Walking and biking in an automated future

A Brief Webinar Review

A tremendous amount of media coverage and a lot of hyperbole surrounds the emerging issues around autonomous (i.e., driverless) vehicles. Supposedly, they are about to engulf our streets and cities and change everything. Cutting through some of the hype, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) recently held a two-part webinar well worth a view. In addition, PBIC has developed a very informative companion Discussion Guide* to help advocates when talking to planners and policy makers about autonomous vehicles (AV) and vulnerable road user (VRU) issues.

    • Part I: The Promise and Challenges of Automated Technologies (August 16 Webinar)
      The first (and for me the most interesting) session featured experts from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute (Bernardo Pires), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety (Justin Owens), and Charles River Analytics (Michael Jenkins). They pointed out that current technologies have a very difficult time detecting cyclists. Not surprisingly, very little R&D has yet to focus on walking and biking issues. A list of all the challenges they outlined is shown below.

  • Part II: Policies to Prepare for an Automated Future (August 31 Webinar)
    The second session discussed policy issues and tools. Presentations included the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), academics from UC-Davis’s National Center for Sustainable Transportation, practitioners from Sam Schwartz Engineering, and those leading the Portland, OR Smart Autonomous Vehicles Initiative (SAVI).

Bicycle advocates could and should play an important role in the ongoing public and institutional dialog. We should insist on prioritizing areas of AV/pedestrian and bicycle interaction that need addressing and improvement, but we need to be invited to the table (see Dave Cieslewicz’s post on the Bike Fed blog). I came away from the webinars (still) strongly convinced, like many others, that full scale, level 5 (full automation everywhere under all conditions) autonomous vehicle implementation is still at least a decade, probably much more away. However, we may very well see trial implementations on selected restricted access roads (freeways) and more controlled environments (like the University Campus) way before then.

Other Local and National Resources

Monday Update: Art Pedaler, Fashion Show Photos, Tour Navideño

Last Week

What a great week it was for biking in Madison! First snow of the season, Rampaging Santas on bikes, and the Winter Bike Fashion Show!!

Thanks to everyone that came out in support and to everyone that helped make the Fashion Show a success. Special shout out to Emily Sonnemann and the Madison Bikes Events Committee for leading the charge, to Brian Anderson for being our mc, and to Pepe Barros and Down With Bikes for hooking us up with all the bike parking we needed. Pictures are courtesy of the talented Dan Stout! We'll publish more of them later!

Next up, Winter Bike Week coming in early February!

This Week

And this week we’ve got plenty to keep you busy:

Monday: It should be a beautiful night for the weekly MEAThead ride. Enjoy a lake loop through fresh snow and take in the holiday lights at Olin-Turville.

Tuesday: Sun Prairie Moves will be getting together to talk all things biking in Sun Prairie. Also on Tuesday, Bicycle Benefits and Down with Bikes will host their Bike & Puzzle Tuesday Night Ride.

Wednesday: The Department of National Resources has been seeking input across the state to understand how people feel about opening more public land for motor sports. They’ll be in Fitchburg doing the same this Wednesday. Whether you can make the meeting or not, make sure and share your views on this short survey.

Friday: Bikes, Art, Beer, Friends. Come out Revolution Cycles on Friday for this year’s Art Pedaler.

Saturday: And on Saturday, Baltazar is back with a special Tour Navideño - Holiday Tour.

For details on any of these events, head to the Madison Bikes calendar. If you have an event that you’d like added, send the details to info@madisonbikes.org.

Get ready for winter: It's the weekly update

Of course, the big event coming up this week is the Winter Bike Fashion Show. We’ve been reminding you about it for weeks now, but we don’t want you to miss all the fun. Remember, it’s at the High Noon Salon on Saturday, December 9 at 1:00 pm. Bring your friends and family! We have a countdown on our Facebook event page, with one winter-cycling-related question a day. 

Preview of today's question

But there are more winter cycling events this week, as well as some fun rides and of course, city and neighborhood meetings. 


