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Happy Madison Bike Week 2020!

Madison Bike Week has begun. For the next eight days, we’ll celebrate biking, in a safe and fun way. Liz and Harald walk through the events on Madison Bike Week TV:

And check out the full schedule on the Madison Bike Week event page — we’ll keep updating things during the week. Which Madison Bike Week activities are you going to do this year?

Happy Madison Bike Week 2020!

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Bike News Weekly Update

Cedar St, new path on Anderson, Cap City detour — and Madison Bike Week!

It’s another week when it is hard to focus on biking issues. Police in Kenosha shot Jacob Blake, a Black man in the back. Seven times. Will this ever stop? Not if we don’t make it stop, through individual and collective action. As Governor Evers states: “While we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.” “Although we must offer our empathy, equally important is our action.” I encourage everyone in the Madison Bikes community to think about what actions you will take to dismantle anti-black racism and police brutality.

This Week

Some good news on the north side of town: The construction of a multiuse path and bike lanes on Anderson Street near Madison College is mostly complete. This project helps close a gap in our low-stress bike network between the Starkweather Path and the Reindahl Park Path. Unfortunately, the crossing of Stoughton Road was not improved as part of the project, as it’s under the control of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Anderson Street multiuse path and bike lane (Photo: Linda Larsen)

We mentioned the public input meeting about the new Cedar Street in last week’s update. I haven’t heard how that meeting went, but the topic will be back at the Transportation Commission on Wednesday. The questions in front of the commission is whether to have buffered bike lanes or “door zone” lanes next to on-street parking on this newly built street, and what the crossing of Park Street should look like. You can register to speak on the topic here, or submit written comment to pmcguigan@cityofmadison.com.

Also on Wednesday night, the new bridge for the Badger State Trail across McKee Road will be installed (weather permitting). It will still be a few weeks before construction is complete and the trail will reopen. I’ll try and be out there with my camera!

In other construction news: The Cap City Trail will be closed between Nob Hill Road and South Towne Drive for a sewer project. The closure is schedule to begin on August 26 and will approximately four weeks. Follow the detour signs.

Another stretch of the Cap City Trail will be closed starting September 1. For the final phase of its repaving, the section between Seminole Highway and the roundabout (Velo Underround) will be closed for a few weeks. Fortunately, there is a convenient detour via the Cannonball.

For a full construction update, subscribe to the City’s Bike Madison update emails.

Madison Bike Week

Madison Bike Week is going to be very different this year — as so many things. But we’re still committed to celebrating biking in Madison in all forms and shapes, this year from September 12-20. Save the date and stay tuned for more details.

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Bike News Weekly Update

Monday Update: Wilson St, Vision Zero, Traffic Calming

The resurfacing of the Southwest Path unfortunately got a little delayed by the heavy rains last week. It seems like the contractors were mostly done by Friday, but apparently some work remains to be done. Please respect the closure signs and follow the signed detours.

The old pavement was already ground off last Tuesday.

As of today, there is an extensive public health order in place that require everyone older than 5 to wear masks/face coverings when inside in Madison and Dane County. More and more people have also been biking with face masks, even though that is not required at this point. Madison Bikes is working on making masks and mask DIY kits available to the community — our custom fabric order has just shipped! Stay tuned for more details. Please follow this and all order public health orders to protect yourself and others.

Madison Bikes custom fabric

The new week starts of with the inaugural meeting of a new city subcommittee. The current process by which we/the City decide who does and doesn’t get traffic calming (most often in the form of speed bumps) has been problematic in several regard. Probably some of the readers of this post have tried to get speed bumps on their street, signed a petition in support or opposition, or have shown up to a public hearing on the topic. To fix some of the issues and develop a more systematic and equitable approach to traffic calming, the Traffic Calming Subcommittee was created. (Disclaimer: I’m one of its members). Tonight, Monday 5pm is the committee’s first meeting, and you can watch it online. The full agenda is available here–mostly administrative stuff such as selecting a chair and defining the scope and timeline of the work.

