Last week a public input took place to discuss the reconstruction of West Wilson Street. Robbie's previous post has more background about what is planned and why this is an important project for bike advocates. Here is a quick update on how the meeting went, what the next steps in the decision making process are, and how you can speak out in favor of a Wilson Street that works for people biking and walking.
To recap, the public input meeting was the second one about the project. But the first meeting had been only announced to immediate neighbors. This second meeting was scheduled at the request of the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Vehicle Commission, after they were presented with only one option for the project from Engineering, an 8' widened sidewalk on the south side of the street that was supposed to mix travel on foot and bike. The Commission asked Engineering to develop additional concepts that would provide better accommodations for people travelling by bike and to present them at a new, publicly-noticed meeting for input.
The meeting was well attended, and I spotted many Madison Bikes stickers, t-shirts, or other other accessories that identified attendants as supporters of safe and convenient bike facilities. Alder Verveer also attended. A video recording of the whole meeting is available on Facebook. Engineering proposed three different designs:
- Keep all general travel lanes and both parking lanes. Narrow the terrace (the space between sidewalk and curb) to install a contra-flow bike lane (a bike lane going the opposite direction of the one-way traffic in the general travel lanes) right next to the sidewalk.
- Keep all general travel lanes and the current terraces. Convert one parking lane into a contra-flow bike lane, separated from oncoming traffic with a painted buffer but without physical protection.
- Keep travel lanes, parking, terraces. Widen the sidewalk on the south side to 8 ft. This was the recommendation of Engineering.
Two of the proposed options. Apologies for the image quality -- the slides from the meeting haven't been made available yet by the city
An option for a two-way protected bike lane was not even on the table. A lively but civil discussion ensued about the impacts of each of the proposed solutions, such as on street trees, for people with reduced mobility, and of course for those who currently bike on Wilson or would do so if there were safe and convenient options available. One issue raised both by bike advocates and local residents was that putting people on bike and people walking together on the sidewalk seemed like a really bad idea. Residents pointed out that even just walking on the sidewalk right now at times felt dangerous, especially for those with impaired mobility. Adding more bikes to that mix was a no-go for many, widened sidewalk or not. If you want to see what riding on the sidewalk looks like right now, watch this video:
Another issue pointed out by bike advocates was the lack of bike accommodations for people going east to west in all of the proposed plans. Currently--and in the foreseeable future, if the proposed design goes forward--people biking have to ride in the general travel lane, next to parked cars. And at the bottom of the hill, at the intersection with Henry and Hamilton, people on bikes find themselves in a right-turn-only lane or have to merge to the left lane at high speed.
The point at which the meeting started to unravel was when the question of next steps came up. One would think that the point of a public input meeting would be to gather input and then use that input to modify your plans. That didn't seem to be the case: City engineers were planning to just go forward with the same design that they came to the meeting with, the widened sidewalk option. City engineers rightly pointed out that there was no consensus in the audience that clearly favored one design over the other. But it was just as clear that a large majority of the audience (and not just people who regularly bike) did not like the idea of mixing people walking, biking, or using mobility devices on the sidewalk. I was probably not the only one leaving the meeting disheartened by what appeared to be a flawed process.
What are the next steps? What can you do?
The proposed design is going to be on the agenda of the Ped/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission this coming Tuesday. I encourage you to submit a brief public comment to the commission members, Alder Verveer, and your own alder. It can be as easy as pasting these recipients (plus your Alder's email address) into an email and writing something like:
Dear Members of the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission, dear Alders:
Regarding the planned reconstruction of West Wilson street, please move forward with a street design that takes into account the needs of people biking and walking, both going west to east, and east to west. I oppose an option that mixes people walking and cycling on the sidewalk, as that is neither safe nor convenient for anyone.
Thank you for your consideration.
After that, the proposed design will go to the Common Council, which is the ultimate decision making body. We'll keep you updated on when that's going to happen and what the most effective way to advocate is going to be for that.
This is a guest post by Linda Larsen, a Madison Bikes supporter and volunteer. Thanks, Linda, for sharing your experience with biking more and more and more... If you're interested in writing a post (and Madison Bikes is for everyone, no matter how little or much you bike), just shoot an email to email@example.com
I love to bike. I bike a lot. I bike almost every day. I'm the one my friends think of when they see something cool that is bike related on social media and tag me or post it on my page. Have I mentioned that I love to bike?
