The Common Council met this past Tuesday and passed a variant of Option 1 for Winnebago this week. This is the cross section that provides 13' for parked cars and bikes and 10' for cars, trucks, and buses with no buffer. It will function similarly to how it does today, although with a narrower travel lane (10' instead of 11'). Alder Kemble was the sole alder to speak against adoption and for the need to make Winnebago a street accessible by bike for riders of All Ages & Abilities. All the other alders that supported Option 2 previously, seemed to have tired of the debate and voted instead to prioritize on-street car parking over All Ages & Abilities bike facilities. Construction is expected this fall.
The Madison Bikes Board will have their monthly meeting from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Monday, July 16 at the Madison Public Library, 201 W Mifflin St, Madison, WI 53703. Please attend and learn what we are up to and how you can get involved!
Madison Bikes Advocacy Committee will meet from 6:00 pm – 7:30pm at Bendyworks, 106 E Doty St #200, Madison, WI. The committee is always welcoming new people, if you’d like to help us out with our work on advocacy issues, feel free to stop by.
Madison Area Transportation Planning Board will meet at 5:00 pm in Room 103A of the City-County Bldg. The new application for the low stress biking network is on the agenda.
Tour de Familia Latina/Latino Family Tour hosted by BiciClub Latino de Madison will be from 10 am to 1 pm, check out the Facebook event for more information. This is a great ride for the whole family.
Bike For Boys & Girls Club brings family, friends, coworkers and neighbors together for a fun-filled ride through picturesque Dane County one summer morning every year. Pledges raised support the ongoing mission of Boys & Girls Club of Dane County to provide programs that inspire and enable our youth to realize their full potential. Hundreds of riders will pedal their way across the finish line and into the post-ride party of cold drinks and even colder custard. You can get involved as an individual rider or join a team. Cyclists of all ages and abilities can join in on one of three planned routes. Sign up today and help empower Dane County kids.
Mountain Bike Demo The best way to find the bike that's right for you is to spend time riding a few different models. Join Trek at Quarry Ridge to test ride a variety of all-new Trek mountain bike models! All you need to bring is a helmet, an ID, and your own pedals if you prefer something other than standard flats. Expert technicians will be onsite to help with fit and to answer questions.
Send us your events!
On Saturday, a great group was Riding 24 Hours in Support of Immigrants and Refugees, some for a short time, some for longer. You can see the photos, on Baltazar's Facebook page.
Cap City Trail closing, but new links might be in the works
About half of the Cap City Trail will be closed for six weeks starting Monday, so I hope everyone got one last ride in over the beautiful (and finally cooler) weekend. The county is repaving the trail from Nob Hill Road to Glacial Valley Road. In case you don’t know those cross streets, that’s more or less from just south of where the path crosses under the Beltine to just short of Fish Hatchery Road. It will be six weeks before it’s open again, but we’ll have a smoother riding experience.
One the other hand, the county also announced that they are soliciting projects from communities to connect local bike trails to the existing county system trails. This is a great program, because smaller communities otherwise may struggle to find funding for important connections. The county program will pay up to 50 percent of the cost of design, engineering, and construction.
The week ahead
Other than the inconvenience of a major bike route being unavailable, things are going to be pretty quiet this week.
The Madison Bikes Events Committee will meet at 6:00 pm at Barriques on S Park St. We would really love to have some additional volunteers help us plan our events. Right now, we are working on the annual party for September, but there are lots of events we could do with more help. So, if you are great at throwing parties, or just are a good organizer of community events, come by and check out the committee.
The Madison Bikes Communications Committee will meet at 5:30 pm at the Memorial Union Terrace. If you would be interested in helping us with blog posts, social media, or other outreach activities please feel free to stop by. We are usually near the outdoor beer window, but up on the level of the theater wing, but if you cant’s find us, shoot an email to Heather, the committee chair.
Also on Tuesday, the Council will be considering the Winnebago project yet again. This time the recommendation is for Option 1B. Harald sent out an action alert on Sunday, so check there for more information.
The council will also be confirming the new citizen members of the new Transportation Commission and the Transportation Policy and Planning Board. These two committees will replace the PBMVC, Transit and Parking Commission, and the Long Range Transportation Planning Committee. (There are two files, so there are two links above.)
