The reconstruction of West Wilson Street is on the agenda again, and we need your help. A quick recap: The initial proposal was to mix people biking and walking on a slightly widened sidewalk. At a public meeting in March there was near universal opposition to this plan--neither people walking nor people on bikes like to be thrown together. Especially not in a downtown environment that includes a hill and busy driveways. Consequently, the city's engineering department proposed a pilot project: Remove one lane of on-street parking to test if that space could be re-allocated from car storage to a protected bike lane. However, apparently even a month-long pilot project was too much for some and Alder Verveer withdrew his support at the last minute.
Following this unexpected death of the pilot project for this summer, City Engineer Rob Phillips, is looking to push a recommendation through the Board of Public Works this week and then through the Common Council on June 6th that would reconstruct Wilson Street as-is. That’s right: A recommendation to change nothing and to continue to devote 40’ of public right of way to car travel and car parking with no space dedicated to safe and comfortable bike travel on this key downtown connector.
The recommendation includes language about maintaining ‘flexibility’ to change street use in the future. But it’s evident that reconstructing the street as-is would be a major impediment to building out a connected low-stress bike network in our city and is an abdication of responsibility to come up with an appropriate design. There won’t be a better time to have the difficult deliberation and to move forward with a street design that prioritizes people over cars and kicking the can down the road will only cost us money and time.
It’s also time to get serious about our transportation planning and implementation and for city staff to recommit to full and meaningful public access in that process. It’s shameful and inappropriate to continue to have decisions made behind closed doors that represent the interests of the well-connected few, while ordinary residents are left scratching their head. It’s time to commit to public discourse and debate and to work to realize the transportation vision we’ve set forth that prioritizes walking, biking, and transit over private car use. How much more money do we need to spend on plans like the Sustainable Master Transportation Plan, the Madison Sustainability Plan, the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board Bicycle Transportation Plan, the South Capitol Transit Oriented Development Study, and the Judge Doyle Square Master Plan when we continue to ignore what they consistently recommend? Why spend money on a bicycle center at Judge Doyle Square or a bike bridge between Wilson Street and Law Park when they will be connected to a street without safe bike accommodations? The question in front of us right now cannot be whether we should accommodate people biking on Wilson Street, but how to best accommodate them.
This ill-advised recommendation for business as usual also inappropriately side-steps the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission whose charge is to “...consider all traffic policy matters, including but not limited to ... geometric design and redesign of streets”. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that our Engineering department has attempted to push through a project without allowing for debate and deliberation by the PBMVC. In fact it has been such a recurring issue that in February of 2016 members of the PBMVC, Traffic Engineering, and Engineering met and formalized an understanding that, indeed, all major street projects should be referred to PBMVC early on in order to provide design guidance. Unfortunately, in the case of Wilson Street this has still not happened. Instead, it appears that the recommendation is based on something other than public debate and guidance from our Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission.
Tell City Engineer Rob Phillips, Alder Mike Verveer, and Members of the Board of Public Works to get this project back on track and to have it referred to the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission for a comprehensive and serious evaluation of all alternatives that include safe and comfortable bike travel on Wilson.
Email addresses for the Board of Public Works members, Engineering staff, and Alder Verveer:
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; MHacker@cityofmadison.com; RPhillips@cityofmadison.com; CPetykowski@cityofmadison.com; YTao@cityofmadison.com; email@example.com
Also consider including your district's alder to the list of recipients.
Here is some text that you're welcome to incorporate into your email:
Dear Members of the Board of Public Works, dear Rob Phillips; dear Alder Verveer:
Regarding the planned reconstruction of West Wilson street, I strongly oppose moving forward with the current proposal. That proposal would leave the street as it currently is and therefore fails to take into account the needs of people biking and walking on this important connection to downtown, both going west to east, and east to west. This is not creating a "flexible design;" this is preserving the status quo that only works well for people driving. I strongly oppose any option that mixes people walking and cycling on the sidewalk, as that is neither safe nor convenient for anyone. I am also deeply disappointed with the process through which we have arrived at this point. "Public meetings" that were nowhere to be found on the city's website; a "public input" process that ignored, well, public input; and a decision-making process that ignores the priorities of many of the city's long-term transportation and sustainability plans and bypasses the bodies that are supposed to be in charge of making informed decision about our transportation network.