The Common Council meets on Tuesday. One important on the agenda: There will be a vote on the Vision Zero resolution that we mentioned in last week’s update. The Transportation Policy and Planning Board during their meeting last week added an important amendment to the initial resolution, which acknowledges that eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries (the goal of Vision Zero) must not come at the expense of racist traffic enforcement:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Vision Zero Action Plan will document the disproportionate effects of traffic enforcement and the impacts of traffic injuries and fatalities on people of color and that a plan is developed that works to reduce and eliminate those harms; and,

Other cities and organizations, such as Our Streets Minneapolis, the Vision Zero Network, or the Safe Routes Partnership have spoken out strongly about the dangers that traffic stops pose to Black people, Indigenous People, and People of Color, and Madison Bikes shares these concerns. A street on which you’re safe from traffic violence but not from police is not a safe street.

The Transportation Policy and Planning Board is back to a bi-monthly meeting schedule. On Wednesday, some of the items on the agenda are:

  • A presentation on the Department of Transportation’s (DoT) budget request. Our city’s budget is under tremendous financial strain, and we’ll have to see how the DoT is going to prioritize capital and operations expenses for the upcoming budget period. In times of budget crises, there is always a risk that investments in walking and biking will be cut back, even when they only make up a minuscule proportion of transportation spending when compared to the cost of car infrastructure
  • The Wilson Street Corridor Study will be on the agenda once more. We’re getting quite close to finalizing this important bike corridor, and the proposed designs look promising. You can read the full report here. One key recommendation is a two-way cycletrack on Wilson between Broom and Blair!
Screenshot from the Wilson Street Corridor Study, recommending a two-way cycletrack.


As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at info@madisonbikes.org to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.

Categories
Bike News Internal news

We have a new website!

People biking on John Nolen Drive, with an animation of the Madison Bikes URL

You may have noticed it already, but we have a new website! Our previous website was basically as old as our organization itself, and so it was time for a revamp. We hope you like the new site and can still find all the Madison bike(s) content you’re looking for! If you encounter any issues, have feedback or requests, just send an email to info@madisonbikes.org.

The new website has allowed us to create some additional content and made things more user friendly. For example, our Resources FAQ page is much easier to navigate, and we have a brand new map of all Dane County bike shops and outdoor repair stations.

Let’s give a big shout-out to the people who have made the new website possible:

Our awesome super volunteers Dan Stout and Ben Sandee have helped with a lot of the technical stuff that made the transition run smoothly. We didn’t just change the looks of the website, but we also changed the whole back-end. That was a lot of work, and we couldn’t have done it without Dan and Ben.

On our board, Kyle and Marybeth have been the leaders of the transition. They only joined the board this year but jumped right into the new website project, kept things on track, asked the hard questions (“what is the difference between ‘join’ and ‘sign up’…?”) and came up with the design of the site.

Thank you thank you thank you.

And as always, if you want to support our work, join us and donate!

Categories
Bike News

Madison ranked second best US biking city

People for Bikes, a bike-industry sponsored advocacy group, just released their annual Places for Bikes City Rating results. And Madison made second place, up from ninth in 2019! Any rating system is going to have strengths and weaknesses, but I like the the Places for Bikes data-driven approach. Let’s explore in more detail what the subcategories measure and how well Madison scores in each of them. The maximum score for each category is 5.

Safety

This category combines data about all traffic crashes, crashes involving injuring or killing people on bikes, as well as community perceptions of safety. Why include perceptions rather than just hard numbers on crashes? Because no matter how objectively safe a given piece of infrastructure is, if it feels unsafe, people won’t bike there. And crash data also won’t tell you anything about places that are so unsafe that people biking will just avoid them completely. Madison does very well when it comes to bike injuries and crashes, scoring 4.0 points, with overall crashes and perceptions of safety being somewhat lower (3.0 and 3.1). According to official crash data, in 2019 there were 13 serious injuries and 2 fatalities involving someone on a bike in all of Dane County (and no fatalities in the City of Madison). Of course we need to continue to work on eliminating all serious injuries and fatalities, but it’s also important to remind ourselves that overall biking is a pretty safe activity in Madison.