A little Easter egg seems to be on the Council agenda, something that has been needed for a long time. It looks like an underpass of the railroad that runs parallel to Old Middleton Road is planned to connect Craig Ave to Old Middleton Rd. This would provide a pedestrian-bike route from University Ave to Old Middleton west of Whitney Way. Map/satellite image here (it takes a loooong time to load.)
You can join the July Unity Ride at 10 am. MadTown Unity Rides are organized by local groups to celebrate the unity and diversity of Madison Southside and to connect our communities together.The target audience for these rides is Black, Brown, Indigenous people of color, LGBT+ community and other communities that have been affected by discrimination who live or work in a predominantly low-tmoderate-income community in the Madison Southside. We use these rides as a vehicle to increase social cohesion at the neighborhood level, as well as highlight the assets and inequities which exist in neighborhoods across the Madison Southside. This is a family ride, so they will be going at a very relaxed, slow pace. The distance will be between 7-10 miles. And if you don’t have a bike or helmet, The group can arrange to lend you one. For more information and a map of the ride, check out the Facebook event.
Send us your events
Winnebago Street is back at the Common Council, and we need your support.
A very brief reminder of what happened so far: In early May, the Common Council voted in favor of reconstructing Winnebago Street between 2nd St and Bashford with buffered bike lanes ("Option 2"). Mayor Soglin then vetoed the Council's decision. At a later Common Council meeting, there weren't enough votes to overturn the veto. Therefore the project was put on hold. This presented an opportunity for re-thinking the project in a larger context, all the way from the Yahara River to Union Corners.
What happens when your bike lanes are narrow and without protection...
Instead, Engineering brought back a new iteration of Option 1--the one that squeezes people on bikes into an unbuffered lane, with parked cars on one side and cars and buses on the other. And the one that the Council did not approve. The changes that Engineering made are merely cosmetic. The plan still forces people to bike in the door zone. They do not make the street safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities.
Image credit: Bob Moore
Please write to the Common Council before the meeting on Tuesday and ask them to vote against this proposal. You can email the council at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can find your district's alder here. This is what I'm going to write:
I'm writing about the proposed plan to reconstruct Winnebago Street between 2nd St and Bashford Ave (agenda item 52086). I greatly appreciate that when the plan was in front of the Common Council in May, a majority of you voted for a cross-section that would have created buffered bike lanes. This would have created a Winnebago Street that is safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities. The plans that are in front of you now fail to achieve this. People riding their bikes on Winnebago would be squeezed between a narrow parking lane on one side and motor vehicles on the other. The changes that have been made do not change that basic fact. Please do not approve the proposed design.
Thank you for you consideration.
It was the end of an era: The Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission (PBMVC) met for one last time. Going forward, Madison now has a Director of Transportation, and PBMVC and many other transportation-related committees have been replaced by a Transportation Policy and Planning Board (TPPB), and a Transportation Commission (TC). Time to get used to new acronyms and a new political process...
One important agenda item from the last PBMVC meeting was the return of the undead Winnebago Street Option 1 proposal. A few weeks back, the Common Council had voted for Option 2, which had buffered bike lanes and was supported by Madison Bikes. Mayor Soglin then vetoed the Council's decision, and at a subsequent Council meeting, there was no majority for any of the other options. Instead of going back to the drawing board and coming up with a comprehensive proposal for the whole corridor, Engineering made minor modifications to the failed Option 1 design and brought it back. "Option 1B," as it is now called, suffers the same flaws for people on bikes: In order to preserve as much free on-street parking as possible, people biking on Winnebago would be squeezed in between a narrow travel lane on one side and a narrow parking lane on the other. The proposal will be back at the Common Council on July 10, and it will be important to voice your opposition to Option 1B. Stay tuned for an action alert.
On a more positive note: The plans for reconstructing Atwood Avenue between Fair Oaks and Cottage Grove Road also were before PBMVC because the schedule for the project has been moved up. While not perfect, this project will greatly improve conditions for people on bikes and walking.
Because of the holiday, things are quiet this week.
On Friday, Revolution Cycles Cycling Club has their kick-off party for the season. "Come meet the crew, learn about the club, try on some kit from Verge Sport, and enjoy yummy snacks from our sponsors, Banzo." 7pm at Revolution Cycles.