  • It’s another casual ride around Lake Monona to keep your blood moving during the cold weather. Meet at Ford’s Gym, 2114 Winnebago St at 7:00 pm for the weekly MEAThead ride. This is a no drop, Lake Monona loop with optional loop through Arboretum.


  • Madison Bikes Communications Committee meets from 5:30pm to 7:00pm at the Memorial Union - Sunset Lounge.
  • Dream Bikes has open shop hours from 6pm to 8pm. Want to work on your bike but don’t have the tools or the mad skllz? Ride over to Madison Dream Bikes,  4245 W Beltline Hwy, for open shop hours.


  • The University Bike Resource Center will offer some tips to keep you “Biking Through Winter” It’s a brown bag, so you can bring a lunch. Noon–1:00 pm, University Bicycle Resource Center in the Helen C White garage, 600 N Park St. Join veteran winter cyclist and Madison Bikes board member Chuck Strawser for tips on biking through the winter. Suggestions for clothing and other gear plus basic winter maintenance tips and available resources. Free Planet Bike blinky light set to the first five attendees. 
  • If you are interested in hearing about the plans for the replacement of the Wingra Creek bridge just east of Fish Hatchery Rd, there will be a meeting about the plans 3:00–4:00 pm at Strand Associates, 910 W Wingra Dr. This bridge offers a nice alternative to cross Wingra Creek for those who want to avoid the turn lanes at Wingra Drive and Fish Hatchery, or those accessing Wright Middle School. If you are unable to attend, please direct questions or comments to Lisa Coleman (lcoleman@cityofmadison.com or 608-266-4093). 

Location of the Wingra Creek Bridge

  • If you want to hear about transportation plans for the entire metropolitan region, then check out the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board Meeting: 6:30pm – 8:30pm, Water Utility-Engineering, 119 E Olin Ave, Madison. Two items are of particular interest to Madison Bikes; a discussion of the autonomous vehicle testing corridor on Park Street and a discussion of the results of a bicycle level of stress analysis. The result of the Environmental Impact study WisDOT has completed for the terribly flawed and bike/pedestrian-unfriendly project it is proposing on Stoughton Road is also up for discussion. The full agenda is at the link above.


  • To pregame for the Winter Bike Fashion Show, join the Santa Cycle Rampage, starting at 10:30 am at Paceline Indoor Cycling, 601 N Whitney Way. It runs about two hours, or until it’s time to go to the big event. 
  • Winter Bike Fashion Show: 1pm-4pm; High Noon Saloon, 701A E Washington Avenue. Do you love to ride your bike in winter? Have you discovered the secret to staying warm and dry? The Winter Bike Fashion Show will return to the High Noon Saloon for its 2017 edition on December 9 at 1pm.  Whether you’ve been riding a bike in the winter for a long time or are just curious, come join us. Share your expertise, your excitement for winter riding, and celebrate the season with others at a family-friendly event. Free admissions, cool door prizes, and Madison Bikes winter t-shirts for sale! RSVP on Facebook or just stop by.


Guest post: More car parking could keep people off bikes

Chris McCahill is an Associate Researcher at the State Smart Transportation Initiative, a joint partnership of UW-Madison and Smart Growth America.

There are some things that most members and allies of Madison Bikes agree on: improving dangerous intersections, adding safe bike routes connecting the city, and building a strong community of support for those who bike. But there’s one important point that’s probably more contentious than any other: parking for cars. Most bike advocates are drivers, too, and often get frustrated by how difficult or expensive parking can be and we worry about how much worse it could get. Unfortunately, seeing things only from this angle could undermine a lot of great work that Madison Bikes does.

A little over a year ago, I led a study of parking use at apartment buildings throughout Madison (published recently by the Transportation Research Board). We found vast differences in how much parking people use, depending on where they live and what kind of apartment they live in. But one thing is constant. From downtown high rises to suburban duplexes, about one-third of the existing parking spaces sit empty every night. It doesn’t take a formal study to see that we’re surrounded by empty parking spaces—not just at home but wherever we work, shop, eat, and play.