Ridership

The ridership score is calculated from three different measure of how many people actually bike how often in a community. The American Community Survey by the US Census provides numbers on how many people regularly bike to work. As commute trips only account for a small share of people’s overall trips, data from two other, smaller surveys provide additional information on ridership, including recreational riding. Our overall score in this category is 3.0, placing us in 11th place nationwide.

Acceleration

This is a measure on how quickly biking is improving in a city. Based on data submitted by the city itself, for example on the growth in miles of bike lanes, racks, bike parks, or attendees at events like Madison Bike Week, and by respondents to the Community Survey, a score is calculated. Madison gets a 3.2 based on the city data and 3.5 based on community perceptions.

Network

The “Bicycle Network Analysis” (BNA) is one key piece of the work that Places for Bikes has been doing: For each city, they take every street and assign it a bicycle traffic level of stress score based on the characteristics of a street, for example whether it is a residential street or an arterial, what the speed limit is, and whether it has bike facilities or not. All the streets and paths rated as low-stress then make up a city’s low-stress network, and in a second step, the analysis looks at how well that network connects people with where they need to bike to, for example libraries, shops, or centers of employment. Madison’s BNA score is 49.8, with the top US city having a score of 88. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the cities that scores higher than us is Sun Prairie…

A smaller proportion of the overall network score is based on survey results about people’s perception of the bike network quality. Taken together, Madison gets a network score of 3.1.

Reach

Madison’s lowest is in the Reach category. Reach is a measure of “how well the the bike network serves everyone equally.” It is measured in two ways: One looks at the gender split in bike commuting, as measured by the American Community Survey. If as many or more women than men bike, this is seen as an indicator of a high-quality, comfortable biking city. Madison gets 3.0 points in this category, as about 6% of men and 3.5% of women regularly bike to work.

The other Reach measure looks at Census blocks that have a higher concentration of traditionally underserved populations, for example a large proportion of people of color or low-income residents. The quality of the low-stress bike network in those areas is then compared with the rest of the city’s network. This is the category where Madison does worst, with only 2.2 points. If you look at the BNA map, you see that there are still many areas of the city that have low scores. And some of those areas are those where underserved populations live, for example on the North Side around Northport Drive, or along Park St. More work is to be done to provide safe and comfortable bike access equitably.

So is Madison truly the second best biking city?

I’m sure one could make good arguments for and against any specific score and sub-score. But what is indisputable is that Madison is indeed one of the best biking cities in the US. Let’s celebrate that, and then get back to the hard work of making it better faster and for more people. There is a lot of room for growth in each of the categories.

Categories
Bike News

Weekly Update: New rider panel video, Cedar St, MPO meeting

It’s the first week of June. In a normal year, yesterday you would have enjoyed Ride the Drive, and this morning you’d have visited your first Bike Station to start into Madison Bike Week. But this year is anything but normal. There is still a little hope that we’ll be able to do Madison Bike Week in some form or shape in September this, but it’s hard to make predictions. We’ll keep you posted.

Last week City Engineering hosted a public meeting about Cedar, South, High Streets and W Wingra Drive. This area will be redeveloped, with new housing, a SSM Health clinic, and a new grocery store. You can find the meeting presentation here. From a bike perspective, there were questions about the proposed bike facilities on the new portion of Cedar Street: There will be painted bike lanes, but on one side of the street they will be next to on-street parking, creating a “door zone bike lane.” Another question raised was about the median island on Park Street, meant to prevent through traffic on Cedar Street. One resident pointed out that this would make it more difficult for people walking and biking to get across Park St.

