsheet about the current status of the many bike shops in Madison. As far as we know, most of them are open at least in some capacity and with certain public health safety restrictions in place. We will update the spreadsheet as we receive new information from shop staff, owners, or patrons. Shoot us an email at or put a comment in the spreadsheet if you have any updates.


Be safe, and support your local bike shop!

For local information about COVID-19, go to the Dane County Public Health website:

Weekly update: Biking in the time of social distancing and teleworking


Whether you are working at home and going stir crazy, or headed to work but nervous about the bus, your bike is your best tool. Not only do you control your own transportation and know where all parts have been, but we all need some stress relief from the scary news and constantly-changing warnings. And being outdoors and physically active is just a great thing for both physical and mental health. Whether you are a year-round commuter or usually wait until “spring” to get back on your bike, now is a great time to make sure your bike is in working order and go for a spin.

Just like during the spike in gas prices in 2008, stories are popping up about people using bike share or pulling out their dusty bike and pumping up the tires to have another way to get to work instead of crowded (and maybe germy) transit. Those of us reading this update are hopefully a bit ahead of the curve and our bikes are ready to go.


The past week

Before everyone was sent home and events cancelled, I attended an event for donors at the Pinney Library. The new library is such a great location, right off the Isthmus Path, and there is lots of covered bike parking and a bike repair station – with the Madison Bikes logo showing that you all pitched in to help raise money for the library.


One other recent development is that the BCycles are back out. So if don’t have your bike with you, it needs a little spring work, or a friend is joining you after getting downtown another way, you can now grab one of those sweet e-bikes and get some fresh air.

The week ahead

As you can imagine, the weekly calendar is going to be pretty short this week. There aren’t any city meetings of note this week, and most community events are cancelled. There wasn’t much on the calendar anyway, as it happens, and most city meetings will be delayed or cancelled. Those that are happening will likely be done remotely, although it's unclear how public involvement will happen. 

One item of note was the Monday lecture by Dr Robert Schneider of UW-Milwaukee, "How to Increase Walking and Bicycling: Mode Shift Theory and Supporting Studies.” It’s been cancelled, but will be rescheduled for the fall.

The Madison Bikes Board of Directors is meeting on Monday at 6:00 pm, but we will be doing so online instead of at the central library.

Also, the Traffic Skills 101 class scheduled for Saturday on the UW campus – a prerequisite to take the League of American Bicyclists training to become a League Cycling Instructor – has also been cancelled. We’ll update you when that has been rescheduled. Besides being a requirement to become an LCI, the Traffic Skills 101 is a great class for someone wo either wants to feel more comfortable on different types of infrastructure – everything from paths to bike lanes, small streets, and even roads with a bit more traffic – or your friends, family, and colleagues that don’t feel comfortable biking on the street now.


As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.

Madison Bikes Mural Ride Cancelled

Just a quick note that we're cancelling the Madison Bikes Mural Ride that was planned for Sunday (3/15). We're sad that we have to make this announcement, but given the COVID-19 situation, we've decided that it would be best to cancel the event. Public Health Madison & Dane County have recommend cancelling or postponing events and large gatherings, and that's what we'll do. For more information and local updates about COVID-19, please visit…/resources-by-…/coronavirus

Weekly Update: Art on paths, walls; bus hearing; BCycle returns

Did you have an opportunity to get out and enjoy the warm (and windy...) weekend on your bike? Well, lots of people did: The bike counters on the the Cap City Trail and SW Path had by far their highest counts of 2020 yesterday: 


If you're a 3-season rider, now may be a great time to dust off that bike of yours and get into the habit of riding again.

This Week

On Wednesday, the Transportation Commission is meeting. One exciting agenda item:

The City is planning to have rainbow pride flags, celebrating the LGTBQ+ community, painted on the pavement at two locations. One location will be up at the top of State Street; the other crosswalks will be on the Cap City Trail at Monona Terrace. Funding will come from donations and grants. The hope is that the crosswalks will be installed in June, ready for Pride Month and Madison Bike Week.