198 bike parking spots in front of the Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research, almost all full

184 car parking spots at Group Health Cooperative, many of which are empty

Extra parking takes up valuable space, it cuts into tax revenues, and it drives up building costs, which we then pay for in rents, wages, and the price of goods and services. More importantly, though, it encourages people to drive even when they could choose not to.

I’ve studied how parking affects people’s travel decisions for about a decade and one pattern is clear. If people have a guaranteed spot at home, they’re more likely to drive. If they have a guaranteed spot at work, they’re more likely to drive. To paraphrase one study, guaranteed parking means guaranteed driving, no matter what other options are available.

Underutilized car parking at Jenny Street Market

All that driving is a problem for the bicycle community and for the city in general. It means more traffic, more collisions, and more competition for road space. It also means people are less likely to think about biking as a viable travel option.

Fortunately, the City no longer dictates how much parking developers need to provide in many parts of Madison. In some rare cases, developers don’t build any at all, but only if they’re certain they can still lease the space (their lenders make sure of that). The more projects they build, often, the less parking they provide. Based on my research, that’s great for the city.

Unfortunately, we—the residents—are often the ones standing in the way. Even bicycle advocates can be​come​ nervous when a new project puts more pressure on limited on-street parking. Private parking can feel like the right solution, but adding more parking only guarantees one outcome: more cars. As Madison grows, it will benefit by welcoming those who want to trade four wheels for two and experience the city on foot. The more we invest in parking, the more we commit to the opposite.

Empty residential parking right off the Southwest Path

Weekly update: Keep riding, a few city meetings, and get ready for the fashion show!

Although we still have over a week to go, the big news is that we are busy preparing for the Winter Bike Fashion Show on December 9 at the High Noon. Make sure to invite all your friends who are curious about how and why to bike in cold weather. You can even invite those friends who think we are all nuts; they may just have fun or gain a new respect for the cold-weather pedalers. We have a great roster of models lined up!

Besides the fashion show, there are a couple of city meetings and a whole lot of fun cool/cold weather events to keep your blood and legs moving. Or, you can just be a spectator at the Cyclocross Championships on Saturday.


Bike Fitchburg monthly meeting, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Fitchburg Public Library. If you live or work in Fitchburg or just care about what happens there, here’s a great group to influence policy in our neighboring city.

MEAThead ride, starting at Fords Gym at 7:00 pm at 2114 Winnebago. This is a no-drop ride of Lake Monona with an optional loop through the Arboretum. If this sounds like fun, but you can’t make this one, it is held every Monday from November until March 6.


The Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission will meet at 5:00 pm in room 201 of the City-County Building. On the agenda is a resolution to proceed with development of a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor running east and west. The eastern and western termini area still to be determined. More information is available in the documents for the meeting. While this is not strictly a bicycle issue, BRT can be a complement to improved bicycling in the city as part of a strong multimodal transportation system. But we will have to be careful that the BRT is not built at the expense of bicycle facilities that allow access to important destinations in the same corridor. Also on the agenda is a discussion of the continuing Imagine Madison planning process. You can watch the meeting streaming here.

Also on Tuesday is another edition of the Tuesday Night Ride, a social no-drop ride averaging 10 mph. Leaving from Colectivo on the Square at 6pm sharp. Don’t forget your lights! This week they will stop by Alt Brew, hoping there will be a new Bicycle Benefits Madison, WI deal. 


The same two issues mentioned on the PBMVC agenda – the Imagine Madison update and the resolution in favor of the BRT Phase 1 will also be on the agenda of the Long Range Transportation Planning Committee on Thursday, meeting at 5:00 pm in room 108 of the City-County Building.


The Cyclocross State Championships at the Trek Headquarters, 801 W Madison St, Waterloo. It's back for 2017! Once again, Revolution Cycles Club is promoting the WI State Cyclocross Championships. Expect thrills, spills, and chills on a technical course at Trek HQ!

