5 Tips for Urban Bike Adventures with Kids

I’m far from a biking expert: I have a hard enough time spelling ‘derailleur,’ let alone explaining what one does; I leave flat-fixing and chain-aligning to my husband; and I don't give a grip shift about the range of “gear inches” my bike offers. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the mechanical minutiae, I love to ride my bike and I’m a big believer in the benefits of a bike-centric approach to “getting around.”

I’m aware of the quantifiable advantages of bike versus motor-vehicle travel (gallons saved, emissions prevented, calories burned, etc). But as we’ve grown into a bike-dependent family I’ve also come to appreciate many advantages of biking that are harder to put a number on: the independence, fun, happiness, and sense of accomplishment that comes from “getting around” by bike. Furthermore, biking helps us better manage our pace of life, enjoy each other’s company, celebrate our strengths and encourage each other through struggles. There is time and space to interact with our kids and the world around us on a very tangible level. 

How many of your car commutes were noteworthy enough to remember? Invariably, something happens on every bike ride - a new max speed achieved, a new route learned, a flat or two or three - that makes it memorable for one reason or another. We have the luxury of engaging in conversation with our kids that would otherwise be interrupted by the distraction of driving. While we ride, we deliberately work to help teach our kids safe biking practices, the rules of the road, how to be courteous on the bike paths, basic bike maintenance, and safe routes from our home to the places we frequently visit. The necessity of physical effort on everyone’s part provides a sense of accomplishment and teamwork just for getting to our destination and back home. Riding provides us an opportunity to share in an activity that is both healthy for our bodies and the environment and we all get a chance to embody a “can-do and I’ll try” attitude about life.

Although we bike year-round, summer gifts me extra time to go out riding with my kids. I like to call our bike outings “Urban Bike Adventures” because that is just what they are! We make a plan for where we want to go, how we will get there and what we need to bring. Then we hop on our bikes and set out. This summer our Urban Bike Adventures have taken us to Blue Mounds for a camping trip, across town to shop for Legos, to Picnic Point to roast marshmallows, to the library, out to lunch, just to run errands and more.

Urban Bike Adventures with kids can be easy and fun. Here are a few tips to get you past the “I could never do that” barrier and out on your bikes: 

  1. Choose a fun destination. Some of our favorite destinations include the the ice cream shop, the library, a friend’s house, and to our favorite restaurants for breakfast.
  2. Anticipate delays, detours, impromptu play dates and changes in plans. Remember: It’s an adventure! Being prepared for a change in plans especially on longer rides can mean the difference between a positive experience or a challenging one. Be prepared to go with the flow. Pack snacks and water bottles to avoid hunger and thirst emergencies.
  3. Plan a route that feels safe before you head out. Use bike paths, bike boulevards, neighborhood streets, and streets with bike lanes. A slightly circuitous route that is quiet and more bike-friendly is worth a few minutes in extra travel time. Know where you are going before you leave.
  4. Make plenty of stops along the way to take breaks. We like to visit friends and make stops at the park to play if we need to rest.
  5. Always shout “Woo Hoo” when going down the big hills! Enjoy yourself and make it fun. Get out and ride together-it's so fun!

Do you go on adventure rides with your kids? Share your tips and stories in the comments!

Badger Herald reporting on Madison Bikes

Yesterdays's Badger Herald, the UW-Madison student daily, had a niece piece about Madison Bikes, as well as about Madison in Motion and the UW campus master plan. Here are some snippets:

[Grant Foster] said the group was created for people who bike around Madison and noticed opportunities for improvement in the city’s bike infrastructure. Many of those people felt like there was not a good way to organize and work towards fixing the problems that they saw.

“We decided to come together and create a space for that to happen,” Foster said. “Our vision is for a city where anyone can ride to and from any place in the city comfortably.”

Madison Bikes hopes to build out a network in Madison that will make cyclists feel more comfortable riding bicycles on the same roads as cars, Foster said. Many people are interesting in riding, but nervous to intermingling with cars.

“We don’t really envision Madison Bikes being the one that brings change on its own, more so a catalyst,” Foster said. “It really takes individual citizens to speak up, to share their input at city meetings.”

