The last days of summer are busy!


While everyone is trying to squeeze in a few more summer rides, parents are thinking about sending the kids back to school, college students are planning their classes, and days are getting shorter, we are still hard at work on a number of issues. 

We’ll be releasing a request Soon we’ll be asking for people who might want to be on our board of directors. No formal process or link yet, but think about if you might want to be one of those people.

We made our goal for fundraising to sponsor a rack at the new Pinney LIbrary, so when it opens, look for the rack with our name. Thanks to all who donated!

And the city’s Bike Madison updates are now available in PDF form each week. Here’s the Aug 23 edition. We try to keep you up to date on construction, plans, meetings, detours, official city events, and other news, but if you want to get the latest directly from the city, you can subscribe to their updates. There are links to a number of upcoming projects as well as some updates and detours for current construction going on around the city. 


The week ahead


Both Bike Fitchburg and Madison Bikes will be holding meetings. 

This is the regular monthly meeting of Bike Fitchburg from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Rd. 

Madison Bikes is trying something new. Instead of having our committees meet separately, we are going to have the entire board -- and any interested volunteers -- meet as a group and work on the events and issues we have before us. This month we will be meeting at 6:00 pm Bendy Works, 2nd floor of 106 E Doty St. If you are interested in getting involved or helping us with advocacy, events, or communications, come on by. 


The two city transportation committees -- the Transportation Planning and Policy Board and the Transportation Commission -- will hold a joint meeting at 5:00 pm in Room 215 of the Madison Municipal Building. The only topic is to review the transportation ordinances and the responsibilities of each committee. I.e. they’ll be talking about who is supposed to be doing what.

Slow Roll Cycles -- 4118 Monona Dr -- will host a no-drop ride and art party 5:30-9:30 pm.I’ll let them explain: 

“For this edition we have a special guest - Morgan McArthur - who will sharing some of this work and will be pin-striping a bike while we ride. Morgan does contract work for Waterford here in Wisco, has been doing this for years and knows his craft very well. We are riding at 5:30, strolling to the Lower Yahara River Trail and back (15 miles). After we will have beers (BYOB), snacks and talk art and bicycles. We will be joined by the Madison Rotary Bike Fellowship - they are arranging this special night. Share, tell your friends to come - NO Drop casual ride as always.” More information at the Facebook event page


Cyclocross practice at Reindahl Park. If you are interested in trying out cyclocross, or want to sharpen your skills, there is a long list of practice opportunities. More info, the calendar, and more links can be found on the Madison Bikes Community Calendar.


How will bus rapid transit affect bicycling in Madison? Maybe it won’t, but if you have any questions about this coming transit option, or just want to weigh in, come to the third public meeting for the planning study at the Madison Senior Center, 330 W Mifflin St, 6:00-7:30 pm. 


One of the best known rides of the summer will be held as a fundraiser for Free Bikes For Kids. The Wright Stuff Century, put on by Bombay Bicycle Club, will start and end at Capital Brewery in Middleton. Routes options of 30, 60, and 100 miles will give almost everyone a ride they can enjoy. More information can be found here.

What were we talking about on Facebook? 

There are always lively discussions on our Madison Bikes Community group. Here’s a sample from the last week:

After one of our members had a nasty crash when a driver ran a red light at John Nolen Dr and North Shore Dr, a lot of people had opinions about what should be done at the intersection and what the law is regarding using a crosswalk on a bike. 

Photos of new bike paths at Machinery Row and in Shorewood Hills were posted, and people commented. The new link in Shorewood Hills isn’t ready for traffic yet, so please stay off for a while longer. 

Photos of the crazy combination bike lane/sidewalk on Winnequah in Monona -- with trash bins blocking it -- sparked discussions about Monona’s plans for better walking and biking facilities and the history of the weird arrangement that is on the ground now. 

And unfortunately, last week started with news of two more bike crashes on the far west side, one involving a hit-and-run on Gammon. 

Remember, if you have an event for our community calendar, please send it to us.

Monday Update: Public Input Opportunities, Construction Updates, and More!

Last call for donations: Pinney Library Bike Rack

Our fundraiser for the new Pinney Library is nearing it's end. We have raised just shy of our $800. Can you help us achieve our $1000 goal, which would allow us to get a Madison Bikes-branded rack at the library? Donate now on our website! And thanks to all those who have already contributed!