And on Saturday, the BiciClub Latino de Madison is organizing a 24-hour ride in support of immigrants and refugees. How does it work? "You can join this ride in two ways:
- Ride with Baltazar 30 minutes, one, two, three, or 24 hours.
- Ride anywhere 30 minutes, one, two, three, or 24 hours and post your pictures to this page's event. Ride solo or in teams
Only requirement: Use a white piece of fabric, or paper and write the following words: RIDING IN SUPPORT OF IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES and pin it to the back of shirt or jersey."
Also on Saturday is the Fitchburg Festival of Speed, which includes a sanctioned bike race as well as more relaxed riding options. More details on their website.
This is the third and final part of Jonathan Mertzig's series on biking and biking infrasctructure in the Netherlands. You can read part 1, about wayfinding and complete streets and networks here, and part 2 about multimodal transit and bike parking here.
While I was thoroughly impressed by the state of cycling in the Netherlands on my first visit, I think what has impressed me even more over the years is seeing the constant tweaks and innovations that continue to improve the biking experience. The Dutch have established many great standards in areas like wayfinding and street design, but even these tried-and-true systems are constantly fine-tuned, like with a total refresh of wayfinding typography and various experiments in paving with eco-friendly materials and even glow-in-the-dark surfaces.
In Tilburg, the city is trying out new “smart” traffic lights that use a cell phone app to track when cyclists are near. The lights can be changed in cyclists’ favor if a large group is approaching. A much broader rollout of a similar system is underway in nearby Den Bosch.
On my most recent trip, to the province of Noord-Brabant, I was pleased to find some cool things I hadn’t encountered before, like traffic signals in Tilburg and Den Bosch that track mobile phones to give clusters of cyclists a quicker green light, and a growing network of bike “superhighways” spreading from the center of Eindhoven (even including grade-separated portions avoiding the busiest roads!). I’m always amazed at how careful thought and creative solutions are constantly applied to making biking better.
The province of Noord-Brabant is developing a network of “snelfietsweg” routes (basically freeways for bikes!) between major cities, converging on this stretch of spacious grade-separated paths around Eindhoven’s central station. Cyclists can quickly cruise below busy streets on a highway of their own.
Takeaways: We can copy some really great, proven ideas from the Dutch to make cycling in Madison better, but don’t be afraid to promote some homegrown innovation! And more importantly, just because we have reason to be proud of relatively great bike infrastructure and culture here in Madison, we should follow the most important lesson the Dutch provide: Never stop improving!
Last week the State Supreme Court ruled that Adams Outdoor Advertising does not have a “right to visibility” and sided with the City of Madison in the lawsuit Adams brought against the City for constructing the Cannonball Bike Path Bridge over the Beltline. Adams was trying to sue the city for what they called an unlawful seizure of property, which they claimed was west-facing visibility of their billboard. You can read the Wisconsin State Journal article about the case here.
Madison's Cannonball Bike Path bridge, the subject of Adams's lawsuit against Madison. Image credit Jim Wilson.
Also, Part 2 of Jonathan Mertzig’s report of bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands was posted and includes topics including the synergy of biking with mass transit and the quality and quantity of bike parking and support. If you missed it, here’s Part 1.
Some news got posted to the Facebook page. On June 12, Fitchburg’s Common Council approved the construction of four foot shoulders on a portion of Whalen Rd., which is a huge win for the cycling community, so congratulations to Bike Fitchburg, the advocates who called and emailed about it, and the alders who made the approval happen. Also posted was an update to the construction of the Sub-Zero Parkway along the Badger State Trail. The city of Fitchburg has closed the Badger State Trail at Marketplace Drive to permanently remove the intersection. The new detour around the construction is to take McKee Rd east, head south on Seminole Hwy, and then back to the trail on the newly opened Sub-Zero Parkway.
On Monday, June 25, Bike Fitchburg has its monthly meeting. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 6:30 PM at the Fitchburg Public Library.