Read the whole article, or check out previous press coverage of Madison Bikes.

Madison Bikes Calendar Highlights (10/3/16)

Last Week

There was some good conversation at Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission about what to do with the suggestions that were received for potential pedestrian/bicycle improvement projects. You can watch the discussion here beginning at 41:00.

After a month off, the Transportation Ordinance Review Ad Hoc Committee reconvened to review Attorney Strange’s draft ordinances proposing the creation of a Transportation Policy and Planning Board, and the recreation of Transit and Parking Commission and Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission. The committee is weighing the benefits of that 3-body structure (keeping Transit/Parking and Ped/Bike) versus a 2-body structure that folds transit and ped/bike into a singular Transportation Commission. This is fundamental conversation around our transportation planning and implementation systems and will have a big impact on how these issues are managed going forward.

At Wingra School on Thursday, attendees had an opportunity to share their ideas at the Monroe Street Reconstruction: Cross Section Workshop. Based on the cross-section designs offered up by attendees, it looks like almost all groups favored removal of the rush-hour travel lane in favor of a turn lane to increase pedestrian safety crossing the street and the majority of the proposed cross-sections also included bike lanes with some removal of on-street parking. The city will be taking that feedback and doing some modeling in order to come up with draft cross sections for further consideration. These will be presented on October 27, 6:00-7:30 PM at the Cross Section Open House.

This Week

The Madison Bikes Board of Directors has it’s monthly meeting on Monday followed by a Winter Bike Fashion Show planning meeting. On Saturday, consider joining the second Bike the Art tour leaving from the Allen Centennial Garden at 12:45pm.

Madison Bikes Calendar Highlights (9/25/2016)

Last Week

Wow, our Kickoff Party was such a great event. We counted somewhere north of 80 attendees, which was great considering the dicey weather. Big shoutout to all those that helped put the event on, including support from High Noon Saloon, DJ The Real Jaguar, Saris Cycling, and especially Jonny Hunter with Underground Food Collective. If you missed the partyyou can still donate online. All the money raised will be put into improving biking in and around Madison.

There was also a good turnout at the Sustainable Madison Transportation Master Plan Open House the following night. Mayor Soglin shared some words and then we got a brief overview of some of the key highlights by David Trowbridge and the consultant firm. I think a lot of the groundwork for this plan is very solid, and I appreciate the attention to land use and the impact that has on our current and future transportation network. The biggest gap in the current draft is the absence of any clear goals/objectives, particularly around biking. There is a long list of recommendations, but most of them encourage the city to keep doing what it’s already doing and there’s nothing put in front of us that requires any new action. Take a look for yourself and share your thoughts on what you like and what you think is missing. The website now includes links to several of the draft documents including the primary summary document.

This Week

The 4th week of the month is always busy with the City’s primary transportation committees. Add in the final Mondays Around Monona ride and the big Monroe Street Reconstruction meeting on Thursday and it’ll be a busy week. If you haven’t made it out to any meetings, give it some consideration; things on the ground change when people speak up. PBMVC meetings are also streamed live over the web and can be watched from the comfort of your home.

Monday: It’s the final Mondays Around Monona ride of the season, and if you keep a steady pace you can get to the Wil-Mar center by 7:00 to participate in the discussion about moving bus routes from Jenifer to Williamson Street. There are a lot of considerations with the move and bike comfort/access is one that hasn’t received as much attention as it should. Come learn more and share your thoughts.

Tuesday: Key topics on this month’s Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission meeting will be a discussion of a proposed ordinance change related to panhandling from medians and a first view of the comments received this spring on potential pedestrian/bicycle improvement projects. Also on the agenda is a new proposed segment of the Goodman path.

Wednesday: After a month off, the Transportation Ordinance Review Ad Hoc Committee will meet on Wednesday and review draft ordinances proposing the creation of a Transportation Policy and Planning Board, and the recreation of Transit and Parking Commission and Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission. This is really fundamental and important work for our city and is worth paying attention to.