Public Input Wanted

There are a few Master Planning projects in the works of particular interest to this group. They are the Law Park Master Plan and the Vilas Park Master Plan. Law Park is the major waterfront park that runs from Machinery Row to the John Nolen Drive bridges over Monona Bay, and includes the most heavily used path in the state, the Capital City Path. Vilas Park is adjacent to Henry Vilas Zoo and currently has a one-way road with a somewhat deficient contraflow bike lane. Both of these projects have open community surveys with which you are encouraged to participate, links below.

There is also a Bicycle Friendly Community Survey being conducted by the League of American Bicyclists looking for input about local bicycling conditions from everyone who bikes in Madison. The survey is being conducted to assess the LAB's Bicycle Friendly Community rating for the city. Madison is currently rated a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community by the LAB. There are also Bicycle Friendly Community surveys available for Fitchburg, Verona, and Sun Prairie.

Law Park Survey

Vilas Park Survey

League of American Bicyclists Survey

Last Week


On Thursday, the city held its first planning workshop with regards to the Law Park Master Planning process. Law Park is a major waterfront park in downtown Madison that includes the heavily used Capital City Path, and the city wants your input in how the park will be used in the future. Thursday's workshop was the first of four public outreach efforts the city is planning. The second one being this Wednesday, so watch out for that. In the meantime, you are encouraged to fill out the public survey or send in your thoughts via email to


Several construction projects have also started to enter their final stages.

The construction on Wilson and Williamson Streets has largely been completed, and the light poles are now up for the Blount Street diagonal crossing. As part of this project, new stop signs were erected to face car traffic at the Capital City Path crossing at Blount, demonstrating the city's commitment to improving bicycle infrastructure for people.

The construction of the Shorewood Hills Path between University Bay Drive and Marshall Court is also nearing completion. Last week the asphalt was laid to bridge a long-identified gap in that path that starts on the University campus and extends all the way to Allen Boulevard near Middleton. Although the asphalt has been laid, there is still much work to be done, including pouring the concrete for the curb ramps, so be patient and continue to use Marshall Court for the time being to allow the contractor to properly finish this project.


Also, according to the East Johnson Street project web page, the path between Burr Jones Park and First Street is expected to reopen this week, although it appears the path crossing at First Street will continue to be closed.


This Week

Monday, August 19

The monthly Madison Bikes Board Meeting is taking place at Madison's Central Library and starts at 6:00 PM.

Tuesday, August 20,

Bombay Bicycle Club is having a Ride and Social starting and ending at Wisconsin Brewing Company, located at 1079 American Way in Verona. Meet at 5:45 PM for a route briefing, and stay for the post-ride social from 7-9 PM. More details, including the Ride With GPS route, can be found on the Facebook Events page for the event.

Wednesday, August 21,

From 9 AM to 11 AM, there will be Free Bike Tune-Ups courtesy of Freewheel Community Bike Shop at First United Methodist Church, located at 203 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Madison. There will also be an educational element to the event. Read more about the event here.

From 5:30 PM to 6:45 PM at Badger Prairie County Park there is a free Cyclocross Practice opportunity. Badger Prairie County Park is located at 4654 Maple Grove Drive in Verona. The free cyclocross practice is sponsored by the Capital Off-Road Pathfinders, L5, Neff Cycling, and Madison Parks.

The second Law Park Community Workshop is being held at 6 PM, this time at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center, located at 1625 Northport Drive on Madison's north side. As mentioned above, you can learn more by heading over to the city's Law Park Master Planning process web page. You can also fill out the public survey or send in your thoughts via email to  

Thursday, August 22,

The City of Madison is hosting a public meeting regarding Demetral Park Path Lighting. The meeting will run from 6 PM to 7 PM at Bashford United Methodist Church, located at 329 North Street on Madison's east side. Read more about the meeting here on the City's website.

 Sunday, August 25,

Trek is hosting a Mountain Bike Demo at Quarry Ridge Park, located at 2740 Fitchrona Road, in Fitchburg. The demo runs from 10 AM to 2 PM, and you are welcome to try out Trek's new full-suspension and hard tail MTBs. Read more about this event on its Facebook Events page.

