It’s bitter cold, then it’s amazingly warm; it’s snowing, then it’s raining. There’s ice, and then the streets are bone dry. That’s winter in southern Wisconsin. But there are lots of activities and city meetings to think about and attend. So here we go with our weekly update of the goings-on.
The week ahead
On Monday, both Madison Bikes and Bike Fitchburg will be holding meetings. The Madison Bikes Board of Directors meets at the Madison Central Library at 6:00 pm. Fitchburg Bikes meets at the Fiitchburg Library at 6:30 pm.
Also on Monday, the weekly MEAThead ride leaves at 7:00 pm from Ford’s Gym, 2114 Winnebago St, for a Lake Monona Loop ride, with an optional loop through the Arboretum. This is a weekly ride from November through March, so just put it on your calendar.
Tuesday, the monthly Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission meeting (5:00 pm in Rm 201 of the City-County Bldg, agenda here) will take up a number of seemingly routine, but actually quite important matters. Remember that you can go to all city meetings to watch, and you can also register to testify on any item on the agenda. You can summit comments or your support/opposition via email or in writing in person. Your voice is important! To get more information on the items below, just click the agenda link and follow the attachments for each item.
The PBMVC will discuss the following items:
- Projects within the neighborhood Traffic Management Program (AKA traffic calming).
- Where new traffic signal will be installed.
- A number of general city engineering projects that affect bicycling, including the project at Winnebago and Riverside, a few short path connections, and the repaving of the path that leads to Memorial High School.
- Bicycle-specific projects coming up in this year, mosst of which are small items like flashing lights or curb ramps.
- The city’s policy of bike route maitenance policy.
Also on the agenda is a state law being considered that would add electric bikes to the definiton of “bicycle” in state statutes. You can see a staff review of the proposed state law by Traffic Engineering.
If you’re not I the mood for a city meeting on Tuesday, you can head over to Manna Café on N. Sherman to join up with Down With Bikes for their biweekly winter social ride and games night. Leaving from Manna at 6:30 pm, they will weave through the North Side to arrive at Player’s Bar for ping pong, pool, and board games.
Although the Middleton Pedestrian, Bike, Transit Committee is listed on the Madison Bikes calendar as meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 pm at the Middleton City Hall, no evidence of it can be found on the City of Middleton meetings website. If you are interested in upcoming issues, it might be worth a call to the city to see if a meeting is scheduled.
Finally, on Thursday, the Long Range Transportation Planning Committee will be meeting (5:00 pm in Room 108 of the City-County Bldg, agenda here.) The principal item on the agenda will be continued work on the transportation component of the Imagine Madison planning process, which is the update to the city Comprehensive Plan.
And some reminders:
If you have an event, meeting, or ride that you would like us to list on the Madison Bikes calendar, please drop us a note.
And don’t forget to mark your calendars for Feb 3, when we will be at the Frozen Assets Festival and Fundraiser for the Clean Lakes Alliance. It’s happening on the lake behind (or would that be in front of?) the Edgewater. Drop by and see us and enjoy all the activities, including a fat bike race on the ice on Friday, and on Saturday our popular fat bike sled pull. (Sorry, kids only.)
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! There will be many opportunities to honor and celebrate Dr. King's life and legacy, for example the Madison-Dane County King Holiday Observance on Monday or the UW's events on January 22. Otherwise things continue to be rather quiet.
Last week the Madison Bikes Events Committee met to nail down further details of the upcoming Winter Bike Week. Winter Bike Week will take place from February 2nd to 9th. A lot of details are still being finalized -- RSVP on the Facebook event page to receive the latest updates, or regularly check back on our website: http://www.madisonbikes.org/winterbikeweek
Some good news for people wanting to bike around Lake Mendota: The county acquired a property that will become part of the planned bike trail around the northwest side of the lake. The massive planned expansion of Highway M, from two to four lanes, in that same area is less good news.
The only two events on the calendar for this week is Madison Bikes Advocacy Committee meeting on Wednesday.
And on Saturday, Madison Bikes board member Baltazar is hosting the Tour de la Familia Latina - Winter Tour of the Latino Family.
It's a new year for Madison Bikes, and with a new year come new board members. Our organization started in November 2015 around Grant’s dining room table: The group of people assembled around that table felt that there was an opportunity to improve local bike advocacy in Madison. Riding a bike in Madison was pretty good already, but there was no local organization working on making things even better.
As expressed in our vision statement, our goal is to make riding a bike a viable transportation option for people of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities. We aim to have infrastructure that supports comfortable bike riding for a child, as well as her grandparents. We want this low-stress bike network to extend into all parts of the city, not just the downtown area or in affluent neighborhoods.