Thursday: The Long Range Transportation Planning Committee will receive a presentation from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation on “various major WisDOT roadway projects in the Madison urban area” followed by a review of “Madison in Motion draft transportation system performance monitoring program”. But for anyone that bikes or that would like to bike through and around the Monroe Street neighborhoods, the Monroe Street Reconstruction: Cross Section Workshop may be the more important meeting to attend. This meeting will bring together a lot of the input received to date and will give the public a hands-on opportunity to recommend possible cross sections for further evaluation and design by Engineering. If you care about getting bike lanes on Monroe Street, you should find a way to get to this meeting.

Saturday: For a break from all the advocacy and city meetings, you can go see a talk about touring the Silk Road on a folding bike at Sequoya Library

Madison Bikes Calendar Highlights (9/19/16)

Last Week

I wasn’t able to attend the final UW-Madison Draft Campus Master Plan Public Input Meeting, but from the reports of others on our Facebook page, it sounds like the plan calls for increasing motor vehicle access with a not-quite-fully-baked plan for accommodating bikes on University Ave. The final plan should go through the city before it’s adopted and it would be good to consider sharing your thoughts on how this important downtown corridor should function.

This Week

Monday: I’m super excited to see all your faces at our Madison Bikes Kickoff Party at the High Noon Saloon. We’ll have great food and tunes and you’ll have an opportunity to give your thoughts on where we should focus our energies in 2017. Also, door prizes from Saris including a SUPERBONES rack! Party starts at 6:00 pm and we’ll be there until 8:30 or 9:00 pm. There will be a special Mondays Around Monona ride leaving at 4:00 pm and ending at the party. Or for the night owls, join us for a post-party ride (details will be announced at the event). Whether you can join us or not, consider donating online. Every little bit makes a big difference.

Tuesday: The Sustainable Madison Transportation Master Plan Open House is your chance to see the city’s current transportation vision. Come see for yourself what big ideas the city has in mind to improve biking. Do you think the plan will have what it takes to move us out of our stalled mode share numbers?

And make sure that the Monroe Street Reconstruction: Cross Section Workshop is on your calendar for the following week. This will be the most important meeting to date to advocate for better bike access on a reconstructed Monroe.


Bike commuting in Madison 2015: More stagnation

September is the time of the year when the US Census publishes data from the American Community Survey, one of the few large-scale data sources that can tell us something about long-term trends in biking in the US. How is Madison doing? We had a first look at the data.

Read more

Madison Bikes Calendar Highlights (9/12/16)

Last Week

There were a couple transportation related items discussed at last week’s City Council Meeting. It was a six-hour-long meeting with many important discussions. You can watch all or parts of it here.

  • Item 19: Update to panhandling ordinance - Some have suggested that this ordinance rewrite is about trying to stop panhandling in our roadways, but Mayor Soglin tries to make the case that this is really about public safety. Perhaps this new focus on roadway safety will carry over to initiatives to reduce accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists on our city streets. 3:40:15 is the start of the item and 3:51:00 is the mayor’s speech.
  • Item 27: Comprehensive Plan update - This will be gearing up later this year and into next. It will be a good opportunity to try and get some real transportation vision in a City of Madison plan. The Planning Department says this version will have greater emphasis on equity, health, sustainability, and resilience. (4:20:15)
  • Item 125: Capitol East District Parking Structure - Parking and parking policy have a lot to do with how our city develops and a lot to do with where we allocate roadway space and transportation dollars. Interesting discussion about the subsidies involved in order to encourage development in our downtown. (5:20:00)

On Wednesday, the Bicycle Facility Maintenance Workgroup met and reviewed a first draft of a Bicycle Maintenance policy. We’ve been making good progress and hope to have something pulled together by the end of the year.

This Week

Monday: Madison Bikes Board Meeting - if you are interested in participating in any of our committees, send a message of interest via this online form. And India, one of our directors, leads another Mondays Around Monona ride.

Tuesday: UW Madison Draft Campus Master Plan Public Input Meeting - There was some good discussion about one element of the plan, the redesign of University Avenue and its bike facilities, on our Facebook page recently.

Friday: Join Bike Fitchburg as they sponsor this year’s Pick Me Up at the Bordera nighttime ride to the Illinois border on the Badger State Trail.

Saturday: Ride over to Revolution Cycles for Ladies Night with Molly Hurford, "where all your questions will be answered—from women-specific ’issues’ to cyclocross training to nutrition."