Madison Bikes is looking for Board Member Candidates

If you think you would be a good fit on the Madison Bikes Board, there will be a board member open house on September 12 at 6 PM. Location TBD.


As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes.

Monday update: Summer is Fleeting





Events Committee 6:00 tonight at Rockhound Brewing Company. Preparations have begun for the winter bike fashion show, help us make it great. 



Transportation Commission 5:00 – 7:00 pm  215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd Room 207, Madison Municipal Building.  There will be a presentation about Safe Routes to School. 

Cyclocross Practice  5:30 pm at Aldo Leopold Park Madison Parks, Capitol Off Road Pathfinders, L5 and Neff Cycling are joining up to offer a huge calendar of free cyclocross practice opportunities this year.

You have 2 options to choose from at each practice: a beginners clinic and an intermediate/advanced practice. It’s your choice, or you could try both! All practices are free and open to the public. All ages and abilities are welcome (boys and girls); anyone old enough to ride a bike and take instruction fairly well. More info is available here



Erik's Bike Shop MTB Demo at Middleton Bike Park 4:00 pm Join for a free mountain bike demo. Erik's staff will be on hand to help you find the right Specialized or Santa Cruz mountain bike and get you set up for a ride.  More info is available here


Send us your events

Reminder that we have a Community Bike Calendar on our website. If you would like to add something, send it to us. We can't guarantee it will be featured in the weekly update, but at least it will be available for people to see. 

Slow meeting schedule as August is upon us


This past week

August in Madison, when everyone is out on bikes, and city meetings slow down. We did have one great event this past weekend. Adonia Lugo came to Madison to talk about her work on race and bicycling. We helped to organize a nice community ride n Saturday. She then did a reading from her book and took questions. If you missed it, but are interested in this subject, you can either buy the book or get in line to check it out from the library. 


The week ahead


The Transportation Planning and Policy Board will meet at 5:00 pm in Room 215 of the Municipal Building. On the agenda is: 

  • Update on the Wilson St project
  • Nelson Neighborhood Development Plan (with some new pedestrian-bike connections)
  • Oscar Meyer Special Area Plan (there are no documents available, but additional bike-ped connections are needed in this area.)
  • Projects that will be submitted for Transportation Alternatives Program funding (federal bike-ped funding). These include path connections, over/underpasses, and paths along roadways. Not all of these will necessarily be funded, but this is what the city is requesting.


The Madison Bikes Communications Committee will meet at Memorial Union Terrace at 6:00 pm. If you are interested in attending or helping with communications, drop us a line at We always love to have new volunteers, and helping on one of the committees is a great way to see what we are all about and help out the biking community.


The Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (MPO) meets at 6:30 pm at the Water Utility Building at 119 E. Olin Ave. There isn’t anything specifically about bicycling on the agenda, but they will be discussing a couple of items that could affect biking. One item is plans for Hwy M between Hwys Q and 113 – across the top of Lake Mendota. They will also be discussing the Transportation Improvement Plan – the five-year plan for transportation for the region. Documents on these items are not available as of this writing, but they should be uploaded here before the meeting.

Send us your events

Reminder that we have a Community Bike Calendar on our website. If you would like to add something, send it to us. We can't guarantee it will be featured in the weekly update, but at least it will be available for people to see. 

What are we talking about on online?

The photo at the top of the post was prompted by a discussion on a different Facebook group about bad bicycle parking. I have an entire file on my computer labeled "Bike Parking Fail." What made me think of this is that there was a long discussion on our Facebook group about signs outside Monroe St businesses asking bicyclists to please walk their bikes (on the sidewalk.) When Monroe St was being reconstructed, we pointed out the need for safe and comfortable bike facilities ON the street where destinations are located (as opposed to the SW Path, which does not connect directly to Monroe)-- one way to keep bicyclists from using the sidewalk. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, so people coming from and going to businesses sometimes bike on the sidewalk. 

There was also a very long discussion about passing pedestrians on shared paths. I hear a lot of grumbling from pedestrians about being passed too closely or by bicyclists going too fast. As our paths get more popular and more people use them for transportation, we all have to remember that the paths are shared, not just for bicyclists. And maybe we need more space so there will be fewer conflicts. After all, that's what happens when highways get crowded -- they get expanded. 