As the new Director of Transportation has officially started his job today, Monday, June 25, Tuesday, June 26 will be the final meeting of the Pedestrian Bicycle Motor Vehicle Commission (PBMVC). The short agenda includes an approval of the geometry for the Atwood Avenue reconstruction, and an ask that Engineering add to the transportation improvement program the Capital City Trail crossings at Ohio St. and Brearly St. so they may be raised and improved. Brearly St. was recently reconfigured to stop motor vehicle traffic and allow bicycle traffic through unimpeded. The crossing at Ohio St. is infamous for its bone-rattling bumps while traveling along the path. Read the full agenda here. The committees set to replace the PBMVC and a few others are the Transportation Policy and Planning Board (TPPB) and the Transportation Commission (TC).
On Wednesday, June 27, Part 3 of Jonathan Mertzig’s report from the Netherlands will be posted, so be sure to check back then to read it!
On Thursday, June 28, there will be a public input meeting regarding the reconstruction of Pleasant View Road between US-14 and Mineral Point Road. The meeting begins at 6:00 PM at the Middleton City Hall Council Chambers. Read the press release about the meeting here.
On Saturday, June 30, there are two big biking events that are worth your attention. First is a Family Bike Camping trip to Lake Farm County Park hosted by The Cargo Bike Shop. This family friendly overnighter will leave from The Cargo Bike Shop on Williamson Street at noon. The ride is roughly 7 miles long and will include dinner at the park’s group, s’mores and a campfire, and on Sunday morning, coffee from Cafe Domestique and a selection of pastries. Vegetarian options will be available. Cost to join the ride is $30 to help pay for camping registration fees, food, and logistics. This is the first of two planned family bike camping trips planned by The Cargo Bike Shop this year.
Cranes on the bike path through Lake Farm County Park. Image credit Jim Wilson.
Also on Saturday, join the BiciClub Latino de Madison for the first of their longer group rides. While still organizing the Tour de la Familia Latina, the club now also hosts this ride for more experienced riders. 30 miles, no drop, meet at 8am at Cafe Maya on Odana. From the announcement: "Sabemos que hay ciclistas más experimentados que han preguntado por rodadas más largas, así que las hemos creado. Este evento está diseñado para ciclistas que ya conocen sus capacidades y quieren recorrer mayores distancias fuera de la ciudad de Madison. Esta primera rodada será de 30 millas y a diferencia del Tour de la Familia Latina, no tendremos bicicletas de préstamo, ni apoyo mecánico al inicio del evento. Pedimos que los ciclistas que nos acompañen, traigan su kit de reparaciones básicas, botella de agua y lo que sepan será de utilidad durante el recorrido."
Saturday also will have a fundraiser for the Blackhawk, Verona, and Madison West Middle and High School mountain bike teams. The fundraiser is called the Crank-A-Thon and will be located at Deaths Door Distillery at 2220 Eagle Drive in Middleton. Read event details here.
This is the second part of Jonathan Mertzig's series on biking and biking infrasctructure in the Netherlands. You can read part 1, about wayfinding and complete streets and networks here. The final installment of the series will be published next Wednesday.
Bike-friendly Public Transit and Mixed-Mode Journeys
You can take your bike on most trains for a small supplemental fee outside of peak hours. Here on a new Sprinter train, they even explain the rules in English.
While long-distance, intercity journeys are quite possible with the Dutch cycling network, you might find taking a train or bus to be a bit more efficient, and many public transport options in the Netherlands make it easy to take your bike with you. Nearly all classes of service on the Dutch railways support transport of cycles for a small supplemental fee (with some reasonable rush hour restrictions). Over the last decade the Dutch railways actually have been phasing out racks in trains because mounting bikes on them was deemed too cumbersome and inconvenient, and instead have shifted toward favoring spacious standing areas for cyclists to encourage quick and easy loading of bikes. Trams and long-distance buses also often have space that can accommodate cyclists. Notably, most cycle accommodation in Dutch public transport also serves as a good example of “universal design”—the same roll-on/roll-off compartments that provide space for cyclists can also accommodate wheelchair users, families with baby carriages, or tourists hauling luggage. (More info on taking bikes—or a few other wheeled things—on the train).
Entrance to the bicycle center beneath the rail station in Hilversum. The facility offers secure bike parking, a repair facility, and bike rentals.
Apart from the possibility of taking your bike along for the ride, Dutch transport hubs also tend to provide excellent facilities for cyclists, with large amounts of secure bike parking and on-site facilities for repair and rental of cycles. The national public transit card system (OV-Chipkaart) even integrates with a nationwide bike share scheme, the OV-fiets, which lets you hire a bike at most stations. And if you were wondering, yes, it’s possible to even bike to the airport—bike paths can take you all the way to the terminal at Schiphol.