Sunday: Bike the Barns, "a delicious charity bicycle tour raising funds for Partner Shares, featuring local food and CSA farms!"

Also, the 2nd annual Love to Ride program, a month-long local bike challenge developed to help more people rediscover the joys and benefits of riding a bike, runs from September 12 – October 7, 2016.  Businesses can compete for team prizes and bragging rights based on their employees’ participation. Individuals get points for their own rides and, even more importantly, for encouraging others to ride.  Visit the Love to Ride Madison website to find out more and to register. Sign up to be the Challenge Champion at your business and help spread the word!

And of course, Madison Bikes Kickoff Party at the High Noon Saloon is on 9/19. Donate online now and we’ll see you on the 19th!

As always, you can also find all these dates on our Community Bike Calendar.


Little Victories: Improving Bike Parking, Two Racks at a Time

Good bike parking is an important but often overlooked component of bike infrastructure, despite its relatively low cost. By and large, the situation in Madison isn't too bad. The zoning code requires a modest number of bike parking spots to be installed in new developments, and many developers and businesses have come to acknowledge the benefits of providing bike parking. 

But sometimes a little citizen activism is needed.


Read more

Madison Bikes Calendar Highlights (9/6/16)

Last Week

Other than the Mondays Around Monona ride, I wasn’t able to attend any of last week’s events. Sounds like the Sun Prairie Transportation Summit was well attended: video of the event (see screenshot above) is available to watch here. If you’re following the Monroe Street reconstruction process (you should be) here’s a link to last week’s Green Infrastructure World Café presentation. September 29th will be the Summer Input Review and Cross Section Workshop at Wingra School followed by the Cross Section Open House on October 27th. If you have any interest in seeing bike lanes on Monroe Street, you should plan on attending both of these meetings.

This Week

On Wednesday, the Bicycle Facility Maintenance Workgroup will meet to review a first draft of a bikeway maintenance policy. On Saturday, consider joining the Bike the Art Kickoff Tour! organized by the Arts & Literature Laboratory.

Also, just announced last week, is a public comment open house for the Madison in Motion, Sustainable Master Transportation Plan on 9/20. I’ll go into more detail about this plan and what to expect at the open house next week, but for now just plan on two big bike events that week. The other event, of course, is the Madison Bikes Kickoff Party at the High Noon Saloon on 9/19. Donate online now and we’ll see you on the 19th!

Madison Bikes Calendar Highlights (8/29/16)

Last Week

If you missed the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission meeting on Tuesday, you can watch it online here. It was a long one (over 3 hours) with conversation centered mostly on 1) the Quarterly Traffic Report from City of Madison Police Dept 2) a Racial Equity and Social Justice Presentation and 3) updates to the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (with a particular focus on trying to make that program more accessible and more equitable for all neighborhoods).

I’ve become very disappointed with the information that is presented each quarter from our Police Department and am concerned with the lack of focus around actually increasing safety for our road users. Lt. Knight shared with the commission that, yet again, the bike safety grant funds that the department received were used to target cyclists failing to come to a foot-down stop at major path/street crossings. Without getting into discussions around the Rolling Stop (also known as the Idaho Stop), it’s clear that this is not the highest leverage enforcement activity to increase safety for people on bikes. People on foot and on bike are the most vulnerable and at-risk users of our public streets today and we need to start to work towards meaningful interventions that will reduce traffic violence.

This Week

On Monday, join We Are All Mechanics for their Mondays Around Monona, "leisurely Monday night bike rides for beginners and experts alike." slow roll. On Wednesday there are two bike transportation related meetings: Sun Prairie Transportation Summit and Williamson/Jenifer Parking & Bus Route Discussions. On Thursday, Monroe Street Reconstruction engagement continues with the Green Infrastructure World Cafe. Mark your calendars now for September 29th; this will be the key community meeting for Monroe Street reconstruction where discussion will begin in earnest around what cross-section concepts should be further developed.

And, of course, preparations continue for our Madison Bikes Kickoff Party at the High Noon Saloon on 9/19. Donate online now and we’ll see you on the 19th!



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