One of our regular FB contributors had a nasty experience with the driver van belonging to a local business while riding on the Mifflin bike boulevard. When he stopped there to complain, it turns out the driver was also the manager and co-owner. This business is in a very bike/ped friendly neighborhood and frequently has full bike racks out front. If we can't rely on these folks to be our allies and treat us well, what's the world coming to?

Monday Update: Mobility Justice with Dr. Adonia Lugo

Another slow week for our weekly update, but we do have a highlight on Saturday!

The bike week starts with Mondays Around Monona, a chill social bike ride around Lake Monona. The ride has been around for a long time, but this week it has a new start and end destination: The ride will start at 5:30p sharp at Capital City Trail and Sugar Ave  and end at the newly redeveloped Garver Feed Mill where people will gather for dinner and/or drinks.

On Saturday, I'm very excited about an event centered around the idea of mobility justice with anthropologist and activist Dr. Adonia Lugo! Organized by the JUST Bikes Coalition, there will be a community bike ride, lunch, and a book talk about "Locating ourselves in Mobility Justice: Planning for multiracial and just future streets." Adonia Lugo is a cultural anthropologist who did her doctoral research on biking and bike activism in Los Angeles. One of the ideas she develops is a tension between physical infrastructure and human infrastructure, as well as the connections (and tensions) between bike activism and environmental, social, and racial justice. This is the schedule for the day:

9:00 am: Helmet Fitting & Bike Checks in the Villager Mall parking lot
10:00 am: Neighborhood Bike Ride followed by lunch
11:30 am: Book Talk (Locating Ourselves in Mobility Justice: Planning for Multiracial and Just Future Streets)/Discussion with Adonia Lugo Cultural anthropologist at the Goodman South Library

If you can't make the event, check out Dr. Lugo's book "Bicycle/Race" or listen to a WORT interview with her from last year.

Also keep in mind that the CrossFit Games are happening this week. Be prepared for more people riding, running, and walking on our trails and paths.


As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes.

Monday Update: Transportation Commission, Beltline Expansion, and Free Repairs!

Last Week

On Sunday, a 56-year-old woman riding her bicycle tragically lost her life at the intersection of the Military Ridge State Trail and County Highway PD in Verona. It’s a reminder of just how vulnerable we are on our bikes and the need for everyone to be on the lookout for each other, especially at intersections. 

On Thursday, the first public meeting around the Garver Path took place. This path is only part of a series of planned paths to help connect residents of several north east Madison neighborhoods to the Capital City Path. The first leg would extend from the Capital City Path by the Garver Redevelopment up to Milwaukee Street along Starkweather Creek. Eventually the path will connect with the Marsh View Path which is an existing car-free path across State Highway 30.

This Week

Monday, July 22,

Freewheel Community Bike Shop will be providing free bike tune-ups at the Lakeview Library on the north side Monday and Tuesday in the afternoon. You can read more about this event here.

Bike Fitchburg is having their monthly meeting. The meeting starts at 6:30 PM at Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Rd in Fitchburg.

Wednesday, July 24,

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is hosting a public input meeting around using the center medians as extra travel lanes during peak hours. The meeting will take place from 5 PM to 8:30 PM in the Community Room at The Village on Park at 2300 South Park Street. You can read more about this here.

The Transportation Commission (TC) is meeting in Room 207 of the Madison Municipal Building at 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. at 5:00 PM. Topics on the agenda include reconsideration of speed humps planned for Spaight Street and Lake Point Drive, and topics for the Tuesday, August 27 Joint Meeting between the TC and the TPPB. Read the full agenda here.

Friday, July 26,

The Wisconsin Bike Fed is teaming up with Wheels for Winners to host the Kennedy Heights Pride Ride, a family-friendly group ride through the north side. This event will start at the Kennedy Heights Community Center at 199 Kennedy Heights in Madison. Free food and water, and free repairs courtesy of Wheels for Winners, will be provided. The cookout and neighborhood party starts at 12:30 PM and the ride will start at 2 PM. Childrens bicycles and helmets will be available to be lent out, and vegetarian options will be available. Read more about this ride here.

Beat the heat, come participate in a city or MB meeting!