I urge you to not approve the Wilson Street cross section and to instead refer item #46640 to the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission for a comprehensive and serious evaluation of all alternatives that include safe and comfortable bike travel on Wilson Street..
Thank you for your consideration.
In addition to the important Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday, there are a few other interesting events to attend.
On Monday, the Madison Bikes Events Committee is meeting at Cafe Domestique at 7:00pm.
On Friday, make sure and be counted on National Bike to Work Day. And on Saturday, join bike geeks and map nerds for the mapathon event to help improve bike map data for the forthcoming People for Bikes low-stress bike map.
And if you missed it over the weekend: Madison Bikes is looking for people interested in hosting attendees to the Places for Bikes conference at the end of June.
Madison is going to be the venue for this year's Places for Bikes conference. Hosted by advocacy group People for Bikes, it will bring together bike advocates, city officials, and researchers from across the US to share knowledge and experiences in making quick improvements to bike infrastructure.
Places for Bikes has teamed up with Madison Bikes for a two-night Cycling Community Housing Program (Wednesday, June 28th and Thursday, June 29th). This program will help identify welcoming households with accommodations in the Madison area (hosts) and try to match them with interested conference attendees (guests). This will provide an opportunity for conference attendees for whom hotel accommodations may be too expensive and for hosts to connect with them.
- Madison Hosts: Please submit your application form as soon as possible to allow guests enough time to arrange their travel.
Send the completed form (or any questions) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the conference, go to the Places for Bikes website.
It was a packed agenda at last week’s Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission starting with a presentation of the updated 2018-2022 Madison Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) projects. That document gives a good idea of what transportation projects are under consideration for the next five to ten years. You can review two spreadsheets with the major streets and bike/ped projects here.
Also on the agenda was review of the new draft transportation ordinances from the Transportation Ordinance Review Committee (TORC). These ordinance changes would fundamentally reorganize our existing transportation commissions (including Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle and Transit/Parking Commissions) into two new bodies: the Transportation Planning and Policy Board and the Transportation Commission. There is also growing support and consensus for the need to fill the Director of Transportation role for the city. The draft ordinances go back to Transit/Parking Commission this month and all of the suggestions/edits will be reviewed prior to coming before the Common Council sometime this summer with a final proposal.
Following the discussion of the TORC proposals, there was a surprise withdrawal of sponsorship by Alder Verveer for the proposed pilot on Wilson Street. The plan was to test the removal of the southside on-street parking and installation of a temporary contraflow bike lane. Without sponsorship of the resolution, the commission recommended that it be placed on file (not approved). It’s unclear what the next steps are for this critical link of our growing bike network, but the project needs to be put under contract before the end of the calendar year in order to qualify for TID funds. This is a project we’ll be keeping a close eye on and will ask for a big showing from our community when the alternatives are up for a decision. We’re strongly committed to a design that accommodates motor vehicle, bike, and foot traffic safely and comfortably.
What a more people-friendly Wilson Street could look like
The commission also unanimously recommended approval of an easement at 151 E. Wilson for a future ped/bike bridge over John Nolen Drive that would connect this section of Wilson Street to the Capital City Path and Law Park. An initial concept for this bridge was shared at the last Nolen/Blair presentation.
It’s clear that these investments to better connect our downtown and lakefront will require high quality bicycle and pedestrian facilities on both ends in order to work. That’s exactly why prioritizing space for people on bikes and people on foot on Wilson Street is so critical.
The last item for the night was an ordinance to treat mopeds like motorcycles for parking purposes. This means that they would no longer be able to park in bike parking stalls or on the sidewalk or medians in the city of Madison. Moped specific parking areas could be created by permit in the downtown/campus area.
