Bike News

#MBWinterChallenge 2017 Recap: Stories, Photos, Winners

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:

Elly’s take

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!

Kevin’s perspective

Look, I hate to admit it, but I am … a fair weather biker. I see others out there, taking on the beard-icing temps, curse-worthy wind, and more curse-worthy treacherous surfaces. I have no problem running through the relentless Wisconsin winter, but, until recently, my tenacity whilst in running shoes did not transfer to my pedals. It only took two or three bike trips to realize what my problem was. Logistics. Or, more accurately, perceived logistics. I don’t have the right clothes. I can’t possibly carry all of my stuff. I can’t show up to work looking like a crazy person. I’ve got too many groceries to get. It looks pretty slick out there, I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t think it’s good for my bike. It took the winter bike challenge (and my lovely, yet persistent) wife Elly for me to call BS on myself. I do have the right clothes – it just takes a few moments to layer right. I can carry all my stuff if I take two minutes to figure out what I actually need to take. I teach middle school, so everyone knows I’m already a crazy person. If I only get what’s on my list, I’ve got plenty of room in my panniers and my backpack to fit the week’s groceries. It’s never as bad as it looks outside if you actually get close enough to see the conditions. It’s as good for my bike to be out and about as it is for me. Yes, it took the bike challenge to get my butt in the saddle – but simply being out on the bike in the winter for a week was my gateway activity to bike-commuting my errands and discovering the joy of defying society’s expectations. Oh, it feels so good.

So without further ado, here are some of our favorite pictures:

1. “Friends with Frosty” by Kevin Leigeb

Whatever the weather, it’s always better biking with friends! Kevin was also the overall winner of the challenge, with a whopping 29 submissions! Awesome job, Kevin!

2. “Out of this World” by Healthy Kids Collaborative

Despite the chilly temperatures, Healthy Kids Collaborative made it all the way out to Jupiter on the Southwest Path. Maybe appropriate, given that the average temperature on Jupiter is a frigid -234 degrees Fahrenheit…

3. “Round and round” by Grant Foster

Madison Bikes prez Grant chose a beautiful winter day to head out to the Fitchburg bike path crossing. So many winter paths, so little time.

4. “Queen of the Mountain” by Eleanor Conrad

Making a mountain out of a snow hill.

5. “Forward Wisconsin” by Ben Sandee

Sometimes the snow can disguise the Capitol dome, but Ben found it all the same!

Feel free to link to your personal favorite in the comments, or explore more of the submissions on Instagram.

How to get your finisher badge

If you’ve participated in the challenge and think you’ve earned a finisher badge (bike scout honor system!), please send an email to with your name and mailing address. We will mail you the badge once it is ready (please be patient; it’ll take a bit to produce them).

And rest assured: The challenge is going to return!

Bike News

Best of 2016 Blog Posts

Year One for Madison Bikes is coming to a close (don’t forget about our fundraising drive!). Here is our top ten of blog posts from 2016, in chronological order.

1. Madison Bikes Launches

Our organization officially launched during Bike Week in May! This was a big moment for us.

2. Biking with Out-of-Towners

We met Elysha at a Cap Times talk on biking in Madison. She told us how she loved her family’s car-light life in Madison and how she spread that love when they had friends visiting from out of town.

See the rest of the list after the break.

3. Ride the Drive

Ride the Drive is a highlight on Madison’s bike calendar. See the many pictures of happy people on bike that we took during the event.

4. Bike commuting in Madison: More stagnation

A less happy post: According to the annual Census numbers, the stagnation in bike commuting in Madison continues.

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

There are many ways in which citizens can make a difference and improve biking conditions in Madison. This posts showcases one such way.

6. Biking in Middleton – Turning Something Bad Into Something Good

Here’s another example of one person organizing the community and making a difference for people riding bikes in Middleton.

7. Urban Bike Adventures with Kids

Our board member Emily takes her family on urban (and sometimes rural) bike adventures year round. Read her tips and suggestions.

8. Winter Bike Photo Submissions

Leading up to the Winter Bike Fashion Show, we asked you to submit your favorite winter biking pictures. See some of the highlights in this post.

9. How to dress for winter

Jacob shares his tips for how to stay comfortable riding your bike during the cold season.