We have an important city meeting coming up with week as well as a number of Madison Bikes committees. A reminder that all Madison Bikes meetings are open to the public, and you are welcome to attend. We are always looking for people to help on our committees, so stop by if something looks interesting.


The Madison Bikes Events Committee will meet at 6:00 pm at Rockhound Brewing, 444 S Park St.


The Madison Bikes Communications Committee will meet online at 6:00 pm. We normally meeting in person, but we moved July’s meeting because of the July 4th holiday. If you would like to participate in the meeting, drop an email to Heather Pape:


The Transportation Commission will be meeting and considering the final plans for the S Broom St and W Wilson St project that is scheduled for next year. This will be an important project with the potential to improve bicycle connections on the south side of downtown. More on that project in last week’s Monday Update.

The commission will also be looking at the initial geometrics for the University Ave project that will be built in 2021. This project will run from Campus Dr to Shorewood Blvd. Note that bicycle facilities on the south side of the road are NOT included at this time, despite a number of people mentioning the need at the June public information meeting. More on this project later this week.

What are we talking about on Facebook?

The Madison Bikes Community group always has some interesting discussions going on. In the last week, people have posted about unexpected construction on their commuting routes, why bicyclists sometimes avoid paths, and common myths about bike lanes. Check out the discussion and join in.

Monday Update: Transpo Board, and a Happy July 4!

Midwestern summer is here in all its glory: Festivals, heat, humidity, mosquitoes, thunderstorms.

Let's start this newsletter with -- a plug for another newsletter: For the latest information on construction and detours that affect people on bikes in Madison straight from the source, check out the city's Bike Madison newsletter. The newsletter has been around for a long time, but since Renee Callaway was hired as Pedestrian and Bike Administrator, the newsletter has become much more active again. So if you want to know what's happening with the construction at First St, the Blair/Nolen/Williamson/Wilson intersection, or elsewhere, consider subscribing to Bike Madison:

A few quick reminders:

If you haven't done so, please help us make Madison Bike Week better by taking our short survey. We already have over 100 respondents, but it'd be great to get some more. Link to the survey:

And it's also not too late to support our Pinney Library Rack Raising campaign. Show your support for biking and our public libraries by contributing to our fundraiser. Our goal is to raise $1000 for the new Pinney Library, and we are over halfway there, with $505 raised. You can donate on Facebook or on our website. Thanks to everyone who has already made a contribution.

This (short) week

Mondays Around Monona are back! Join this social ride around Lake Monona with our former board member India. All genders welcome. Ride starts at 5:30pm at the intersection of the Cap City Trail and S. Fair Oaks Ave. Ride ends at Tex Tubb's Taco Palace (2009 Atwood Ave) Gather for food and/or drinks after the ride.

What a two-way protected bike lane may look like on Broom/Wilson

On Monday, the Transportation Policy and Planning Board (TPPB) is meeting. On their agenda:

The TPPB meeting is taking place at the City-County Building, Council Chambers, starting at 5 pm.

On Tuesday, the Madison Bikes Communications Committee has their regular meeting. Please email if you're interested in attending.

Another edition of the weekly bike repair clinic at the Latino Workforce Academy is happening on Wednesday.Wheels for Winners, the Latino Academy, and the Bridge-Lakepoint-Waunona Neighborhood Center are offering free bike checks from 5-6:30pm

Clínicas de reparaciones básicas de bicicletas: Tienes una bicicleta que necesita reparacion basica? La Academia Latina y Wheels for Winners te pueden ayudar con la reparacion. Trae tu bicicleta los miercoles de mayo, junio, julio y agosto. Lugar: Academia Latina, 1917 Lake Point Dr.

And on Saturday, ride around Lake Monona with Cafe Domestique -- over and over and over again.

The Lake Monona 100 started as a joke. What’s the most ridiculous way we could spend the day riding our bikes? Where could we ride, for a hundred or so miles, but also have lots of stops for coffee, beer, snacks, swimming, parks, more beer, maybe stop at home for a nap, etc.? How about a bike ride where you’re never more than like 6 miles from a bike shop, and could take a taxi to said shop in case you got a flat tire?

Enter the Lake Monona 100. One hundred miles of bike riding on Madison’s most popular bike route. Or not a hundred miles. You choose how far you ride, where to stop, who to ride with.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes.