You can watch the discussion on any or all of these items here.
Editorial note: This edition of the Calendar Highlights is brought to you by Harald. Your usual host Grant will return next week.
What diverter can look like: People walking and biking can pass; people driving cannot. Image: LADOT Bike Blog.
The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association met last week to discuss the future of the East Mifflin bike boulevard. Many in the community perceive this important corridor to be a bike boulevard in-name-only, with no measures to divert or slow down motor vehicle traffic, for instance by installing diverters that allow local traffic while keeping out through-traffic. As discussed in this Facebook thread, the meeting also raised larger questions about how our transportation network is being planned and decided on.
Rendering of an improved sidewalk/cycle track in front of Machinery Row Bicycles
On the same night there was an open house about the John Nolen Drive/Blair Street Corridor. While we are still far away from any final decision let alone actual construction, things have moved forward since the previous meeting. For instance, an overpass connecting Law Park to Wilson Street for people walking and biking now is a real option, with the Common Council taking on a resolution that would establish an easement on the Wilson Street side for that connection. For the intersection of John Nolen/Blair/Williamson many of the initially proposed solutions, such as a tunnel, are off the table at this point. You can find more details in the State Journal, the City's page for the project, or this discussion on Facebook.
One vision of what a more people-friendly John Nolen Drive could look like (Image: Madison Design Professionals Workgroup)
On Monday, there are two worthwhile overlapping meetings to choose from. At 6:00p, join the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, Alder Zellers, and staff from Traffic Engineering for a conversation on how to improve the Mifflin Street Bike Boulevard. For those that are more frequent users of the Capital City Path, join Alders Verveer and Rummel and staff from Engineering to continue the conversation on improving the John Nolen/Blair Corridor at 7:00p.
Tuesday’s Common Council meeting is the first meeting of the new council and will include a number of bike related items: final approval for the protected bike lanes on Bassett Street, approval of the Demetral Path connector at Third/Johnson, and introduction of two items of new business -- a resolution to conduct a pilot on West Wilson Street to determine the feasibility of removing one side of on-street parking and a resolution to secure an easement that will support a future ped/bike bridge from Wilson Street to Law Park and the Capital City Path. The last two items will be introduced without debate, but should be on the Ped/Bike/MV Commission meeting agenda next week.
On Wednesday, the Madison Bikes board of directors will hold its monthly meeting at the public library downtown. For anyone handy with a wrench, consider helping out at Worthington Park with a free repair night for the neighborhood. There are a lot of kids with broken bikes that really appreciate the help. Contact Steve Meiers if you’d like to participate: SMeiers@cityofmadison.com.
And on Saturday, stop in at the new Dream Bikes North for their grand opening party. For those that aren’t familiar, Dream Bikes is a non-profit that provides opportunities for youth to learn and gain experience fixing bikes. And a good spot to buy used bikes.
Do you have five minutes to spare and want to improve the situation for people walking and biking on West Wilson Street? Here's how:
The Board of Public Works will discuss the design proposed by City Engineering in their meeting on Wednesday. If you haven't been following the project, you can catch up on a lot of background here, here, and here. Writing a quick email in opposition to putting people on bike bike onto the sidewalk and in favor of real bike accommodations on the street is going to be important. I know several of you already sent emails when the item was on the agenda for the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission last week, and you can just re-use that email. One new development is that doing a pilot study, where one side of on-street parking will be removed for a while is now on the table. If done well, we think that this is a good option, and we encourage you to mention the pilot.
Email addresses for the Board of Public Works members:
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
I recommend also included these folks in the cc line, as well as your district's alder:
MHacker@cityofmadison.com; RPhillips@cityofmadison.com; CPetykowski@cityofmadison.com; YTao@cityofmadison.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's what I'm going to write; you're welcome to reuse the text:
Dear Members of the Board of Public Works, dear Alders:
Regarding the planned reconstruction of West Wilson street, please move forward with a street design that takes into account the needs of people biking and walking on this important connection to downtown, both going west to east, and east to west. I strongly oppose an option that mixes people walking and cycling on the sidewalk, as that is neither safe nor convenient for anyone. I support doing a well-designed and evaluated pilot project that would close one of the on-street parking lanes to put in a protected one-way or two-way bike lane.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thanks for helping out! The final decision on this will be made at City Council. We'll send out another update before that.