10. Winter Bike Fashion Show

The Fashion Show itself was a great success! Between Rob’s photos and Emily’s write-up, this blog post does a terrific job of documenting the event.

Special Category: Grant’s Calendar Round-ups

PBMVC, LRTPC, Open House, Master Plan, …. Keeping track of what’s going on with bike advocacy in any given week is hard. But thanks to Grant’s tireless efforts, every Monday since August we have published a concise digest of important events. The Calendar Review is on winter break but will return to the blog in January.

Bike News

Badger Herald reporting on Madison Bikes

View post on

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bike News

Bike commuting in Madison 2015: More stagnation

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

So what are the numbers for bike commuting in Madison? They’re pretty much exactly the same as in the previous year. Whereas between 2013 and 2014 there was a minor increase in bike commuting from 4.8 to 5.3% (well within the margins of error of the data), in 2015 it is still 5.3% of people who report that biking was their main means of getting to work. So for the seventh year in a row bike commuting in Madison has stagnated.

In some ways this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nationwide bike commuting has also stagnated for several years. So at a time when spending on road expansions continues while gas price hover barely above $2 per gallon, maybe we should be happy that commuting by bike hasn’t decreased. Some advocates in other cities have taken this position. For us at Madison Bikes that’s not an acceptable stance to take. The Bicycle Transportation Plan for the Madison metro area has an increase in the number of people cycling as one of its stated goal, and the city takes great pride in having received “Platinum” status as a bicycle-friendly community. Stagnating bike commuting rates for multiple years in a row therefore should be cause for alarm: What has been done and is being done to improve biking either isn’t working or isn’t enough.

Getting to a mode share of five percent is relatively easy, especially in a college town. Research originally done in Portland divides the population into four categories: “Strong and fearless” riders are those who will ride under almost any circumstances. This is a very small segment of the population. A slightly larger percentage can be characterized as “enthused and confident,” people who are willing to ride on unprotected on-street bike lanes, in mixed traffic on side streets with few cars, or Madison’s disjointed network of off-street bike paths. Taken together, these two groups make up about five to eight percent of the population. To get a bike mode share that goes beyond that, we need to tap in the group of “interested but concerned”–people who may ride a bike for recreation on a trail or during Ride the Drive, or someone who currently is not biking at all but is in principle interested.

To tap into this group real investments in infrastructure, along with incentives to active transportation and disincentives to driving need to happen. In Madison we do not see those major steps. Changes to biking infrastructure are incremental and piecemeal. Green paint on an intersection here, a widened but still unprotected bike lane there. But no protected bike lanes, no rebuild of horrible intersections such as the one at Machinery Row, and major street reconstruction projects, such as the one on Monroe Street, still prioritize on-street parking and car traffic throughput over safer and more convenient bike and pedestrian infrastructure. At the same time, driving and parking continue to be cheap and convenient. Let’s work together to make this change!

Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the data. And please stop by our Kickoff Party this Monday and tell us what you think needs to happen to make cycling grow again in Madison.

Bike News

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

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

But sometimes a little citizen activism is needed.

In the summer of 2015, 5th Element Coffee, a high-end coffee shop, opened in the mixed-use building at the corner of University and Highland. I’m a bit of a coffee geek, and so I was excited to bike over there and check out their offerings. The coffee did not disappoint, but the bike parking did: There were no racks in front of the shop, nor even in the general vicinity. One other biking customer had dealt with that by locking to a young tree, and I locked up to a traffic sign nearby. When I mentioned the lack of bike racks to one of the baristas, he acknowledged the problem. To move things forward, a couple days later I emailed the shop:

I love your shop and I love your coffee – and now it’s even better with the outdoor seating. What is missing, though, is a place for your customers to park their bikes. Just today I noticed three cyclists having to use traffic signs, streetlamps, and even a tree to lock up. You may already know this, but you can send a request to the city to install bike parking in front of your business, at no cost to you:
Thanks for looking into this!

A response followed quickly, and it was very positive:

Thank you so much for your business, but also for your concern and suggestion. I’ve taken your advice and submitted the request on the link you provided. I’ve also spoken with our City Alder, and she’s supportive of the idea.