Madison BCycle E-Bike – First Impressions

With fanfare, food and fun, MADISON BCycle, in cooperation with the City and Trek Bicycles, rolled out a brand-new fleet of about 300 electric-assist rental bikes on June 18. With this milestone, Madison became the first city in the U.S. to convert to a fully electric bike share system.

Billed by MADISON BCycle as “...taking you farther, faster,” the upgraded e-fleet is now operational. As someone who participated in the roll-out (and full disclosure, I received a free helmet and pizza as a bonus), it was exciting to be part of the ride around Capitol Square and initial delivery to the bike stations. Since then, I have had a chance to give the bikes and the system more of a work-out. Here are my impressions after a few days, more than 20 miles, and about half-a dozen rides.

Why You Should Trust Me

I have owned three different types of E-bikes over 10 years. In addition, I ride a regular road bike about a thousand miles annually. I was a light user of the old MADISON BCycle system. However, people of different sizes and expectations might feel differently about their own riding experience so don’t hesitate to climb aboard and discover for yourself what you like and don’t like about the new system.

Rental and Membership Costs

While a single use bike pass can be expensive, $5 for 30 minutes (more than a bus ride!), MADISON BCycle offers a $20 monthly pass and a $100 annual pass, both offering unlimited 60-minute rides. If you are part of the University or select other organizations, annual passes are as low as $30.

Finding an E-Bike

The new E-bike system is based entirely on the old system. If you were familiar with the old system everything remains in place. But these are not the same bikes. They can go further and faster and thus, ideally, the new system would be more spread out. While the Campus and the Isthmus are well covered, gaps that existed outside the core are even more obvious now that increased range and higher speeds make more extensive geographic coverage desirable.

It’s best to view the system as a work in progress. Hopefully, induced demand initiated by the new bikes will promote the establishment of more strategically located stations (park-and-ride anyone?) in more parts of the City and County. More and more people are going to find out that an eight-mile E-bike is a no-sweat pleasure and will wonder why so few stations and rentals are available to and from where they live, work and want to go. If these bikes prove popular, and I expect they will, adequate availability at peak times will be a challenge to initially achieve. Also, E-Bikes can currently be rented only by adults with a credit card. The lack of access for youth remains an issue. I also expect the bikes to go into hibernation in the fall.

Unlocking a Bike

Although payment and unlocking can be done via each station’s kiosk, the preferred method for pass members is the BCycle card, or even better, the BCycle app. The app is super easy to use, tells you where the stations and bikes are and unlocks your choice of bikes within a couple of seconds of your selection.

I did experience one glitch at Memorial Union, whereby one remaining E-bike wouldn’t release from the dock. A call to the help line (answered by a live person!) verified the glitch but could not successfully be unlocked. Hopefully this is an infrequent occurrence because it was frustrating to know a bike in good working order was there in front of me but unavailable. Fortunately, an alternative station a couple of blocks away, had several bikes. I also found the app would not display GPS routes of previous trips listed in the My Trips section. It is not a necessity to have trip history but for some it’s a nice perk. I assume that functionality will be fixed before long.

Another issue if you use the kiosk LCD screens to purchase a pass is the poor quality of the screens on at least some of the stations. They have not aged well and have become opaque. In bright sunlight they can be quite hard to read. It may be as simple a fix as changing covers, I am not sure, but it’s disappointing the rollout of the spanking new E-bikes was not accompanied by better maintenance of the old docking stations. Clearly, the app is the way to go. It makes finding and checking out a bike a snap. But for curious new users the kiosk display issues are a barrier.

[Madison BCycle sent the following note: "We are in the process of replacing the kiosk LCD screens and will be working on that this week. Unfortunately, all were not replaced by the launch."]

Speaking of old docking stations, the bikes are not currently charged while at the docking stations. I was told by BCycle support they can tell when a docked bike is out of power and dispatch a service visit to swap in a fresh battery, but I do not believe they know when a battery is merely low. Clearly, there are station costs and bike design issues preventing charging while docked. But the tradeoff is that bikes are often at partial charge levels and may need persistent attention if they are heavily used.