At the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission meeting last week, there was a presentation of the Madison Area Regional Transportation Plan 2050, a presentation of the recommended ordinance change from the Transportation Ordinance Review Committee, and an update on the Wilson Street project. You can watch the meeting here or download the audio recording here.
We’ve been following the Wilson Street project closely. At this meeting, Engineering staff reported out a summary from the Public Involvement Meeting that was held on 3/20 and shared the same recommended design proposal that was originally shared with the commission in February. This is the concept that widens the sidewalk on the south side of the street to 8’ and does not include any facilities for east- or westbound bike travel. The idea of mixing foot and bike traffic on the sidewalk was squarely rejected by almost all in attendance on 3/20.
A new development was that Engeering plans to run a pilot this summer that will remove the southside on-street parking in order to put up a temporary contraflow bike lane (allowing bike travel from west to east). There was some good discussion about the goals and measures of success for such a pilot and agreement that we should not expect to see high volumes of bike traffic with this two-block pilot.
Unfortunately, in spite of all the discussion about a bike lane pilot, the current wide sidewalk plan will be in front of the Board of Public Works on Wednesday for approval. If this design is approved there, it will still need to go through the Common Council, where we’ll need a large presence to ensure appropriate bike facilities are included in the project.
Tonight (Monday) on 89.9 WORT at 7:00 pm, Access Hour will be about Living Carless in Madison. Panelists will share how they get by using bikes and not cars to meet their primary transportation needs in town.
On Tuesday, Madison Bikes Communication Committee will meet downtown. This is the group of volunteers that keeps our website running, blog posts coming, and deals with all things communication related for Madison Bikes. For those that don’t know, Madison Bikes is 100% volunteer run. So if you’d like to join in and help out, consider attending one of our monthly committee meetings or send an email to email@example.com to learn more.
As mentioned above, on Wednesday the Board of Public Works will meet and consider “Approving Plans, Specifications, And Schedule Of Assessments For West Wilson Street and South Henry Street Assessment District.” If you shared your thoughts with PBMVC last week, consider forwarding them onto the Board as well. Regardless of the outcome of this meeting, plan on attending the Common Council meeting where it will be up for debate. This is a project that needs to include comfortable and safe accommodations for people on bikes in both directions.
And finally, on Sunday, Fitchburg Cycles and Spoke Haven are hosting a women-trans-femme friendly fix-a-flat clinic.
There are a few important projects in the works in Madison that were reviewed last week. Some updated Bassett Street designs were in front of the Board of Public Works (BPW) on Wednesday, and a concept similar to the one recommended by Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission was approved and will be forwarded to the Common Council in April. This is a concept that includes one-way protected lanes on both sides of the street from University to Dayton.
The Demetral Connector that was approved at Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission was also in front of Board of Public Works. It was referred to their next meeting in order for Alder Palm to solicit feedback from his constituents. This is the path that will connect across Johnson and Third Streets into Demetral Park. There are currently two alternatives under consideration: one that requires the use of eminent domain (and $300K of land acquisition costs) and another that uses the existing public right of way. A recommendation is expected to be in front of the Common Council in April for this project as well.
And of course, on Monday there was the very well attended public meeting on the upcoming West Wilson Street project. Check out Harald’s blog post for a summary of that meeting and next steps in the project.
Join Madison Bikes Events Committee for their monthly meeting at Cafe Domestique on Monday at 6:00pm and sign up to help with some of our upcoming events.
On Tuesday, consider attending the Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission meeting beginning at 5:00pm. There’s a presentation of the Madison Area Regional Transportation Plan 2050 and an update on next steps for the Wilson Street project.
And on Wednesday at noon, catch a webinar hosted by Safe Routes to School National Partnership on Innovative Bicycling Programs for Youth.