We’ll do our best to get bike parking asap. In the meantime, thanks again for being our guest. If there’s ever anything I can do to make your visits more enjoyable, please let me know.

So far, so good. However, for the next ten months nothing more happened. I would get my coffee fix elsewhere, where bike parking was easier, and I was too busy with other things to follow up with the shop or the city. A couple weeks ago, though, I bike past 5th Element and spotted newly installed racks on the sidewalk! And not only were there racks in front of 5th Element, but also right next to the entrance of Oliver’s Public House, located in the same building.

One can argue that eight bike parking spots busy a coffee shop and pub is not a whole lot, and waiting almost a year for those to be installed is a long time. But hey, little victories still are victories. Have you successfully convinced a business to install bike parking? Do you know of locations that desperately need more bike parking? Share your stories in the comments.

Image: Current bike parking situation. Green are the newly installed racks. The rack in the back of Lombardino’s is wall-mounted and not very useful. Map: OpenStreetMap contributors, Harald Kliems

Bike News

Ride the Drive 2016: Our Favorite Moments

Ride the Drive is my favorite Madison bike event. For a few hours each year, what is usually a busy thoroughfare full of cars gets transformed into a quiet, peaceful space full of smiling people. Media reports and roadside signs before the event reported that “John Nolen Drive is closed to traffic,” but what those signs should have said is “John Nolen Drive is opened up to people.” This year I was unable to ride the drive myself because of a broken wrist. Instead I took pictures of happy people on bikes, unicycles, inline skates, … Enjoy and let us know what your favorite Ride the Drive moment was!

Bike News

Madison Bikes Needs You: Volunteer with Us!

Michael, one of our directors, volunteering during Bike Week

Madison Bikes is a young organization, and we’re run almost entirely by the volunteers on our board of directors. To become a sustainable and effective organization that can achieve our vision, we need your help. A bike advocacy organization requires many skills and people who are willing to contribute those skills and their time. If you would like to volunteer with us (or have questions about volunteering), please go to our volunteer sign-up form. We really appreciate your help, no matter whether it’s helping out for a single event or signing on as a longterm volunteer. We look forward to hearing back from you and already say thanks for your contribution. Please share this post with others who may be interested in working with Madison Bikes.

Bike News

Fitchburg Bike & Ped Plan: Open House July 21


The City of Fitchburg—currently ranked a “silver” Bicycle-Friendly Community—is updating their Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. The meeting will take place on July 21, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Kids Crossing Shelter at McKee Farms Park. If you can’t make it to the meeting, there is also a website with information about the plan and the opportunity to take a survey and provide input. Read the full announcement below.

Public Open House and Workshop – Update to City of Fitchburg Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan – July 21

6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Thursday, July 21

McKee Farms Park – Kids Crossing Shelter (just west of main park shelter, by Kids Crossing Playground)

Fitchburg has recently begun the process of updating its Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, to maintain and improve options for biking and walking in the City. A key component of the Plan update is to gather input and feedback from City residents and those that bike and walk in Fitchburg. As such, the City will be holding a public open house and meeting on Thursday, July 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the Kids Crossing Shelter at McKee Farms Park (The shelter is located just west of the main park shelter, by Kids Crossing Playground). The open house/workshop will consist of a short presentation at 6.00 p.m., followed by various opportunities to provide input and feedback.

Additionally, the City has other tools that can also be utilized to provide feedback on the Plan update, including a public opinion survey and an interactive map. The survey and map will be available until July 31.

Bike News

City Asks: Where to Invest in Bike Infrastructure?

Bad bike infrastructure

Where should the city invest in bike infrastructure in the coming budget period? That is the question that the Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Motor Vehicle Commission (PBMVC) is asking you. And we want to hear from you too, as well as provide guidance on how to maximize the impact of your suggestions. The meeting is already today, June 28 at 5:30pm, but you will have time to provide written input until July 8. Let’s start with the actual announcement from PBMVC:

The Madison Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission will hold a public hearing to receive comments on potential pedestrian and bicycle projects the City should consider undertaking in the 2017-2019 Capital Budgets to increase opportunities for walking and bicycling in Madison.