To make that all happen, we founded Madison Bikes. Our website went live in Spring 2016; we finalized our incorporation as a non-profit that summer; and in the fall we had a kickoff party at the High Noon Saloon.
Since then we have written over 120 blog posts, organized events such as the Winter Bike Fashion Show, Winter Bike Week, and Madison Bike! Bingo, and we have mobilized the community to make their voice heard on street construction projects such as Monroe, West Wilson, and East Johnson Streets. We have also worked behind the scenes with city officials and other advocates to improve winter bike facility maintenance, to improve counting of people on bikes, and to improve the way the city thinks about public outreach. At the end of 2017, we also rolled out a formal membership program.
Much of that board was and continues to be done by our initial board members, and awesome ad-hoc additions. At our 2017 annual meeting, we elected the first cohort of new members to join the board since our founding. Before I introduce the new members, let's say thanks to Emily Sonnemann and Chuck Strawser, who stepped down from the board. Emily, who chaired our events committee, and Chuck will continue to work with us on our various committees. Thank you for the work you have done. Also thanks to everyone who applied as a board member but wasn't elected: It was a great problem to have more highly qualified candidates than open board seats!
Now let's get to our new members. I'm excited to introduce:
Pepe grew up in a big city far south of Madison. Santiago, Chile watched him grow and experiment with all kind of adventure sports to end up attracted by the steep mountains and the Downhill Mountain Bike competitions he used to attend with his friends. While being a strong bike commuter in the wild streets of Latin America he traded adrenaline for advocacy and studies. While becoming an industrial engineer he traveled all throughout Chile helping to grow environmental awareness by cycling. He spent the last 5 years developing social-emotional skills in several public schools in different regions of Chile and in 2016 he happily got married in Milwaukee and worked the warm season as a Mobile Bike Repair Coordinator for Wisconsin Bike Fed. In October of 2017, Pepe, his wife and their fat cat moved to Madison and they all hope to be helpful to the city and its growing bicycle community by creating and supporting spaces where everyone can feel safe, confident and gather as a big family, no matter your origins or beliefs.
Baltazar De Anda Santana
Baltazar is an immigrant who grew up in Mexico and came to the United States when he was 23 years old (He is now 41). Because of biking and a healthy life style, Baltazar lost 95 pounds and reversed a pre-diabetic diagnosis. Some years ago, when Baltazar's drivers license expired (and because of his immigration status he was not able to renew it) he started using biking as his main means of transportation. Baltazar is now able to get a drivers license (he became a Legal Permanent Resident in 2016) but he has chosen not to buy a car and continue using biking as a main means of transportation. In the short time that Baltazar has been biking in Madison, he has found that unfortunately there is a bike racial disparity and bike inequity in the city of Madison. Baltazar does not want to be one of the few Latinos who bike. His goal is to bring more people from the Latino/African American/Hmong communities into biking. As more people bike, there is going to be a yet higher need for better biking infrastructure in Madison. Madison is currently a great place for biking. Unfortunately it is only a great place to bike for just few members of the community. Baltazar believes this can change.
Liz grew up in Madison and after college moved to the Washington D.C. suburbs for several years, followed by a ten year stint in Sheboygan, WI. However, it was only after moving home to Madison in 2015 that she truly began to appreciate the city’s vibrant bicycling culture. She is now a year-round bicycle commuter (eight miles round trip), but also enjoys recreational road riding and bicycle camping/touring during the warmer months. Liz works as a science outreach specialist/educator at the UW Biotechnology Center and is an active member of the UW-Madison Science Alliance, a science outreach advocacy group on campus. She lives on Madison’s near-west side with her husband, Ben, and their two adorable rescue dogs.
Originally from Columbus, GA, Becky earned her BFA in digital media from the University of Georgia where she first began her love affair with bicycles. At the end of her time in Athens, she heard the rumor that you could bike everywhere in Madison, WI. It was on this rumor alone that she, and Hero the cat, relocated to the Midwest. Becky has been an avid Madison cyclist since 2008. Earning her MS in Urban and Regional Planning from UW-Madison in May 2017, strengthened her love and advocacy of sustainability and accessible mobility. She currently works for The Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life as their development associate.
Raj is a family dude, Madison-lover and sometimes-radical environmentalist. To him, a bike means less pollution, less stress, more health, more pocket change and more chances to hear the birds sing. He works as Executive Director of River Alliance of Wisconsin and chairs the Sustainable Madison Committee, a city advisory council that works toward environmental goals. Raj and his wife can be found chasing their three young children around their near west side neighborhood, through Madison's beautiful parks and into the occasional ice cream shop.