Photo from the 2016 Global Fat Bike Day at CamRock

And if cyclocross isn’t your thing, then how celebrating Global Fat Bike Day at the CamRock Cafe and Sport, 217 W Main St, Cambridge. It will be the same day as the Cambridge Country Christmas, so there are events for the whole family. Details here. Group Ride at 2:00 pm. Lots of beverages (brews and non-alcoholic options) stashed at stop points around the trails. Fun back at CamRock Sport at 5:00 pm with Bonfires, Food, and more. All donations and all money raised for food, beverages, etc. going to the Bike Park. Music starts at 7:00 pm and goes all night. And somewhere in there the Badgers will be playing for the Big Ten title!


Finally, to round out the week, come to the Cargo Bike/Café Domestique Shop Social, 1404 Williamson St. There will be warm beverages, a short ride, and the chance to learn more about the hosts. 3:00 pm: Meet for a hot beverage 3:30 pm: Roll out for a Lake Monona Loop. 4:30-6 pm: Demos/activities at Cargo and Café Domestique.

Remember, we have all these events listed on the Madison Bikes calendar. If you would like to have an event listed, send us an email.

Guest post: My Fitness Journey

Whatever your approach to health and fitness, you may find yourself changing things up over time to improve results or simply to maintain interest. After observing an active winter biking community for a while, I attended the Winter Bike Fashion Show, with very cautious interest. It was fun to see so many different kinds of people share varied methods and reasons for winter cycling, and as you'll see in my story, it provided me that "next thing" to keep me rolling on my fitness journey.

When I tell this story, listeners nearly always ask questions.  I hope that by sharing this, I can make it less surprising, or unique.  I want you to know, and to share with others, that it's never too late to become fit.

In the mid-2000's, my doctor recommended that I begin taking cholesterol-reducing statin drugs due to my high cholesterol count and family history of heart disease.  At the time, I carried 250 lbs. on my 5'2" frame, but my doctor had not yet talked with me about how diet and exercise would reduce my risk. Here I am, about that time, at age 40:

For the first time in my life, I started paying attention to what I ate.  I focused on what I could sustain - there was little that I eliminated from my diet, but ALL of the proportions changed in favor of healthier foods.

I was fortunate to have my partner Susan in my life.  She had been active throughout her life, and helped me introduce regular physical activity gradually, safely, and sustainably.  I still have vivid recollections of my exhaustion after a few short minutes of cardio exercise in those early days.  I started weight training too, excited about the prospect of making muscles that would help burn the fat. Here, too, my limited abilities were simultaneously frustrating, and motivating.

I worked hard, with few visible results for months on end.  But my cholesterol was improving, and I kept at it. At one point, maybe 18 months into my new lifestyle of exercising more and eating healthier/less, my body started changing, and rapidly.  I think maybe my body just finally figured out that I wasn't starving, and could let the reserves fall off.

By the time we moved to Madison in 2006 I had lost more than 50 lbs. My cholesterol ratio was reduced to high normal, eliminating the need for drug therapies. Susan was excited about Madison's bike friendliness, but the compact, walkable, bikeable city was just one of many things that brought us here. Very soon after our move, I traded the little-used, poorly-fitting bike I'd had for a comfy, laid-back cruiser:

I still remember our first ride along the Capital City Trail... we got a couple of miles, to Monona Bay, when I told Susan we'd better turn around to make sure I had the energy to make it home.

[continue reading Deb's story]

Read more

Monday update: Cranksgiving, good news from Middleton, and Winter Bike Fashion Show

This week

Good news to report from Middleton. Kierstin writes:

It passed!

After a ten year push by NE Middleton residents and several city staff, the alders and mayor finally voted “yes” on Wednesday night to secure funds from one tax improvement district to another to start the planning process of creating the NE Connector Trail along Century Avenue. Plans will be drawn in 2018, and the path will hopefully be constructed in 2019. This is a major breakthrough to connect what is currently a “car island” to the rest of Middleton and Madison as well as supply a safe route for children to bike or walk to school. These plans are the first segment connecting Branch St. to Highland. The city hopes to extend it to County Road Q to the east and Donna Drive/Frank Lloyd Wright Avenue to the West.