Other items on the agenda:

  • The City is applying for funding from WisDOT for four ped/bike projects. It's uncertain how many (if any) will be funded, but all would be a nice addition to our low-stress network.
    • Autumn Ridge Path - shared use path between Stein Ave. and STH 30 (east of Stoughton Rd. and west of Swanton Rd.)
    • Tancho Dr. Path - shared use path between Tancho Dr. and STH 151, where there is an existing path and underpass of the highway
    • West Towne Path - extension of shared use path between Commerce Dr. and S. Junction Rd.
    • W. Main St. bike boulevard improvements and E. Main St. and S. Blount St. bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
  • The Commission is also asked to approve routes for the delivery robots that UW Dining is using. The vehicles are generally banned from bike paths, and on sidewalks they're only allowed on the permitted routes (as well as on the UW campus). Map below.
  • A public hearing about Metro's proposed changes to their bus routes and stops will start at 6pm. You can find the proposed changes, meant to reduce delays, missed transfer and to speed up service here.

If you want to provide input on any of these items, please submit your comments to Patrick McGuigan.

Sidewalk delivery robot routes

Want to learn how to build bike wheels? It's a cool skill to have, and not as difficult as you may imagine. The Cargo Bike Shop is hosting a workshop on the topic on Thursday. More information on the Facebook event page.

Looking for a new bike? Bike-O-Rama, "Southern Wisconsin's Largest Bicycle Sale," is happening from Friday to Sunday, and there will be lots and lots of bike on display and available for test rides. Free admission at the Alliant Center.

On Sunday, the Madison Bikes Mural Ride is happening! Explore Madison's many murals on the east side by bike, on a 12-mile or a 5-mile route. Meet at Ian's Pizza at Garver Feed Mill at 12:30pm.

Coinciding with the mural ride is the return of BCycle on March 15! It'll be good to have the bike share system back online for the season -- and maybe this year we'll see some more new stations added.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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.


Weekly update: transportation meetings & more

Thank you to the volunteers who came the Free Bikes 4 Kids event on Saturday! 

This Week


Transportation Policy and Planning Board will meet at 5 pm in Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd in room 215. The Board will discuss the future of the city’s bike registration program. Currently, bikes are required to be registered with the City; the Board is discussing repealing the program, expanding enforcement/engagement, and other options. If you can’t make the meeting, submit comments to the members here; read the presentation here.  


The Madison Area Transportation Planning Board will meet at 6:30 pm in the Water Utility at 119 E. Olin Avenue in Room A-B. You can read the agenda here. They currently have a survey out about their rebranding efforts - it only takes 5 minutes!

The Board of Public Works will meet at 4:30 pm in Room 108 in the City- County Building at 210 Martin Luther King, Jr Blvd. On the agenda is the Anderson St. project. It looks like the board prefers option 3 which would have no eastbound bike lane but a multi-use path along the south side of the road. It is unclear if this would include any improvements to the Stoughton Rd intersection.


Revolution Cycles (2330 Atwood Avenue) will host French New Wave/ Ands/ Threadmaker. From the Facebook description

The French New Wave makes their first Madison appearance in 18 years!  Members of Dramatic Lovers, CONTROL, ASUMAYA, Heller Mason, etc. making twisting, bossa-nova-inflected, slow-core tunes.

Ands rolls in from Chicago to bring their mathy, angular mayhem to the bike shop.  From the fine folks who brought you Space Blood, Cut Teeth, & As Hell.

Threadmaker makes all their thread from scratch each night.  Find them at the intersection of noise rock and free improv.


Sponsored by the Sierra Club and from the Facebook event

Transitioning Transportation - Clean, Just & Resilient. 

Come to this workshop to learn about transportation and its influence on climate change. How can we transition our transportation system in Dane Co? Presenters will provide information on:

- The amount of greenhouse gases from the transportation sector

- Areas in which we can build resilience and reduce emissions

- Examples of projects already in progress.

And we will have small group discussions to gather your ideas. What can we do as a community to reduce emissions that result in a clean, just and resilient transportation system? 

We need your input as we implement Dane Co's Climate Action Plan!

For the Future

If you, like me, have been obsessively checking the weather calendar for the next few months, you might be excited for spring (or, more accurately in Wisconsin, the sudden shift to summer after that last blizzard). However, you can get in a great last winter ride before the spring equinox! We’re hosting a Mural Ride on March 15 - longer and shorter routes available, with free pizza at the beginning generously provided by Ian’s, and discounted drinks & food at Working Draft after the ride!  

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at 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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