On Friday, the City of Madison hosted a virtual panel discussion, “When I started biking.” The pandemic has motivated a lot of people to either get back on the bike or start biking for the first time. If you missed the video (or know a new rider who may be interested), a recording is available on our Facebook page. Thanks to Pepe Barros, one of our former board members and now a City employee, for organizing the panel:

On Wednesday, the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (also known as “the MPO”) is meeting virtually. One agenda item is a presentation of the recently adopted Dane County Climate Action Plan. Transportation is one important topic in the report, as emissions from that sector account for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in our county. A lot of the report talks about electric vehicles, but there is also an acknowledgment that vehicle miles traveled need to be reduced as well. It’s good see mention of phenomena like induced demand (where building new or expanded highways leads to more driving, not congestion relief), and the need for regional transit, better land use, and active transportation. Full meeting agenda and materials here.


Screenshot from the Climate Action Plan

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at info@madisonbikes.org to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.

Categories
Bike News

A difficult post to write

Madison Bikes is a bike advocacy organization, and I was scheduled to write one of our weekly posts “about all things bike in Madison.” But on a day like today, I find it difficult to care and write much about this city meeting or that “open street.” (we’ll still have a weekly update tomorrow). I’m full of grief and anger. The following is a personal post and not a Madison Bikes position statement.

In Minneapolis, a city not far from Madison, police officers killed a black man, George Floyd. And George Floyd’s death is only one in an unbearably long list of Black people killed by police. And let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen in Madison. In 2015 a Madison Police Department officer killed Tony Robinson, an unarmed black teenager.

What does this have to do with bikes? Madison Bikes has a vision of a city where anyone can bike conveniently and comfortably to any place in the city. But who is that “anyone”? “Convenient and comfortable” for whom? Is a “protected bike lane” or an “open street” truly protected or open for people for Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) — like Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while out for a run? Is Vision Zero, the idea to eliminate all serious injuries and fatalities in the transportation system, worthwhile if it relies on police enforcement, which has been shown again and again to be racially biased, and too often ends up with a BIPOC person dead or arrested?

I grapple with these and similar questions a lot, in my personal activism, my role as a member of the city’s Transportation Commission, and of course in my role as president of Madison Bikes. And part of finding answers is to try to listen to and learn from those for whom these questions are less abstract than me. No matter how uncomfortable that may be. In that spirit, I will share some recent writings.

Our Streets Minneapolis (formerly the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition) issued this “Statement on George Floyd, white supremacy, and our work.”

Confronting Power and Privilege” by Tamika Butler (Director of Equity and Inclusion at Toole Design)

How do we make sure open streets are truly open for everyone” by Courtney Cobbs of Streetsblog Chicago

A Tale of Two Truths: Transportation and in the Time of COVID-19” by Ariel Ward

Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights” by Professor Gretchen Sorin (there’s also podcast episode about the book)

Categories
Bike News

Weekly Update: The streets are open; Garver Path

Happy Earth Day! This year marks the 50th anniversary of the worldwide day to celebrate environmental protection. The Nelson Institute at the UW (named after Gaylord Nelson, the Wisconsin Senator who created Earth Day) is hosting a virtual conference to mark the occasion today: https://earthday.nelson.wisc.edu/

Another thing to celebrate: As of last Friday, the City has started opening up some of our city streets to people walking, rolling, and biking! By restricting motor vehicle traffic to only local traffic, people now have the space they need to maintain physical distancing. More projects, including Atwood Ave, are in the pipeline already, and the City is asking for suggestions which streets would make good additional candidates. Send your suggestions by email! Another improvement in this area is the creation of new gravel shoulders on the Cap City Trail in Law Park. Work on these is starting today (April 20) and will last about three days. Thanks to everyone who helped to make this happen! If you live outside the City of Madison and would like to convince your local officials to do something similar, consider signing the Bike Fed’s statewide petition.

And if you’re a healthcare worker, you can get a free Madison BCycle membership. With reduced Metro Service, the BCycle system is an even more important part of our transportation system, and the stations are regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Interested in reading books about biking and talking about them? Madison Bikes is hosting a virtual book club! Sign up here by April 27 and vote for which book you’d like to read. Candidates are:

Common Council Meeting

All transportation-relevant city committee meetings have been cancelled this week with the exception of the Common Council meeting on Tuesday. There are three transportation topics on the agenda: The Council will vote on the final design for the Garver Path. This new path will connect the Cap City Trail near Olbrich Gardens with Milwaukee Street — and at some point in the future maybe with a new trail to Sun Prairie. Path construction will probably take place next year.