The intent of the public hearing is to hear suggestions for new capital (construction) projects. Please note that concerns about routine maintenance and operational issues can be directed to the appropriate agency or the City’s Report-a-Problem webpage

The hearing will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Room 260 of the Madison Municipal Building, 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. NOTE: If you need an interpreter, materials in alternate formats or other accommodations to access this meeting, please contact the Traffic Engineering Division at 608-266-4761. Please do so no later than 9:00 a.m. on the Thursday preceding the meeting so that proper arrangements can be made.

Written comments will also be accepted through Friday July 8, 2016, and should be addressed to the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission, c/o City Traffic Engineering Division, PO Box 2986, Madison WI 53701-2986, or email to

The results of the public hearing and written comments will be used to develop a list of projects to be considered for inclusion in the 2017-2019 construction work program.

Sounds slightly complicated, doesn’t it? What exactly is a “new capital (construction) project”? How much money are we talking about? What happens to your suggestions once they have been submitted to the PBMVC? Is sending your suggestions to PBMVC the most impactful way to improve biking?

Here’s our advice:

  • Any input is valuable. The only way that gaps in Madison’s bike infrastructure network will be addressed is if the city hears from you. So consider taking the time attending the meeting or submitting your comments in writing.
  • That said, there is no guarantee that your input will lead to action. One of our goals at Madison Bikes is to hold the city accountable for not merely asking for public input but actually transforming it into concrete action. One way to help with this to cc’ing your Alder in your email. You can look up your Alder and their contact information here.
  • Don’t assume that someone else has already made the same suggestion. Yes, most likely someone will send in input about the horrible intersection at John Nolen/Blair/Wilson/Williamson. But the more people voice their concern, the more likely it is that something will be done to fix it.
  • Consider including examples of what has worked well. If there is bike infrastructure that you think has worked well and should be considered elsewhere (e.g. bike-specific signals, turn restrictions, a buffered bike lane), mention it in your input.
  • Try to be specific. Instead of only saying “The intersection at John Nolen is a big mess,” consider adding detail, for example “When crossing from the Capital City path towards Machinery Row Bikes, you can’t make it across the intersection in one signal phase” or, “Drivers turning across the park into the Law Park parking lot frequently don’t pay attention to people cycling on the path.”
  • Don’t be afraid to think big. Yes, some projects may be “too expensive” or “not politically feasible” right now. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work on changing that.
  • Don’t be afraid to think small. Sometimes it’s a little thing that can make your and everyone else’s biking experience so much better. A missing curb cut, a traffic signal that doesn’t detect bikes, a bike lane that ends just half a block before a popular destination, …
  • If you have a friend, neighbor, co-worker, or family member who’s interested in biking but thinks it’s not safe enough, encourage them to provide input as well. It’s important to create facilities that people of all ages and all abilities feel comfortable on.

Here are some text snippets that you can use:

Dear PBMVC members, dear Alder [name]:

Thank you for asking the public for input on improving biking and walking in Madison.

I’d bike more if […]

A gap in the system that is a problem for me is [location].

A road that really needs better accommodations for cycling/walking is […]

I can’t get to [location] by bike because […]

There needs to be more bike parking in the following public areas [street, park, library, public building, etc.]

[Location] is an intersection/road that is hard to cross, and that keeps me from biking/walking.

Thank you for considering my suggestions.

[Name and full address]

Bike News

June 13: Monroe Street Reconstruction Meeting

Monroe St, Madison, WI (1/2)

Monroe Street will be reconstructed in 2017. On June 13 the first of a number of public meetings will take place, providing you an important opportunity to provide input early on in the process. The meeting will take place at the Wingra School Gymnasium (second floor), 718 Gilmore Street, from 7–⁠9 pm. Registration is recommended but optional.

Right now biking and walking on Monroe Street isn’t always a pleasant experience: Crosswalks are frequently ignored by people driving, sidewalks are narrow, and the lack of bike infrastructure makes people cycling either entirely avoid Monroe or ride on the sidewalk. Reconstructing Monroe Street provides an immensely important opportunity to rethink how space should be allocated on this important corridor. Providing input on what you want changed on Monroe at this early stage of decision making is crucial. The amount of right-of-way between buildings is limited, meaning that trade-offs will be necessary. So please attend this meeting and make sure that the new Monroe Street will become a better place.