A pair of OV-Fiets bikes on the street in Maastricht. The OV-fiets is a nationwide bike rental scheme connected to the national transit chip card (OV-Chipkaart) that allows you to bike up a bike at most major railway stations.
Takeaways: Encourage the installation of quality bike parking at major transit nodes and emphasize the need for simple roll-on/roll-off bike transport on new transit vehicles. A few cumbersome racks on the front of buses don’t truly make a transit system “bike-friendly.”
Madison’s most recent chance at having intercity rail service was unfortunately squandered, but while the plans were still on track—no pun intended—multi-modality incorporating cycling was a key part of the designs… some of the initial reasoning for choosing Judge Doyle Square as a location for a bike center was the synergy with a potential future train station. When opportunities for planning intercity connections arise, let’s make sure those rail- (bus-, hyperloop-) to-bike connections remain a key part of the discussion.
A bike shop at Maastricht central station, one of two facilities offering bike rentals and repairs at the station.
Parking and Support Facilities
Bike parking is quite plentiful in Dutch cities, but it seems they can still never build quite enough. Perhaps the most extreme example of demand for bike parking is around Amsterdam Centraal station, where several huge parking areas, including a few multi-level garages, are often overflowing with bikes.
If there’s one glaring problem with cycling in Netherlands, it’s parking… they just can’t build enough! But from an American cyclist’s perspective, the parking situation in most Dutch cities seems downright luxurious. Most major destinations like stores, schools, and offices have large bike parking areas with quality racks and many include lockers available for rental to long-term users. In city centers or at transit hubs, centralized parking garages provide a place to stow your bike before exploring a neighborhood on foot or taking a journey on mass transit.
A large bike parking garage serving Den Haag Centraal station and surrounding office buildings
The best types of these facilities, known as a bewaakte fietsenstalling, combine a large number of lockers or locking racks with video surveillance and on-site attendants to provide a highly secure place to stow your bike. And as a bonus in the often-rainy Netherlands, many also shelter your bike from the elements. In the past, parking in such facilities was typically was a paid service, but in recent years I’ve noticed an increasing tendency to provide such facilities for free. The preference towards providing free centralized parking helps maintain a less crowded streetscape with reduced need for on-street parking—and less of an excuse for illegal parking—and helps cut down on bike theft and vandalism. Many of these parking complexes also provide bike maintenance shops, self-service repair areas, and rental facilities.
Den Haag provides an example of the move towards free centralized parking in many cities. To help eliminate clutter from chaotic bike parking on busy shopping streets, the city expanded their secure parking garages and made them available for free.
Apart from the ample provision of parking and repair facilities, supplies for simple repairs and bike accessories are widely available at locations beyond specialized cycling retailers. Most variety stores and convenience shops carry at least a basic selection of supplies like tubes, patch kits, and accessories like bells, locks, lights, and reflective gear (notably, a trip to the Netherlands is a fantastic opportunity to stock up on affordable cycling kit!). So if you find yourself with a flat tire, a quick fix is usually a short walk away.
Basic bike supplies are easy to find—here at a HEMA store (sort of like the Dutch equivalent of Target), you can find a variety of parts and accessories.
Outdoor markets are not only a place to buy fresh veggies and other edible delights… you can often find bike supply vendors and repair stands at many markets. Here at the Woensel Weekmarkt in Eindhoven, you can find two Dutch staples right next to each other: fresh herring and bike tires!
Takeaways: The Judge Doyle Square bike center could be a great pilot of this sort of concept, but there are many other destinations around town where quality indoor parking could be a huge perk to encourage cycling. Many major employers and institutions like the UW have good connectivity to our bike routes but perhaps not the best opportunities for parking. We should encourage high-quality indoor bike parking to be a part of development plans. And maybe with that parking, include a nice bike repair stand! And while we’re at it, let’s nudge our neighborhood retailers to carry at least a modest selection of basic bike repair supplies.
Beneath the 18.September Plein square in Eindhoven, between the central station and the central business district, there is a huge ‘bewaakte fietsenstalling’ with free parking. The architecture seems to match the nearby building known as “The Blob.”