While I've always enjoyed biking, several years ago I started making bicycling a major lifestyle change for me and began keeping track of my miles. Since then my annual mileage has kept increasing. I try to bike instead of drive any time I can. I find ways to overcome deterrents, such as cold weather, snowy or icy paths, or just plain lack of motivation. Yes, as much as I love biking, it is not always easy for me to get out there. But many factors have helped me get out, almost every day, and maybe some of them will work for you as well. In 2016 I biked over 6,000 miles, a personal record for me.
First, I keep track of my miles. It can make you feel good that you have gotten that much exercise, or that you have avoided driving that distance somewhere, or it can give you a goal to surpass. Every time you bike a little more than you are used to, it can encourage you to do more the next time.
How did I get there? Setting goals and overcoming challenges.
I had started with a goal to bike to work at summer school, which at the time was seven miles away. Once summer ended, I continued to bike to work and began looking for and coming up with ideas for being able to bike in the cold weather. There are many resources for researching this, and a lot of trial and error while making sure you have the right balance. I understand that not everyone is interested in biking in the cold. But remember: many other winter activities are enjoyed despite the cold – why not add biking to that mindset? Rain gear is also important to have, as well as winter tires such as fat tires for snow or studded tires for ice. I am still working on finding what I am comfortable with, and each year I manage to overcome more obstacles and avoid driving more and more.
There’s a lot cooking this week, but for those that can only spare time for one thing it should be the Wilson Street Reconstruction Public Meeting on Monday. Robbie’s blog post gives some background on the project and tips for how to participate. Another take on the project is on the Imagine Madison blog. Showing up for this public engagement meeting is one of the best ways to really participate in democracy and to help build the community you want to live in. If you’ve never come to a public meeting like this before, give it a shot and help us achieve our vision of a connected bike network for people of all ages and abilities.
Tuesday at noon, America Walks is hosting a webinar entitled Advancing Neighborhood Change through Equity and Inclusion where panelists will discuss ways to work towards positive changes that are rooted in respect and authentic engagement with residents. These are really important conversations and Madison Bikes is committed to working towards equity and inclusion in our advocacy efforts.
On Wednesday, the Bassett Street protected bike lanes that were unanimously approved at Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission last month are up for reconsideration. The Board of Public Works is the controlling body of this project and may choose to recommend a different plan to the city council for approval. Consider attending the meeting and voicing your support.
And on Thursday, the Long Range Transportation Planning Committee will take up the Transportation Ordinance Rewrite Committee’s draft update to the City’s transportation ordinance (3.14). This draft was in front of Transit and Parking Commission last month. At the end of this month, it will be considered by the Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission and may be in front of the Common Council sometime after May.
On Monday, March 20, there will be a meeting to hear from the public–yes, that’s you–about changes to West Wilson Street between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Hamilton/Henry Streets. The meeting will be in room 351 of the City-County Building, and we need your voice!
Some more information, including plans and past presentation can be found here on the City Engineering website. Also stay tuned for another post on the project tomorrow.
What’s the problem?
This section of Wilson Street is a scary stretch for people cycling west: Two westbound lanes of traffic, parking on both sides, and no bike facilities. At the bottom of the hill and the intersection with Hamilton and Henry, you have few good options when biking. South Hamilton climbs steeply up to the Square and also lacks bike facilities. The same is true for South Henry. If you continue straight, West Wilson becomes two narrow lanes–now one in each direction–with no bike lanes. To the south of the intersection there are two dead-end streets. Worse, people on bikes must choose between staying in the right lane of Wilson, which is right turn only, and the left lane. Being in the right lane sets you up for a “right hook” from turning cars. But riding in the left lane requires merging on the downhill--not really an option for most people cycling.
Aerial view of the intersection of Wilson, Henry, and Hamilton (Source: Google Maps)
Even more difficult is trying to travel eastbound. In theory, Wilson would make a great connection to the Capitol Square and points east, as it is less steep than any of the parallel streets. Many residential buildings, offices, and other destinations are along Wilson Street, and with the Judge Doyle Square redevelopment and the proposed bicycle center, this will be even more true. Finally, there are already concrete plans for connecting Wilson Street with the Capital City Trail by building a bridge across John Nolen Drive and the railroad tracks. But of course: Wilson Street is a one-way street, and so this is not an option.
