There was plenty to keep us busy last week with the Wilson Street project on the agenda for approval at the Board of Public Works, commuter stations to help celebrate Bike to Work Week, and the Mapathon to help improve Open Street Map data for the upcoming Places for Bikes low-stress bike network map (stay tuned for more!).
Robbie has a brief update of the Wilson Street Board of Public Works meeting up on our blog that helps make the connections between the embarrassing process that we’ve all been suffering through and the absence of a Director of Transportation in Madison. The short version is that the Board approved reconstruction of the street as-is (with no bike facilities), based on the recommendation of city staff and the alder for the district, Mike Verveer. But thanks to Alder Demarb, an amendment was added that commits the city to build out the needed bike facilities on this section of Wilson Street once Judge Doyle Square construction is completed (estimated 2020). The item will be in front of the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission on Tuesday and then in front of the Common Council in two weeks.
And thanks to some great sponsors, there were a number of commuter stations throughout the week. Big thanks to those that chipped in and stepped up like Cafe Domestique, HotelRED, Revolution Cycles, and the Monona Eastside Business Alliance.
This week, Wilson Street heads to the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission on Tuesday before landing in front of the Common Council for final approval in June. Watch for one more action item on this project in the next couple weeks.
Middleton will be holding a bike meeting on Thursday at the city hall to talk about Century Avenue among other things.
And Friday, don’t forget to Bike your Brat to Work courtesy of Saris.
The West Wilson Street reconstruction and the question whether the street should be reconstructed as-is or include safe and comfortable accommodations for people biking was discussed at the Board of Public Works (BPW) last Wednesday. The proposal by City Engineering and supported by the district's Alder Mike Verveer argued for the former, but at the meeting many voices disagreed. Looking beyond the West Wilson project itself, the BPW meeting perfectly demonstrated why Madison needs a Director of Transportation, someone who would be the liaison between the often-competing interests and desires of various interest groups and the city staff who are charged with maintaining and rebuilding our streets.
Alder Mike Verveer, in whose district the W. Wilson reconstruction project is located, said that he felt "whiplash" by the requests for protected bike lanes, constituents who fear losing on-street parking, other alders – including two on the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission -- who requested that the PBMVC needed to see the project again, and city staff who had already sent a letter to adjacent property owners saying there would be neither a pilot test of the protected bike lane that had previously been proposed. Verveer also claimed that this project was being used to fight a turf battle between different city committees.
However, three Madison Bikes board members and several other bicycle advocates testified or submitted comments to the Board of Public Works on Wednesday evening, saying that the public process has been botched, the street was unsafe for bicyclists, and insisted that the BPW and city staff follow the city's many transportation and sustainability plans that point out the need to provide safe infrastructure for all road users.
Public testimony at the BPW meeting
It was apparent that the BPW felt very uncomfortable with the conflict playing out in front of them. Normally their schedule is filled by nothing more controversial than approving bids for infrastructures and assessments for new sidewalks.
Staff from City Engineering insisted that there was no time to send the matter back to the PBMVC and still meet a September deadline to use Tax Incremental Financing for the project. Additional there was the procedural question whether the Board even had the authority to refer the matter to another committee. In the end, the BPW approved the project to be rebuilt exactly as it is now: no bike lanes, no widened sidewalks, and no test of a protected bike lane in place of parking on the south side of the street. But staff claimed that the design would be “flexible,” should anything change in the future.
While this may sound disappointing, there was a bright spot: The resolution to go forward with the reconstruction as-is was amended. Alder Denise Demarb introduced a provision that city staff will develop a plan to make the entire length of Wilson St bicycle-friendly all the way from King Street to Broom Street by the time that the construction around the Judge Doyle Square project is completed (expected to sometime between 2020 and 2022).
We will continue to push for a safe, comfortable design on West (and East) Wilson Street that will give space for people biking and walking and support the oft-stated goal of the city to encourage bicycling, walking, and transit use. And we will continue to push for a better public process so that these issues can be resolved and all interested parties can be involved long before a financial deadline is looming.
The Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission will discuss the matter at their meeting tomorrow, and the project will be before the Common Council at their June 6 meeting. We will keep you updated for when your input is going to be most effective. Thanks to everyone who testified or submitted written comments: They really made a difference.
It's a little confusing: There's the League of American Bicyclists Bike to Work Day on May 19; there was Global Bike to Work Day on May 11; and of course there's the Bike Fed's Wisconsin Bike Week in June. All on different dates. But hey: The more days to celebrate biking to work and elsewhere, the better!
In that spirit, Madison Bikes and Cafe Domestique will be hosting a commuter station on the Cap City Trail at Dickinson this Friday, 7-9 am. We'll have free coffee, Madison Bikes stickers, and some small snacks. Stop by and say hi! And thanks for riding your bike, on Friday or any other day!
RSVP on the Facebook event page or just stop by.
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:
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; MHacker@cityofmadison.com; RPhillips@cityofmadison.com; CPetykowski@cityofmadison.com; YTao@cityofmadison.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com.
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:
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; firstname.lastname@example.org
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; email@example.com
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.