We had some memorable rain events last week, leading to flooding, downed trees, and other complications for pretty much everyone. Saturday morning I woke up to a large tree branch in the middle of the street. As we all experienced, and as the pictures submitted to MB’s Facebook page, bike paths suffered downed trees and flooding as a result of these storms. I know that in the moment we just deal with the obstacles before us and can forget to let the city know so the mess can be cleaned up. As a reminder, the City’s “report a problem” site provides a way to let the city know about these issues and hopefully address them quickly!
“Path down from Odana golf course, about 100 ft from SW Commuter Path.” Photo by Don Thornton.
“Green Prairie/Dunn’s Marsh storm flooding.” Photo by Scott Sauer.
As if all this rain wasn’t challenging enough, the record high temperatures have not been for the faint of heart. Undeterred, the Tour de la Familia Latino rode this past Saturday. I have not heard how many folks attended. We’re hoping someone from the BiciClub Latino de Madison can let us know!
The Madison Bikes Board meets at 6:00pm–8:00pm on Monday, June 18 at the Madison Public Library, 201 W Mifflin St, Madison, WI 53703. Please attend and learn what we are doing and how you can help!
On Tuesday, June 19 the Madison Common Council meets at 6:30 at the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Room 201, Madison, WI.. The agenda looks packed but about half-way through they will discuss the much maligned “hairball” intersection of John Nolen/Williamson/Blair/Wilson streets. The full agenda for the meeting is here.
Chris Rickert from the Wisconsin State Journal discusses the differing opinions on if the proposed redesign is satisfactory in this article. While it looks like the Council is likely to move forward with accepting the report on the redesign, it is definitely not too late to ask for changes that would further improve the bike/walk environment at this stressful intersection.
Also on Tuesday, Madison Bikes Advocacy Committee will meet from 6:00 pm – 7:30pm at Bendyworks, 106 E Doty St #200, Madison, WI.
Don’t forget to check Madison Bikes blog on Wednesday, June 20th for the second installment in a three-part series by Jonathan Mertzig. Jonathan lived in the Netherlands and shares his experience biking and walking in that country, where planning, engineering and policy has made biking the preferred mode of transportation in urban areas.
On Thursday, a new BCycle station will open at and in partnership with the Goodman Community Center. Center participants can get a free membership, and there will various family-friendly festivities, 4:30-6pm.
On Sunday, June 24 Bike the Art tour happens from 12:00pm – 3:30pm. Meet at Allen Centennial Garden, 620 Babcock Dr, Madison for a free all-ages bike tour of galleries, events and unique art venues across Madison. The tour includes exclusive access to artist talks, workshops, and tours of exhibitions and art spaces. Participants are welcome to join the tour at any stage; please refer to the schedule linkded below for where and when to meet with the group. Additional stops include Working Draft Beer Company and Madison Circus Space. Bike the Art is sponsored by Dane Arts, Madison Arts Commission, Arts + Literature Laboratory, VEA Events, The Bubbler at Madison Public Library, Community Art Discourse Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/167531243939829/
Editorial note: This is a three-part guest post by Madison Bikes supporter Jonathan Mertzig. Thanks, Jonathan, for sharing your experience living and cycling in the Netherlands, and what we can learn from the Dutch in improving cycling here in Madison! Part 2 will be published next Wednesday.
In the summer of 2005 I had the privilege of attending a Nederlandse Taalunie (Dutch Language Union) summer course held in the beautiful town of Zeist, a short bike journey away from the Netherlands’ fourth largest city, Utrecht. Apart from being an amazing immersive experience in learning the Dutch language, the course also provided plenty of opportunities to experience the Netherlands’ amazing bike culture and infrastructure.
After class each day, our group of students from around the world could grab our bikes and head off for an adventure, exploring our surroundings without ever even needing to look at a map. You could pick a destination and follow the signs for a safe route to just about anywhere. Even the most novice cyclists, many coming from countries with almost no culture of cycling, could in a few days become quite confident riders.
In the years since, I’ve had many opportunities to return to the Netherlands and observe the evolution of bike facilities there. The Netherlands can seem like a cyclist’s paradise that would be hard to match elsewhere, and indeed, there are some local factors in the popularity of cycling we can’t easily match: compact cities, short distances between towns, relatively flat terrain, and milder winter weather. But there are plenty of things the Dutch do well that can serve as examples to replicate elsewhere, including American cities like Madison.