So many bicyclists going both directions end up riding on the sidewalk. On this particular stretch it is legal. But as you can see in this video, it is not pleasant, and once you get to East Wilson, riding on the sidewalk is prohibited.
The proposed street reconstruction offers an opportunity to fix many of those issues. We have a chance to West Wilson Street (and eventually all of Wilson) safer for all users, but especially for people biking and walking. We could have a two-way, protected bike lane on the south side of the street. And that is one of the ideas we can discuss at the meeting on Monday. Pretty exciting, huh?
But there is a lot of pushback against that idea. Those who don’t want to lose any car parking on the street may be opposed to accommodating people on bikes on Wilson. A protected bike lane would replace car parking on one side of the street.
So we need your help to convince the city and your fellow citizen that the safety of bicyclists should be more important than a few parking spots. After all, there are literally hundreds of public parking spots on the street and in parking garages within a couple of blocks of West Wilson Street.
Besides Madison Bikes, who says we need better bike facilities here?
There are many public studies and plans that have identified West Wilson Street as a critical gap in the biking network. These gaps hold us back from achieving the goals to make transportation more sustainable and make getting around by bike a real alternative to driving for people of all ages and abilities. The South Campus Transit Oriented Development Plan looked at the entire area south of the Capitol, and that plan also identified a need to improve bicycle facilities on Wilson, especially for eastbound travel. The City and the Transportation Planning Board both have "complete streets policies" that make it a requirement to accommodate all modes of travel when a street is being reconstructed. And the Wisconsin Bike Fed wrote a letter pointing out the need for eastbound accommodations, especially with the soon-to-be-completed Judge Doyle Square Bike Center.
OK, you convinced me and I'll come. What should I do or say at the meeting?
The Monday meeting is not a formal city committee meeting. It will be a presentation of options for the street, and then questions and comments from those in attendance. You can just come and watch, but make it obvious that you are someone riding a bike and wants safe conditions for that. Bring your helmet or wear a Madison Bikes or Bike Fed t-shirt. Fill out a comment form with something as simple as, “I want safe biking conditions on Wilson Street.” Ask questions or share stories about how biking on Wilson Street currently feels.
Madison Bikes supports a two-way protected bike lane. We think that having facilities for people biking, separated from people walking and protected from people driving, is the best option. A slightly widened, eight-foot sidewalk that mixes two-way bike traffic with pedestrians would be frustrating and dangerous for all.
If you can’t make the meeting, you can still weigh in. We will have a separate blog post that will outline some of the future engagement opportunities. But for now you can email your support: The Engineer in charge of the project is Jim Wolfe, and you can email comments directly to him. The alder for all of Wilson from Proudfit to Williamson is Mike Verveer. And you can email your own alder or the whole Council as well, since this project will eventually have to be passed by the entire Council. To find out who your alder is, check the map or look it up by address on the Council website. To send an email to the entire Council, you can use the address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Being involved in decisions is actually pretty easy.
A few voices can really make a huge difference, and your alder needs to hear from you. You may actually know a lot more about these issues than they do, since you ride the streets and paths every day. You are the expert on what makes a city easy and safe to bike. But also keep in mind that we want a city where everyone can bike, not just the brave and the experienced. So think what kind of street your neighbor, child, friend, or parent would feel safe and comfortable on when biking to work, go shopping, school, or errands.
A short email, a phone call, a written comment at a meeting, or even your presence all contribute to a better biking city for us all. Everyone’s opinion is important, and everyone’s voice is needed. See you on Monday!
It’s another relatively quiet week for bike advocacy, with two great opportunities to connect with Madison Bikes.
On Monday, our board of directors will hold their monthly meeting at the Central Library at 6:00. We’ll be refining some of the work that came out of our strategic plan in January and narrowing down on our top goals for the next year.
On Tuesday, join us for a public viewing of a webinar on "Preparing for Successful Safety Education and Enforcement Efforts to Promote Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety." More details and RSVP on the Facebook event page.
Is this what you'd like Wilson Street to look like between MLK and Henry? Let the City know!