Also on the agenda for approval is the University Ave reconstruction between Shorewood Blvd and University Bay Dr. From a bike perspective, there is little to be excited about with the project: By and large the reconstruction won’t change the character of the car-centric street: All three travel lanes will remain general travel lanes, with no bike or bus lanes. There are some improvements for people walking, i.e. a new sidewalk on the north side, a slightly widened sidewalk on the south side, and a few small improvements to the crossings. One piece of the project that could be good for people on bikes: A planned overpass of University Bay Drive, connecting the Campus Dr bike path with the Blackhawk Path. This is currently a busy at-grade crossing. Additional turn lanes from University Ave and a parking ramp that the VA Hospital is going to build will make crossing even more difficult. Therefore an overpass is proposed as part of the project (see image below). Because of space constraints (part of the land is owned by the VA), the current design includes sharp turns and a lack of good connections between the path and University Bay Dr. And even the current design isn’t guaranteed to be built as part of the current project.

The third transportation item on the agenda is the confirmation of the new Metro Transit General Manager, Justin Stuehrenberg. Stuehrenberg was heavily involved in Indianapolis’s bus network redesign and creation of their Bus Rapid Transit System. In a profile article, he cites a trip to Germany in 2007 as his inspirational moment: “Seeing cities in rural Germany with much lower density than Indianapolis operating robust transit systems struck a chord for me. I saw young kids able to navigate their cities, older adults not reliant on others, and everyone, regardless of economic status, with the ability to get to work. I knew that I wanted that for Indy.”

If you want to provide public comment to the Common Council, register here. Full meeting agenda here.

As always, you can find an overview of all bike events on our Community Bike Calendar. Email us at info@madisonbikes.org to add your events. And if you value our newsletter and other work, consider donating to Madison Bikes. For construction updates, check out the city’s Bike Madison page.

Categories
Bike News

Creating space for people during COVID-19

Walking, rolling, and biking remain important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Madisonians need to have enough space to stay mobile while being able to maintain physical distancing. This has become increasingly difficult. Yesterday, Madison Bikes submitted a letter to the City, requesting the creation of more space for people by re-allocating underused space from cars. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have been way down, and this provides an opportunity to restrict motor vehicle access and open up room for those walking, rolling, and biking. Of course, City resources are strained, and so we also offered our help. We can leverage the power of our community to mobilize volunteers, connect to local businesses who can provide barriers, gather feedback from and get messages out to the community. And we have already heard back that “Mayor Satya has directed staff look into these opportunities and we are working on some potential projects. Some top locations suggested by you coincide with our recommendations as well. We hope to share more information and potentially implement some of these very soon.” Read our letter below:

To: Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway
Tom Lynch, Director of Transportation
Yang Tao, City Traffic Engineer

Subject: Creating Space for Rolling, Walking, and Biking During COVID-19

Dear Madam Mayor, dear Tom, dear Yang:
The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous challenges for our city that impact almost every aspect of daily life, including transportation. Governor Evers’s Safer at Home orders and current recommendations from our public health authorities allow people to use the many shared use paths in our city while practicing physical distancing. Madison has many people who already commute and travel to essential businesses by bicycle, and reduced Metro service has further increased the number of people who rely on bikes for transportation. The warmer weather has also increased the number of people using these paths and trails for walking and other activities to the point that it is becoming difficult to impossible to use these facilities while maintaining the required physical distance.

We greatly appreciate the measures you have already taken, such as changing signal cycles, deactivating “beg buttons,” and public outreach campaigns to promote safe and healthy behavior. However, there are limits to what those measures can achieve. We encourage the City of Madison to identify select streets and lanes where motor vehicle traffic can be restricted in order to alleviate crowding on sidewalks and multi-use paths.