On Wednesday, January 10th at 6:00pm, staff from the City of Madison Engineering department will host a public informational meeting on the proposed reconstruction of Winnebago Street from Second Street to Bashford Avenue.
At the time of writing, there is no information available for this project on Engineering’s projects webpage. Instead, notice of the public meeting seems to be limited to a letter sent to adjacent residents and shared via Alder Rummel’s blog/weekly update.
Staff describe the current conditions as: “48 ft. wide, with a travel lane, bike lane, and parking lane in both directions, and approximately a 3 ft. terrace on both sides. Due to significant grade differences, a portion of the southeasterly side terrace has walls and railings adjacent to the sidewalk.”
Staff call out the following three alternatives for consideration:
- Narrowing the travel lanes by 1 ft. each, making the total street width 46 ft., while maintaining all of the existing lanes. Terraces would widen by approximately 1 ft. on each side.
- Remove parking on one side, but maintain all travel and bike lanes. This option could narrow the street to 40 ft., which would widen the terraces further and improve the grade challenges more.
- Can also consider an option that combines both of the first options: a portion of the street with all existing lanes, and another portion that has parking removed on one side.
Option #1 reflects a slight change from the proposal that was originally presented to the Ped/Bike/MV Commission in November. At that meeting, project engineer Jim Wolfe described a concept that would reduce the street width from 48’ to 44’ by reducing the unrestricted travel lanes by 1’ each and by reducing the recently painted bike lanes by 1’ in both directions. This would accommodate a widening of the terraces from three to five foot on both sides.
In addition to the grade challenges that result in the need for a railing on the southeastern sidewalk and that prevent comfortable access for people in wheelchairs, the current 3’ terraces do not accommodate tree plantings. Additionally, nearby neighbors have voiced concern over the difficult pedestrian crossing of Winnebago at Fourth Street (an important walking route for many students to East High School).
The southwestern end of this project at Second Street also abuts the long-discussed Schenks Corners area. This was one area of focus for the SASY Committee that was organized around improving the Winnebago-Atwood corridor. That work was put on hold when many of the corresponding street reconstruction projects were pushed out, but there was significant public engagement at that time to identify a future vision of this corridor that improved conditions for people outside of cars.
At the heart of this project is the question of space. There’s no suggestion of increasing the public right of way, so any increase of space allocation on the one hand will require a decrease in space allocation on the other.Read more
Things have been pretty quiet on the calendar update front as we’ve all taken some much needed R&R. I spent a lot of time indoors with family and friends: cooking, eating, and playing games and I feel pretty excited to put energy back into improving biking in Madison in 2018. The frigid temperatures have been pretty intense, but also mean that the frozen lakes have instantly expanded our winter bike playground.
And while things have been mostly quiet around the city in terms of meetings and events, there have been a number of interesting articles shared via the Madison Bikes Facebook Group. For those that don’t frequent that page, you can check out some of those articles via the links below:
Monday: The Madison Bikes Events Committee will hold its first meeting of the year to continue planning of Winter Bike Week (2/2-2/9). We’re always looking for more people to join in with this group; check the calendar for details. And of course, the MEAThead ride should be rolling again. Maybe the lights are still up at Olin-Turville?
Tuesday: On Tuesday, the Madison Bikes Communications Committee will meet up and also work on a number of topics including Winter Bike Week preparations. Check out the About Us section of our webpage for more info on any of the Madison Bikes Committees.
Wednesday: There will be a first Public Meeting for another Winnebago Street project. This one will be for the section from 2nd-Bashford. There’s a limited amount of space here and some unique challenges that will require some hard decisions. Watch for a blog post tomorrow with more details on this important project.
Saturday: And on Saturday, it’s the annual Brazen Dropouts Bike Swap at the Alliant Energy Center. And if you'd rather get rid of bikes instead of buying new ones: Free Bikes 4 Kids is having a big bike collection at various Dean Medical Group locations in an around Madison.
Happy New Year everyone! On behalf of our board of directors, I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported Madison Bikes and biking in Madison in 2017 -- be it through donations, doing volunteer work, coming to our events or public meetings, asking a business to install bike parking, encouraging a friend to try riding a bike, submitting a Report-A-Problem, ...