This brings up the range and assist level issues. The actual range of a fully charged E-bike depends on many factors such as battery size and age, ambient temperatures, terrain, weight of the rider, bike and cargo, speeds, and the level of electric assist (you have to pedal to get the assist in this so called “pedelec” system, there is no throttle). The system in use in Madison sets a fixed assist level at the highest level, called Turbo; maxing out at 17 MPH while most Bosch control systems I have used offer four modes of increasing assist levels. The system choice to fix the assist at the highest level offers the easiest and perhaps the simplest riding experience, but not the most flexible nor the most efficient as mileage per charge decreases greatly at the higher assist setting. The result is that all the bikes in the system will have less range and will need charging/battery swapping more often than bikes allowing user selection of assist level.

It also means that people who might like to get the greater exercise benefit from moderately lower assist levels are unable to do so unless they power off completely (which remains an option). Personally, I think users would be capable of quickly figuring out how best to use variable assist for different situations and I am disappointed at this “dumbing down”. Some inexperienced users, for example, may find the Turbo mode too powerful at lower gears and prefer a more gradual introduction. Experienced users might choose a lower assist level to extend range on a partially charged battery or to more easily stay even with a slower non-E-bike user. The point is choice and control have been taken away for the sake of ease of use with little evidence that people won’t quickly figure out the benefits of variable assist levels, if it were available.

Bike Design and Fit

These bikes are “one size fits all” and so they must accommodate people of all shapes and sizes. This presents design challenges and invariably some compromises. In general, I think the designers have done a very good job as they reportedly can fit riders from 5’ to 6’ 5”. The bikes are easy to mount and dismount. The seat posts have a great range of travel and are easily adjustable and lockable.

However, as a 5’10” male, I experienced two nagging issues that I think might be problems for many others as well. The first of these is the kickstand placement. For my US size 10 shoes (average for men), I found the clearance from my heel to the kickstand mount to be inadequate. Comfortable placement on the pedal would often result in my heel striking the kickstand mount with each pedal revolution. For those with even bigger feet this could be problematic.

The second nagging comfort issue was the rotational bell control on the left side of the handlebar. Close inspection reveals the bell control is slightly different in shape and materials than the shift control on the right as the former causes the thumb and pointer finger to rest heavily against a hard-plastic ring on the bell control. The gear shift rotator, on the right side of the handlebar, is flatter and softer and feels more comfortable when grasping and riding. Depending on hand size and how you grip the handle, your experience may vary.

The bikes are step through style and other than the new powered capability, look and ride like the old “red” bikes. In fact, since they weigh about the same as the old bikes, it is possible to leave the assist off and ride for shorter distances if one is so inclined (or you run out of battery charge!). The power assist works only when you pedal and below 18 MPH – no throttle here. Range will vary, but on a full charge 30 miles is about average and in line with my experience with other Bosch systems.

Power ON!

Powering up the bike requires one button push, marked with a sticker. The symbol on the sticker is somewhat confusing. Not a major issue, I just thought the main power button could have been colored red as the stickers can easily come off as they age.

I recommend users power up the bike they want before making your bike selection from the dock in order to see whether the battery status is adequate for the trip you have in mind. It is possible that a previously used bike could be down to 10-20% charge or less and thus unsuitable for an 8-mile ride. Unless you plan on finishing your ride on muscle power!

Getting Underway

There are three gears, 1-3. I found they selected easily and engaged quickly. Gearing up to speed occurs rapidly with the assist on level ground. A few seconds in each of the lower gears and I found myself cruising in third at about 15 MPH. An internal geared hub design and protected chain mean the likelihood of having to deal with a dirty chain or cranky derailleur is non-existent. Feel free to ride in your Sunday finest.

The bikes handled well. I felt in full control and was glad I had the dual roller brake system on a downhill 30 MPH test road run. At normal speeds, the feel was subjectively better than the old red bikes. There is no dedicated suspension dampening, but the bike itself seems well built for the paved and occasional light potholes and cracks in the commuter biking environment.


The built-in bell is a nice touch to make sure bikes and pedestrians know you are there. At “Turbo” assist level on even ground, I think people will be pedaling these bikes at around 12-15 MPH. Most road bikers can easily exceed this speed, but your average recreational cyclist will probably be moving a little slower, at around 8-12 MPH. So non-E-bike users should expect more people riding these bikes with them at these higher, but not unprecedented speeds. E-bike users should be courteous as you safely pass and control speeds to conditions and other users in their riding environment.