Good work everyone who wrote in and supported the efforts otherwise!

The news from Fitchburg are less good. A budget amendment to build paved shoulders on Whalen Road did not pass, despite support from Bike Fitchburg, Madison Bikes, and many others. According to news reports, the whole hearing was rather heated because budget issues concerning social services.

On Wednesday, the first public involvement meeting about extending the Glacial Drumlin Trail from Cottage Grove to Interstate-90 happened. We don't have information about how the meeting went, but you can find the presentation slides here. 

Saturday saw the rebirth of Cranksgiving in Madison. Cranksgiving, an event originally started in the 1990s by bike messengers in New York City, is a combination of a food drive and an alley cat bike race. Participants received a "manifesto" with a number of Madison supermarkets and items to buy there. At the end of the ride, all the food was donated to the Goodman Center's Thanksgiving Baskets food drive. Over 70 people participated! Kudos to Billy Calkins for organizing!

Just before the start of Cranksgiving at Revolution Cycle (Photo credit: Billy Calkins) 

This week

With Thanksgiving coming up, the week is fairly quiet. Madison Bikes, however, has several things in the pipeline.

On Monday, the Madison Bikes events committee will do the final planning for the Winter Bike Fashion Show on December 9. The deadline to apply as a model was on Sunday, but if you have a strong interest in being a model, shoot a quick email to winterbike@madisonbikes.org before Monday, 3pm!

Also a reminder that you can still apply to become a member of the Board of Directors for Madison Bikes. And if you're not quite ready yet to join our board, remember that you can show your support for Madison Bikes by becoming a member.

Local mountain bike advocates Capital Offroad Pathfinders are looking for a secretary for their organization. More details here.  

And on Friday, you can join the Bombay Cycling Club for their first fat bike ride of the season. 

Happy Thanksgiving from me and the rest of Madison Bikes!

Winter Bike Fashion Show: Be a model!

We’re looking for Madison Bikers of all ages who brave the elements and bike into early winter, bike in early spring or even bike year round to share their tips and expertise in dressing for the weather!  Madison Bikes is excited to host the Winter Bike Fashion Show this December 9th from 1-4pm at the High Noon Saloon. There will be food, camaraderie, and of course a fashion show highlighting real Madisonians and their winter weather gear. If you’ve discovered a great solution to keeping your hands warm and dry, or have found a way to keep your toes from freezing, we’d love to have you join the fashion show as a model. Do you have a great tip for avoiding fogged up glasses or for keeping your bike lock dry and functional? We’d love to have you!

We’re looking for:

  • year round bikers to show off their biking clothes and bike gear

  • Shoulder season (late fall or early spring) riders to show off their biking clothes and bike gear

  • Adults and kids (both kids who ride their own bikes, and kids who are transported by bike)

  • Gear for winter biking and demo bikes- how do you adapt your bike for winter riding?

  • We love DIY solutions that make giving winter bike a try easy and inexpensive!

To apply, please complete the following questions and submit to winterbike@madisonbikes.org, ideally with a picture of you in your biking clothes and/or you with your bike by 11/19, noon.

  1. Include a description of your clothing/gear and where/when/why you winter bike.

  2. What's your number one tip for people riding in winter?

  3. Do you have a winter biking story that may motivate others to ride in winter?

  4. What is your favorite thing about riding in winter?

Don't hesitate to apply even if you've modeled in a previous Winter Bike Fashion Show. 

Monday update: Winter maintenance, Glacial Drumlin Trail, bike crash analysis

Two quick Madison Bikes topics: Remember that you can now become a member of Madison Bikes online! More details here. And it's now less than a month until the Winter Bike Fashion Show on December 9. We'll send out a call for model applications tomorrow!