Because of your awesomeness, our end-of-year fundraising drive was a huge success! We were blown away by your generosity! Within little over a week, Madison Bikes supporters gave over $3000 -- well beyond our initial target of $1000. Together with the matching pledge from our board members, we raised well over $4500! This puts us on a very stable financial footing for 2018 and also allows us to consider additional activities to further our mission.
We have several new board members starting their term this year (stay tuned for an introduction), and a strategic planning session in February will help us setting our priorities for the year and beyond. I am excited about another year of making biking better in Madison for everyone! Thank you for your continued support.
Harald (VP of Madison Bikes)
PS Our Monday Update posts will return from their holiday break next week.
On Wednesday, December 20th, City of Madison Engineering staff presented information on the upcoming Winnebago (Riverside-Merry) project. My previous post on the project is here. A copy of the presentation and staff notes from the meeting are available on the project website. A second public meeting is planned for January or February and the project should be returning to the Pedestrian, Bicycle, Motor Vehicle Commission in a similar timeframe. Construction is currently scheduled to begin in June of 2018.
Of the 40+ people in attendance, there was broad interest to improve conditions for people walking, wheeling, and biking in this area. Many noted the challenges in crossing the street and raised concerns about high motor vehicle speed and red light running. There was also a fair amount of interest in reconsidering the Rogers and Thornton intersections as part of this project (including the concept of moving the signal from Rogers to Thornton and tuning the signal timing to align with the signal at Riverside).
The highlight of the project from staff’s perspective is the proposed diagonal bike crossing. This should be a nice improvement for people on bikes as it will smooth out the sharp turns that currently exist and will provide additional space and separation at this busy crossing for all path users. This proposal seemed to be broadly supported at the meeting and should find its way into the final design.
The other item of significant interest for people that move by bike is the missing eastbound connection from this intersection to the eastbound travel lane on Winnebago. I wrote in more detail here about how people on bikes tend to navigate this segment today.
It was encouraging to see that Engineering staff had done some initial evaluation of this gap prior to the public meeting and that they included a ‘widened sidewalk’ in the “Other Possible Improvements” section of the presentation. The concept would replace the existing 6’ wide sidewalk with a 10’ wide multi-use path and would require “altering the cross-slope of the roadway and narrowing travel lanes” in order to make it all fit.
While there was some concern expressed that better accommodating bicycle travel might lead to increased conflict between people traveling by foot and by bike, most people in attendance seemed to support the concept. As one attendee pointed out, people already bike on this narrow sidewalk all the time, so widening it should result in a benefit for all users.
If you have any thoughts or ideas you’d like to share with the city, you can send them to the project engineer, Chris Dawson. We’ll also keep you updated via the Madison Bikes blog. You can sign up here if you’re not already subscribed.
On Wednesday, December 20th, there will be a Public Information Meeting from 6:00-7:30pm at Bethany Evangelical Free Church. This meeting will be held to discuss the project known as “Winnebago St-Riverside Dr Diagonal Crossing“ and will be an opportunity for the public to provide input and ask questions regarding the project.
On November 28th, this project was presented at the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission (you can watch that presentation here). The plan below gives a good idea of what is being proposed to improve the Capital City path crossing at Winnebago/Riverside. This plan was generally well received by commission members and should prove to be a significant improvement over the current crossing. One of the more significant benefits of this new alignment will be improved snow removal. The existing perpendicular crossing is very difficult for our snow removal equipment to navigate and large portions of the crossing often go unplowed.
But what was not clear at the PBMVC meeting in November and what is not clear by the project title on Engineering’s website is that this project will also include replacement of the existing pavement from the north end of the Winnebago Street bridge over the Yahara River to the median at the intersection of Winnebago Street and Merry Street.
This is very significant and the fact that it has not been more clearly articulated by city staff is cause for concern. It’s significant because this stretch represents one of the worst gaps in our bike network in this part of the city. As most neighbors that spend any amount of time on bikes will immediately recognize, this short section of right of way currently fails to accommodate eastbound travel by bicycle from the Capital City path to First/Winnebago and to areas further east--including the major commercial area at Schenk’s Corners/Atwood as well as the areas of development along Winnebago and Union Corners.
There are currently three options to navigate this major connection by bike. The first two options both require crossing Winnebago/Eastwood twice, include several sharp, right angle (or worse) turns, and time spent riding on the sidewalk.
The third option is chosen by the overwhelming majority of people on bike:
This option reduces the crossing of Winnebago/Eastwood to only the inbound Winnebago lanes and has no sharp turns to navigate, but it does require riding on the narrow sidewalk between the Capital City path and Merry Street and also involves riding about 100’ in the wrong direction on Winnebago Street before picking up the eastbound travel lane.