I won’t dwell much on the helmet issue. I understand clearly that bike share systems don’t work well when helmets are mandated. The benefits of increased riding and travel speeds of E-bikes must be balanced against injury risk. But I also understand that as a matter of biomechanics, with higher speeds, head injury risks will go up if you do crash. We accept other higher risks than that of biking short distances without a helmet in many other recreational and transport activities. At any rate, in Wisconsin it’s a personal choice. I prefer the added protection as often as possible. If you feel the same, remember to bring your own helmet with you. They are not available at the docking stations.

One important safety item that I felt was missing was a rear-view mirror. Experienced cyclists use them judiciously to locate oneself in the traffic stream and I was rather uncomfortable without one (where exactly is that bus behind me?!). Would less experienced riders use them and find them helpful? I suspect so and would like to see at least one mirror mounted on the left side (handlebar?) despite the design and maintenance challenges.

Final Thoughts

I am pleased Madison has made the leap to an all E-bike system. They are going to get used more by more people and will show many the inherent benefits of an E-bike sharing system. However, one of the biggest external drawbacks that does not change with the introduction of E-bikes is that the bikes are still ridden on Madison’s partial network of mixed used streets that contain minimal low-stress road links (i.e., few protected lanes). As nice a step up as the new E-bikes are, riders still must put up with sharing many routes with cars, trucks and buses. E-bikes alone will do very little to encourage many of the interested but concerned potential bike riders to now venture out on the roads. Yet, as the numbers of people using alternative mobility devices (including E-bikes, scooters, skates, wheelchairs, skateboards and other mobility devices of all types) continue to skyrocket, they will all be demanding safer routes. Madison, a leader in bike sharing and urban trails, is falling behind in responding to the numbers, safety and environmental justifications for more protected mobility lanes. Addressing this gap needs to be a priority for the City to ensure long-term success for its proud new E-bike sharing system.

Monday Update: Bike rack fundraiser, Vilas Park, Transpo Commission

Last Week

The entire fleet of BCycles were replaced with sleek new electric BCycles. If you're reading this you’ve probably already seen several being ridden around town. We'll have a review of the new bikes later this week.

Madison Bikes also launched a fundraising campaign for the new Pinney Library, and we hope to raise $1000 for the library and in the process have our organization’s name printed on one of the new bike racks going in there. You can read more about this effort on Madison Bikes' website page about the fundraiser, or Madison Bikes’ Facebook Fundraiser page. It looks like we are very close to our goal of $1000 and your contribution to this effort would be greatly appreciated.


This Week


Monday, June 24,


Bike Fitchburg is having their monthly meeting. The meeting starts at 6:30 PM at Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Rd in Fitchburg.


Wednesday, June 26,


The Transportation Commission (TC) is meeting in Room 207 of the Madison Municipal Building at 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. at 5:00 PM. Topics on the agenda include funding for three battery packs for electric Metro buses, a discussion of topics for the August 2019 joint Transportation Policy and Planning Board and Transportation Commission meeting, and discussion of the annual work plan for the TC for 2019/2020. Read the full agenda here.


For people more interested in a movie, there will be a screening of Return to Earth, a film by Anthill Films and sponsored by Trek. Watch the trailer here. Return to Earth is a cinematic journey into the simple act of living completely in those moments by riding bikes. The screening will be at the Barrymore Theater at 2090 Atwood Ave. Doors open at 5:30 PM and the screening starts at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 day of. All proceeds benefit our local trails. Read more about this film on the Facebook events page.

At 6:00 PM there will be the first Public Information Meeting (PIM) on the Henry Vilas Park Master Plan. These Master Plans determine how the park will be used and developed in the next few decades, so input from interested members of the public is valuable to the city. This process provides a unique opportunity rethink how people access and use the park.  The meeting will take place at the Vilas Park Shelter, 1602 Vilas Park Drive. Read more about the master planning process on the City’s Parks Projects web page. The City has also put together a Facebook Events page for the meeting.


Saturday, June 29,


A Pride Ride will start at Cafe Domestique at 10 AM. The ride will be about 14 miles around the capitol and around Lake Monona. B-Cycle bikeshare bikes will be available to rent. Everyone is welcome to join the ride. Read more about the ride on their Facebook Events page.


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