Last Week

On Tuesday, the Bike Facility Maintenance Subcommittee of the Pedestrian Bicycle Motor Vehicle Commission (PBMVC) met to review a draft of an updated city-wide Bike Facility Maintenance Policy. This should be presented to PBMVC in November or December. Stay tuned for more details! 

Winter maintenance of the kind we don't want to see

This Week

Monday: The Madison Bikes Board of Directors will kick the week off with our monthly meeting at the Central Library. Did you see that we have a few openings for passionate bike advocates to join us? Also on Monday, join the hearty and fearless MEAThead riders for their weekly ride around Lake Monona starting at 7pm.

Tuesday: On Tuesday, the Fitchburg Common Council will take up a budget amendment (#12) that would reinstate funding for paved shoulders on Whalen Road between Fish Hatchery to Fitchburg Road. Whalen Road is the primary east-west corridor connecting Fitchburg to Verona, and serves as a major commuting route between these two cities, as well as Madison. Read more at Bike Fitchburg.

Wednesday: You’ll have to make some tough choices on Wednesday with four competing meetings to choose from. At 5:00pm, it’s the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board Citizen Advisory Committee meeting with a presentation on Dane County Crashes Involving Bicyclists and Pedestrians and a staff report on a Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress Analysis among other topics. At 5:30, the Madison Bikes Advocacy Committee will meet at Bendyworks to begin its review of the People for Bikes Bicycle Network Analysis. At 7:00pm, you can attend a presentation by the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association’s Traffic Committee on the work they’ve done in trying to improve conditions for people walking and biking in the neighborhood (including the diversion test on Mifflin Bike Boulevard). Also at 7:00, is a public input meeting on the Glacial Drumlin extension from the interstate to Cottage Grove.

Saturday: On Saturday, the Tour de la Familia Latina will be back in force to show that Madison paths are spaces for everyone to enjoy. And then at 1:00pm, you can have fun and help out at the same time by participating in this year’s Cranksgiving event, an alley cat/food drive.

Sunday: Finish the weekend off with an Ibis Cycles Demo sponsored by Bell Joy Ride and Revolution Cycles. A special ladies group ride begins at 1pm.


For details on any of these events, head to the Madison Bikes calendar. If you have an event that you’d like added, send the details to info@madisonbikes.org.


You can now become a member of Madison Bikes online!

A select few of you--those who attended our annual party at the High Noon Saloon in September--already are members of Madison Bikes. But now everyone can join our organization! Just click here for more information and sign up! Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

Why should I become a member?

By opening up membership we want make our organization stronger. Having you as members will amplify our voice, as well as ensure that our advocacy efforts have broad community support. And your financial contributions will help us keep the lights on and have the resources to make things happen.

What does it cost to be a member?

We want to be an inclusive organization and not prevent anyone from joining because they cannot afford it. Therefore we have a pay-what-you-can membership model: You fill out the membership application and only then do you select how much you want to contribute. Don't have any idea what a reasonable amount would be? Well, those who attended our annual party, contributed $20 or more.

How long is my membership good for?

All the way through December 2018. We'll let you know when it's time to renew.

What do I get out of it?

Sorry, no funny socks, whimsical ties, or t-shirts, at least for now. We're a small, 100% volunteer-run organization and direct our efforts as much as possible toward making biking better in Madison. What you will receive:

  • Our weekly calendar highlights of bike advocacy issues and events via email.
  • You'll also be invited to our Annual Madison Bikes Membership Party (usually in late summer).
  • And maybe most importantly: That great feeling that comes from making a positive difference in your community!

Am I already a member?

If you attended our annual party and signed in there: you are. If not, you are almost certainly not a member yet. You can also check your email inbox if you received a "Thanks for Becoming a Member" email from us. If you're still in doubt, email membership@madisonbikes.org and we'll figure it out.

I don't want to become a member but still support Madison Bikes. Is that possible?

Not a problem. You can still donate, volunteer, or sign up for our email updates without being a member. 


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