Last week a public input took place to discuss the reconstruction of West Wilson Street. Robbie's previous post has more background about what is planned and why this is an important project for bike advocates. Here is a quick update on how the meeting went, what the next steps in the decision making process are, and how you can speak out in favor of a Wilson Street that works for people biking and walking.
To recap, the public input meeting was the second one about the project. But the first meeting had been only announced to immediate neighbors. This second meeting was scheduled at the request of the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Vehicle Commission, after they were presented with only one option for the project from Engineering, an 8' widened sidewalk on the south side of the street that was supposed to mix travel on foot and bike. The Commission asked Engineering to develop additional concepts that would provide better accommodations for people travelling by bike and to present them at a new, publicly-noticed meeting for input.
The meeting was well attended, and I spotted many Madison Bikes stickers, t-shirts, or other other accessories that identified attendants as supporters of safe and convenient bike facilities. Alder Verveer also attended. A video recording of the whole meeting is available on Facebook. Engineering proposed three different designs:
- Keep all general travel lanes and both parking lanes. Narrow the terrace (the space between sidewalk and curb) to install a contra-flow bike lane (a bike lane going the opposite direction of the one-way traffic in the general travel lanes) right next to the sidewalk.
- Keep all general travel lanes and the current terraces. Convert one parking lane into a contra-flow bike lane, separated from oncoming traffic with a painted buffer but without physical protection.
- Keep travel lanes, parking, terraces. Widen the sidewalk on the south side to 8 ft. This was the recommendation of Engineering.
Two of the proposed options. Apologies for the image quality -- the slides from the meeting haven't been made available yet by the city
An option for a two-way protected bike lane was not even on the table. A lively but civil discussion ensued about the impacts of each of the proposed solutions, such as on street trees, for people with reduced mobility, and of course for those who currently bike on Wilson or would do so if there were safe and convenient options available. One issue raised both by bike advocates and local residents was that putting people on bike and people walking together on the sidewalk seemed like a really bad idea. Residents pointed out that even just walking on the sidewalk right now at times felt dangerous, especially for those with impaired mobility. Adding more bikes to that mix was a no-go for many, widened sidewalk or not. If you want to see what riding on the sidewalk looks like right now, watch this video:
Another issue pointed out by bike advocates was the lack of bike accommodations for people going east to west in all of the proposed plans. Currently--and in the foreseeable future, if the proposed design goes forward--people biking have to ride in the general travel lane, next to parked cars. And at the bottom of the hill, at the intersection with Henry and Hamilton, people on bikes find themselves in a right-turn-only lane or have to merge to the left lane at high speed.
The point at which the meeting started to unravel was when the question of next steps came up. One would think that the point of a public input meeting would be to gather input and then use that input to modify your plans. That didn't seem to be the case: City engineers were planning to just go forward with the same design that they came to the meeting with, the widened sidewalk option. City engineers rightly pointed out that there was no consensus in the audience that clearly favored one design over the other. But it was just as clear that a large majority of the audience (and not just people who regularly bike) did not like the idea of mixing people walking, biking, or using mobility devices on the sidewalk. I was probably not the only one leaving the meeting disheartened by what appeared to be a flawed process.
What are the next steps? What can you do?
The proposed design is going to be on the agenda of the Ped/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission this coming Tuesday. I encourage you to submit a brief public comment to the commission members, Alder Verveer, and your own alder. It can be as easy as pasting these recipients (plus your Alder's email address) into an email and writing something like:
Dear Members of the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission, dear Alders:
Regarding the planned reconstruction of West Wilson street, please move forward with a street design that takes into account the needs of people biking and walking, both going west to east, and east to west. I oppose an option that mixes people walking and cycling on the sidewalk, as that is neither safe nor convenient for anyone.
Thank you for your consideration.
After that, the proposed design will go to the Common Council, which is the ultimate decision making body. We'll keep you updated on when that's going to happen and what the most effective way to advocate is going to be for that.