Madison Bikes, on behalf of our hundreds of members and thousands of people who use bikes for transportation or recreation in our City, request that you take bold steps to address the crowding on our paths and trails. Allowing crowding on our paths and trails is inconsistent with the recommendations of public health professionals, and closing or banning the use of the trails is inconsistent with our community’s values toward equity, sustainability, and the health benefits of walking and biking. Fortunately Madison has extensive experience closing streets and car lanes so that bikes and pedestrians can use this public space, from the annual Ride the Drive events to our frequent marathons, triathlons and other public events.

Some areas that we have received specific feedback about and that we think may be good candidates for temporary closures:

  • Cap City Trail from Williamson North Shore (and potentially Olin Park): To separate people on bikes and walking, repurpose a travel lane on John Nolen Drive, similar to what has been done during construction and flooding. Crowding is a huge issue here, it is an important transportation corridor, and there are no good alternative routes
  • Vilas Park Dr and Arboretum Dr: These low traffic routes would be easy to block off and increase the availability of park and recreation space
  • Atwood Avenue: Sidewalks are narrow, the parallel Cap City Trail is crowded, and adjacent park land reduces parking and driveway access issues
  • Outer Capitol Loop: Consider maintaining the time-restricted bike lane all day
  • Areas without a terrace between sidewalk and the roadway, or where sidewalks do not exist at all
  • Access routes to hospitals and medical facilities
  • Multi-lane roadways that have excess capacity for moving or parked vehicles
  • Areas of the city with a high proportion of transit-dependent residents

Madison Bikes is prepared to help in this effort. We understand that you face constraints in terms of staff time, availability of materials, and competing priorities. As an all-volunteer non-profit dedicated to making Madison a community where anyone can ride a bicycle conveniently and comfortably to any place year round, we want to do our part. In the past Madison Bikes and our strong community have been a part of many efforts to promote and encourage people to bike even during difficult times. Madison Bikes has helped to identify impacted bike facilities and alternate routes during the 2018 flooding as well as working with the City and our partners on community-wide events like Madison Bike Week. We offer our assistance in identifying the paths, trails, and routes most impacted by crowding and working with our partners to find local equipment and volunteers to deploy street and lane closures. We have already begun to identify potential partners who can provide barricades and traffic cones used for events such as the Madison Marathon and are ready to offer the same volunteer force we have used at previous events. We will continue to work closely with you to amplify public health messaging about safe and healthy behaviors. We look forward to helping Madison respond to COVID-19 and address our short and long-term needs for healthy and safe transportation options.

Respectfully,

Harald Kliems, on behalf of the Madison Bikes Board of Directors

Categories
Bike News

Is my local bike shop still open?

UPDATE 3/27: In collaboration with the Bike Fed, we’re now offering information for the whole state. Please go here for a map of all shops.

A bike parked in front of the Cargo Bike Shop

That’s a question that many Madisonians may have been asking themselves. With reduced Metro bus service, many of us are relying on our bikes for transportation or exercise. Bike shops are essential in keeping us going. San Francisco mayor London Breed just today clarified that bike shops are considered “essential services” just as much as car repair shops:

Screen cap of tweet by London Breed: "Clarification for those who have asked: just as auto repair shops are considered essential so people can conduct essential travel, so are bicycle repair shops and mobile bicycle repair companies..."

So what’s the situation in Madison? Our board member and VP Heather put together this handy spreadsheet about the current status of the many bike shops in Madison. As far as we know, most of them are open at least in some capacity and with certain public health safety restrictions in place. We will update the spreadsheet as we receive new information from shop staff, owners, or patrons. Shoot us an email at info@madisonbikes.org or put a comment in the spreadsheet if you have any updates.

https://www.madisonbikes.org/bike_shop_status

Be safe, and support your local bike shop!

For local information about COVID-19, go to the Dane County Public Health website: https://www.publichealthmdc.com/coronavirus