A particularly information-dense cycling route wayfinding signpost outside Amsterdam’s city hall. Red signs point to locations of interest (like the Artis zoo, or the central station), major neighborhoods, or even other cities (like in this example, Hilversum and Utrecht). The green signs denote major recreational routes… from here you can even follow the signs to take the Stedenroute (“City Route”) all 340km to Brussels—no guarantee though that the signage will be as good once you cross the Belgian border!
One of the first things that stands out to visitors observing the bike scene in the Netherlands—besides the sheer number of bikes everywhere—is the excellent system of wayfinding signage throughout the country. The national travel association, ANWB, provides uniform standards for bike and pedestrian wayfinding signage, with signs installed at nearly every intersection or path access point throughout the country. Signage features directions and distances between cities, highlights major points of interest, and delineates regional and national recreational and long-distance routes.
In some scenic areas, a lower-profile format of bike wayfinding signage is used, though the design features are otherwise consistent with the rest of the national signage system. Here you can choose your direction through the dunes at Kijkduin.
The signage scheme for cyclists is visually distinct from other types of road signage, color-coded (red for general directions and local points of interest, green for recreational routes) and uses consistent shapes, symbols, and highly-readable typography to provide a universally recognizable scheme for navigation. The scale and placement of signage also often doubles as a useful reference for those traveling on foot. One can easily navigate within cities or take a long-distance ride without much need to break out your smartphone… just follow the signs.
The green-signed recreational route network ties connects historical town centers and scenic natural areas around the country. Here in Maastricht, the “Maas route” LF3b takes you through cobblestone streets and up the St-Pietersberg, one of the few hills in Dutch territory that actually is referred to as a “mountain.” Contrary to popular belief, the entire country isn’t flat!
Takeaways: Being able to find your way around without much of a hassle is key to a great cycling experience, especially for beginners and visitors. We should strive for a system of consistent, high-density signage for cycle-friendly routes. The Dutch standards for signage provide a great example of a well-executed wayfinding system.
Complete Networks, Complete Streets
Cederlaan in Eindhoven is a great example of a Dutch “complete street.” This street, built in a new residential development in a previously industrial district, combines a bus rapid transit way and stations, general traffic lanes, a separated bike path, parking lanes, and sidewalks.
The network of bike routes in the Netherlands is quite comprehensive, with a thoroughly interconnected system of urban bike lanes, separated bike paths, traffic-calmed neighborhood streets, and rural roads and trails suitable for safe cycling. Bike routes are easily recognized through consistent visual cues, like the aforementioned wayfinding signage, or the use of red pavement to mark lanes and paths reserved for cyclists. Cycling becomes a practical option for commuting, shopping, or even intercity journeys because it is easy to travel by bike without having to contend with riding on unsafe roads or breaks in the network. It is quite possible to find a safe bike route between most any destination in the Netherlands, whether at neighborhood level or cross-country.
Outside the cities, an extensive network of paths crisscrosses rural and natural areas, making it possible to easily bike between towns while enjoying the scenery. Here is a path that connects Zeist and Amersfoort via the wooded hills of the Utrechtse Heuvelrug and heathlands of the Leusderheide.
Taking a look at Dutch street design also shows what “complete streets” looks like when proper design and investment is put into the concept. It’s not unusual to find arterial streets that combine safe, separated lanes for bikes, cars, and mass transit, and still have ample space for sidewalks, landscaped medians and terraces, and on-street parking. Smaller neighborhood streets use designs that are appropriate for the context and available space, like traffic calming measures combined with on-street bike lanes, or even intentionally ambiguous zones (you may be familiar with the Dutch term woonerf) where a blending of low-speed traffic actually improves safety and livability for surrounding neighborhoods. Not all Dutch street designs are perfect and not all are feasible for Madison’s streets, but the overall experience is noticeably better than American design standards.
The intersection along Rotterdam’s Blaak avenue provides a particularly complex example of a Dutch “complete” street. Bike lanes and broad sidewalks on each side flank a busy avenue, the start of a separated busway, and a tramway. Aerial view.