And on Wednesday, the Madison Bikes Advocacy Committee will be meeting at Barriques on W. Washington to talk about upcoming projects, including Wilson Street downtown. The public input session for that project is scheduled for Monday, March 20th and it’ll be very important for folks to show up and call for appropriate east and westbound bike facilities as part of this reconstruction. Watch for another blog post this week with more details. And if you're on Facebook, you can vote for your favorite option here.
When we planned Winter Bike Week, Elly and Eleanor, two members of our Events Committee, suggested having a winter biking challenge. But it would be a challenge with a twist, focused not on cranking out as many miles as possible or having to ride every day. This challenge was more about getting out and about, exploring your snowy city by bike on days when otherwise you maybe wouldn't have done so.
Before we announce the winner, show some of our favorite pictures, and tell you how you can get your finisher badge, let's hear from two participants of the challenge, Elly and Kevin:
Most days I’m not conscious of the decision to swing my leg over the frame to get from Point A to Point B. The winter bike challenge - a photo scavenger hunt on bike - made my routines feel less, well, like routines. I didn’t wait for an intersection to look to my left and right, and the possibility of finding something on the list of photo categories was exciting in a simple I’m-a-kid-and-just-found-an-amazing-puddle-to-jump-in sort of way. I slowed down. I stopped more often. And I noticed signs, murals, people, and bridges that I had either completely missed before or didn’t give more than a two-second glance. I started to take different routes in search of artwork and paths found in pictures shared by other Madison bike challenge participants. For me, the true bear of winter isn’t so much the cold temperatures, it’s the danger of how easy it is to get lost in a routine. The winter bike challenge cracked open the predictability of my commute, and lifted intentionality back into my ride. Plus, I get a cool new and elusive finisher badge!
The Transportation Ordinance Rewrite Committee had it’s final meeting last week. Attorney Strange will be making the final revisions and the new ordinance will be introduced at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting and then referred to the current transportation commissions for review and feedback.
There were also a pair of webinars last week that are available to watch online. Integrating explicit and implicit methods in travel behavior research: A study of driver attitudes and bias was very interesting and helps confirm what a lot of folks that spend time on bikes have experienced. Madison Bikes also cosponsored a viewing of Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Data with City of Madison Traffic Engineering and will be putting the information into practice with a group of interested folks. Send a message to email@example.com if you’re interested in participating.
The Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission meeting last week was a long one, with debates on design choices for the Demetral connector, approval of protected bike lanes on Bassett Street, and a serious conversation about the upcoming Wilson Street reconstruction and our public input process. Stay tuned for a new public input session on this critical project and plan on attending to advocate for much needed bike accommodations on this critical connector.
On Monday, join Bike Fitchburg for their monthly meeting at the Fitchburg Public Library.
On Tuesday, watch Chris McCahill and Mary Ebeling give a presentation on urban boulevards, urban freeways and options for Stoughton Road / Highway 51 in the City of Madison before the Madison Common Council meeting.
On Wednesday, consider attending a public input session for the final draft of our Regional Transportation Plan refresh.
Thursday, there’s a presentation of Dane County’s Bicycle Wayfinding Manual in the morning, another opportunity to provide feedback on the Regional Transportation Plan at the Senior Center, and a public input meeting on Walter Street reconstruction at Whitehorse Middle School.
There’s plenty of opportunity this week to get involved. If you’ve never attended a public meeting before, consider giving it a try this week.
On Monday at 4:00p, the Transportation Ordinance Rewrite Committee picks up where it left off last week (see below) to try and finalize a recommendation. At 6:00p, join the Madison Bikes Events Committee for a review of this year’s Winter Bike Week and a look ahead at upcoming events. For those that frequent Fitchburg, there’s a public hearing at 7:00p on the Fitchburg Bike and Pedestrian Plan at their Transportation and Transit Commission meeting.