This 300’ gap (from the end of the Capital City path to the beginning of the eastbound travel lane on Winnebago) has been consistently identified as needing improvement by community members over the years. It has been called out at in 2007, 2010, and 2016 as part of the PBMVC public hearings for Pedestrian/Bicycle improvement projects; during the city sponsored 2014 Ideascale Ped/Bike idea solicitation; as well as during numerous map and dot exercises over the years, including for the recently approved Madison in Motion plan.
And so the fact that this key connection is conspicuously missing from this major reconstruction project causes real concern that city Engineering staff may not have been tracking on this at all.
Following the PBMVC meeting in November, and once it became clear that this project did indeed include the reconstruction of the roadway between the river and Merry Street, I sent these observations to our Engineering Department and asked that they work to address this missing link and to update the project plan to include a safe, comfortable, and direct connection for people on bikes that also ensures comfortable access for people walking and wheeling through this constrained and heavily travelled right of way.
I also acknowledged the challenge in doing so, given the grade and retaining wall on the west side and the inability to exercise our powers of condemnation for bike and walkways recently passed by our state legislature. But as challenging as it may be, it would be unacceptable to continue to accommodate four-lanes of motor vehicle traffic while people outside of cars--those moving on foot and on bike and in wheelchairs--fight over the scraps that are left over once peak hour car traffic demand has been satisfied.
In that same sustainable master transportation plan (Madison in Motion), we have committed to a future that increasingly prioritizes transit, biking, and walking over individual motor vehicle travel. And this is exactly the kind of project where, as a community, we will need to follow through with that commitment by allocating the space needed to promote and encourage active transportation.
I’m hopeful that Engineering staff will come prepared to the 12/20 meeting with a new alternative that addresses this in a meaningful way and I’m resolved to work towards ensuring that it’s addressed if that isn’t the case.
Please join the meeting in person if you can and stay tuned for more updates on this important project.
Madison Bikes had their annual meeting last Monday. We approved our 2018 budget and had elections for our board of directors. We're excited to have several awesome new board members -- stay tuned for an official introduction when they take office in January. And thanks to everyone who applied but wasn't elected this time, as well as our outgoing board members.
On Friday, Revolution Cycles once again hosted Art Pedaler, showcasing various kinds of bike-related art from local artists and makers. Thanks for organizing!
Winter Bike Fashion Show is over -- time to start planning Winter Bike Week! The Madison Bikes Events Committee is going to meet on Monday to make plans for Winter Bike Week. Join them at Cafe Domestique at 6pm. Winter Bike Week is going to take place from February 2-9 2018.
Also on Monday, is the weekly MEATHead ride, a casual loop around Lake Monona. Looks like the temperatures will be unseasonably warm that night. Depart at 7pm at Ford's Gym.
Another opportunity for a social ride comes Tuesday: Bike Benefits, Down With Bikes, and DreamBikes are teaming up for a holiday ride/potluck/open shop night. Meet at Colectivo on the Square at 6pm.
If you're a regular user of the Cap City Trail on the east side, on Wednesday you should attend a public meeting. The city has plans to improve the crossing of the trail and Atwood Avenue, near Winnebago and Riverside. Instead of the sharp angles of the current crossing, the city is proposing to shift the alignment of the path and create a diagonal crossing. Unclear so far is if they're also planning to address the missing connection from the path to Winnebago. At the moment your options are either to ride on a narrow sidewalk or to cross Atwood twice. 6pm, Bethany Evangelical Free Church.
On Thursday, it's winter solstice -- and the annual tradition of the Fantasy in Lights Ride. Madison Bike Winter invites you to come to Rockhound Brewing on Park Street at 5:30 and then ride together to the Fantasy in Lights display at Olin Park.
Photo credit: Madison Bike Winter
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
- The University of Wisconsin–Madison has recently been named as host one of 10 proving grounds for driverless cars and trucks by the U.S. Department of Transportation. (A planned live demonstration of the autonomous shuttle was canceled in November.)
- The City of Madison has joined the Transportation for America’s Smart Cities Collaborative and will be involved in a number of projects including a Park Street transportation corridor which will explore the technology to allow signals to communicate with buses, autos and eventually pedestrians and bicyclists.
- The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) conference, have released a Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism encouraging cities to set a vision to make their cities safe and livable with autonomous vehicles.
- Lastly, the November 7th issue of the New York Times Magazine is chock full of articles (lighthearted and serious) devoted to issues surrounding autonomous vehicles.