Takeaways: Find the holes in the network and prioritize these for improvements. The Madison area has done a good job of this in terms of regional and cross-town routes, but the real gaps are at a more local level. Think about those neighborhoods where you can’t easily use a bike to do errands like getting groceries, take your kids to school, or visit the park, and target those areas for improvement. Make sure proposals for new infrastructure connect up to existing routes in safe and logical ways.
American discussions of measures like traffic calming are often framed as “experiments” or denounced by opponents as “unproven” but Dutch cities are full of working examples of complete streets and safer design paradigms, and these are often implemented in situations where space is quite limited compared to American streets. And investment in quality bike-friendly infrastructure doesn’t necessarily have to come at a cost detrimental to those who drive—any trip on the superb freeways of the Netherlands quickly demonstrates that the Dutch don’t hate their cars! The Dutch don’t view transportation planning as a zero-sum game where only one mode “wins.” (For more on the state of the overall transportation system in the Netherlands, and how bikes fit into the picture, I recommend this report from Statistics Netherlands: Transport and Mobility 2015).
Check back next week for part 2 of the series!
We had wonderful weather for Bike Week and all the activities: not too hot, not too cold, and almost no rain! Thanks to all who came by, chatted at the commuter stations, threw a little into the donation box, and signed up to be on the mailing list. We had a great time and met some new people, many of whom didn’t know about Madison Bikes.
This brings me to a reminder to all current Facebook friends and email subscribers: If you know someone who would like to know what’s happening with bicycling in Madison, please send them over to us. They can follow us on Facebook, participate in our group discussions, and/or sign up to get our blogs and weekly updates emailed to them directly.
We are a stronger, more effective organization when more people join and participate. One of our goals is to keep bicyclists up to date with what’s happening on city committees, in your neighborhood, and when plans or votes are coming up that will affect bicycling. Your voice is very important, and you can help us by getting your friends to join as well.
On to the weekly update for this week. After all the activities last week, the coming week is pretty slow for meetings and activities.
Madison Bikes Events Committee will meet at 6:00 pm at Barriques, 127 W Washington. All the Madison Bikes committees are looking for additional volunteers and committee members, so if you are interested in helping plan events, we could really use your help. The Winter Fashion Show, Annual Party/Member Meeting, and Bike Week commuter stations are just some of the events that this committee has planned. Don’t know whether it’s for you? Stop by to say hello and ask a few questions. They’ll be glad to see you!
There will be a special meeting of the Plan Commission, at 5:00 pm in Room 103A of the City/County Building, to approve updates to the Comprehensive Plan. This will guide how the city grows, and where, for the next ten years. It’s been through a lot of work and discussed by almost every committee of the city – including several transportation committees -- and now needs to be passed by the Plan Commission and Council. If you would like to see everyone who’d looked at it and what input they had, you can follow this link and click on the documents.
The Middleton Pedestrian. Bike, Transit Committee will be at 5:30 in the Council Chambers in Middleton City Hall, 7426 Hubbard Avenue. It looks like the city is taking the first steps to build a much-needed path along Century Ave. This has been a missing link in the metro area for quite some time, with none of the existing options – ride in the main lanes with fast-moving traffic or use the sidewalk -- particularly safe or inviting. But it’s just the start of the process, because this is what is listed on the agenda:
The City of Middleton received three responses to its Request for Proposals for consultant engineering services to design a 10 ft. wide path along the north side of Century Avenue, between Old Creek Road and the eastern city limits (near Mendota County Park).
There are two rides scheduled for Saturday.
The Clean Lakes Alliance will have its annual Loop the Lake ride and fundraiser, starting at Olbrich Park at 10:00 am. The ride is the familiar ride around Lake Monona (about 13 miles), but you’ll be doing it with a few hundred other people. Although most people will finish in about 75-90 minutes, the course will stay open until 2:00 pm. More information at the link about or at the Facebook event.
Tour de Familia Latina/Latino Family Tour will start at 1:00 pm at Quan Park, hosted by BiciClub Latino de Madison. They are meeting at bit outside downtown Madison to avoid all the other events going on downtown. Quan Park is right next to the Wingra Creek Path and behind the Alliant Center. From there, they will be biking to the Lower Yahara River Path, a beautiful ride. All are welcome, and the ride is geared toward families and riders of all ages and abilities.