On Tuesday, there are a pair of webinars to check out. At noon, tune in to hear about Integrating explicit and implicit methods in travel behavior research: A study of driver attitudes and bias and then at 1:30p join Madison Bikes and City of Madison Traffic Engineering for a webinar on Bicycle and Pedestrian Count Data. We’ll be holding a public viewing at 30 W Mifflin Street, open to anyone. Later that evening at 7:00p, consider attending a Wilson Street Public Information Meeting. It’s unclear at this point if the city will be proposing any new bike facilities for the 100 block of W. Wilson included in this project. Wilson Street currently is a one-way street with no accommodations for people biking. On the one hand, Alder Verveer’s February 18th blog post suggests that the proposal will include “an off-street, 2-way bike facility on West Wilson Street”. And yet the recently published Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Commission agenda includes an attached file showing instead a concept with no bike facilities. A design that accommodates eastbound bike travel on Wilson Street has been on the top of the list for local bike advocates for many years; here’s hoping the attachment for the PBMVC meeting is a mistake and that the proposal will indeed include the 2-way facility described in Alder Verveer’s post.
Current state of W Wilson St (Image: Google Maps)
In addition to the Wilson St. project, Wednesday’s Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission meeting will also include review of several other key projects, including protected bike lanes on Bassett Street, the Demetral Path connector alternatives, and a review of the Judge Doyle Square Bike Center Operator request for proposals, as well as a look at a new draft Safe Accommodation for Pedestrians and Cyclists in and Around Work Zones policy. Consider attending this meeting to offer your input or watch the proceedings online on Madison’s award-winning City Channel.
And finally on Thursday, the Long Range Transportation Planning Committee will hold a joint session with the Plan Commission to review the High Point-Raymond Neighborhood Development Plan.
Read on for a recap of last week's events.Read more
Thanks to all the sponsors and all the participants for an amazing Winter Bike Week! Stay tuned for a blog post to share some of the memories and photos and will also announce the winner of the Winter Bike Challenge.
One of many submissions to the #mbwinterchallenge! Thanks, Liz!
In addition to all the fun, there were also a pair of meetings on Monday. First the Transportation Ordinance Rewrite Committee met to continue their work to propose a major overhaul to the city’s transportation ordinance. At the previous meeting, there was some compelling testimony around the value of hiring a director of transportation for Madison, but apparently some members of the group have started to back off that enthusiasm. At the end of Monday’s meeting, the talk was about still hiring for a new role, but now more along the lines of a coordinator or manager that would be a peer to the Traffic Engineer and Metro Manager with limited direct authority over transportation decisions. There was little conversation around the committee structure at this meeting. The group plans to meet several more times over the next month to finalize a recommendation.
Proposed design for Bassett Street between Gorham/University and Dayton
There was also an unannounced public input meeting on a proposal to add protected bike lanes to a stretch of Bassett Street. In spite of the poor communications, several Madison Bikes members were able to attend and hear the proposal. While it’s encouraging that the city is trying to improve the bike connections between University Avenue and the Capital City Path, it seemed clear to all in attendance that the proposal was not quite ready for prime time. Engineering has shifted their timeline a bit in order to work on refinements. Expect to see something at the February 22nd Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission meeting with a public hearing at Board of Public Works on March 8th and again at Common Council on March 21.
The Madison Bikes monthly board meeting is on Monday. Anyone interested is welcome to attend.
On Tuesday, bring your loved one to a special Valentine’s Day edition of the Transportation Ordinance Rewrite Committee where the conversation will continue around the value of a director of transportation and towards refining the recommendation for our transportation committee structure.
On Thursday, Madison in Motion will meet to consider feedback received from the many city committees over the last two months. This will likely lead to a final draft of the document that will then be presented to the Council.
On Sunday, join Trek for their Polar Social Roll ride.
Madison Bikes board member Chuck at the Frozen Assets race
Winter Bike Week kicked off with the Frozen Asset Fat Bike Race on Friday, followed by Family Music at Cargo Bikes/Domestique and Capital Goldsprint at Motorless Motion on Saturday. And Kids and adults alike had a blast on Sunday at the Fat Bike Sled Pull.
Sunday was also the start of the #MBWinterChallenge. The first photos have been posted already. Go get on your bike and participate as well!
Winter Bike Week continues with commuter stations, bike rides, and our end of week party. Check our website for all the details!
And in addition to all the winter bike fun, there are a couple items of business.
Monday: The Transportation Ordinance Rewrite Committee meets again to continue their work on a potential rewrite of our transportation ordinance. Then at 6:30 there’s a public input meeting to review a draft concept of a proposed protected bike lane on Bassett Street.
Tuesday: The Madison Bikes Communications Committee will hold its monthly meeting on Tuesday at Blue Moon Bar & Grill