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Weekly Update

New bridge, new city position, and new BCycle station

New Badger State Trail bridge over McKee Rd
The new Badger State Trail bridge over McKee Rd. Photo: Harald Kliems

Well, the students are back in town, and as usual, there is a steep learning curve for them as to how to behave on the streets, trails, sidewalks, and other public spaces. But this year there is the added adventure of social distancing. We all need to be patient as the new residents learn our ways. Try to slow down a bit, announce your passing movements way early, and expect the unexpected as you ride through the downtown and campus. It happens every year, but we all need a little extra space and kindness this year. Try to be generous and gentle.

The past week

The new Badger Trail bridge over McKee Road  is up, but it’s not open yet. In a couple of weeks, we’ll let you know when there is a grand opening. This will make crossing the road so much more comfortable for everyone — no stopping at the intersection, no confusion with the flashing lights, and no wondering if the drivers are going to yield. 

And after many years of work and some obstruction by a few local communities, the first official US Bike Route in Wisconsin has been approved by Wisconsin DOT and Adventure Cycling. Madison Bikes Board member Robbie Webber worked on mapping this route over a decade ago, but there were a few bumps along the way before it was official. Although many Wisconsinites may already know many of these links, it’s great to have a route from the Mississippi River (at Winona, MN) to Lake Michigan (the ferry dock in Milwaukee) officially published. This is part of USBR 30, which will run coast to coast, but each state needs to approve the exact route in their state.

map of US Bike Route 30 in Wisconsin

The city is stepping up their game when it comes to outreach and education for not just bicycling and walking, but also driving. The previous position was principally devoted to doing bike and pedestrian safety presentations at schools and community meetings when someone specifically requested it, and the job has been vacant for a few years. The new person will have a different title and the job will be more proactive in its focus. You can read the memo explaining the changes here, but in general this looks like a positive development. No job posting yet, since this is just the authorization to create a new position.

And we have a new BCycle station! It’s at Breese Stevens Field, and sure to be popular when we can go back to gatherings, concerts, and Flamingos games. This location has been requested by a lot of people, and will fill a critical gap in the station network, since it’s close to so much of the new development and destinations. You can also check out a new type of station — one without kiosks! Check out their Twitter announcement

The week ahead

Monday

Monday at 5 pm, the Transportation Planning and Policy Board will meet. There are a few changes to neighborhood plans, a discussion of the Residential Parking Permit Program and Resident-only Parking Program (discussion only), and some possible modifications to the BRT Local Prefered Alternative involving possible center-running sections (as opposed to using the right lane). This last item could affect bike facilities on some sections of the route. 

Wednesday

On Wednesday at 6:30 pm, the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (MPO) will meet. They will be holding a public hearing on the Transportation Implementation Plan, which governs the projects that the MPO might fund for the next five years. This plan is updated every year, but it gives us a good idea what their plans are for major projects throughout the metropolitan area. The TIP won’t be approved until the October 7 meeting, but there doesn’t appear to be a link to the document itself. (Not great public access, IMHO.)

Don’t forget….

And of course, don’t forget that Bike Week will be starting up on Sept 12. We’ll have more information on that in a separate post, but we WILL have activities, even though not the kind we all love where we get to socialize and hang out. If your business, club, organization, or work place would like to host an event, discount, promotion, or other activity, you can submit it now to get it on our Bike Week calendar (which will be up soon.)

In the meantime, you can join the Madison Bikes group for Cycle September at the Love To Ride site. Even if you are on a team at work, you can join our group as a club/organization. We will have some special prizes awarded in a drawing for group members, so, yeah, that’s an incentive.

Categories
Bike News

Besides a great week to ride, what’s up this week?

With the heat temporarily behind us—it’s coming back this weekend—we have a great week to get out and ride. We rely on you, our followers and members, to help us know both what’s good about our biking network and what needs to be changed. Our Facebook Group Community is an invaluable resource for both you and us. Although we know that there are still many gaps in our network (we’re working on that) and many places where the infrastructure could be better—places where some may feel comfortable, but others don’t—we also know that more people are biking every day, and we love to see the success stories as well.

I just got back from a little getaway to give myself some relief from the same scenery. I drove to my destination in the UP, and passed through a number of Wisconsin communities that tout their great biking environment. Yet the infrastructure I saw would not be appropriate for families, timid riders, people just getting back on their bikes after decades away, or middle school students trying out their independence. (OK, the kids might be willing to ride on a busy road with just a painted bike lane, but their parents would probably veto the idea.) Whenever I go away, I come back appreciative of the wonderful bike environment we have and heartened by the number and variety of riders I see on the streets.

We know that there is still much to do—we want everyone to feel comfortable biking anywhere, at any time, all year—but sometimes I think we have to pause to appreciate the community we have built, both the human community and the physical community.

What’s up this week?

One of the reasons I thought I should wax on about Madison is that there isn’t much on the calendar, and the Monday update would be pretty short.

Tuesday

The Council will be considering the plan for the former Oscar Mayer site. The Plan Commission has recommended a development plan that went through a thorough vetting with many community groups (including low-income and communities of color, a process led by a wonderful community group) and provides an opportunity to build dense, walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly housing. Part of the property is being preserved as a park, but there are proposals to make this park much larger, an idea that has been opposed by the Parks Department. They do not think there is a need for a larger park, and do not have the funds to develop and maintain the larger site.

Why should bicyclists care? Because if the housing is not built here, it will be pushed out to the periphery, to less multimodal-friendly sites. More habitat will be destroyed on the edge of town, and our biking environment will suffer.

You can register to speak or submit a letter to the Council. Instructions are here.

Wednesday

The Transportation Committee will meet. They will be considering the Cedar Street intersection with Park St. If you can’t picture the location, it’s that weird one where Cargo Coffee is located. More importantly, it’s where the new grocery store for the area will be built, so it’s important that people be able to safely cross Park St. At present, Cedar does not continue across Park St, but it will when that parcel is redeveloped. The crossings proposed were not very good for either pedestrians or bicyclists, so we are hoping a better design is presented.

A proposal will be presented at the meeting to add buffered bike lanes to Cedar St, but there is the perennial conflict with on-street parking, in this case to serve the grocery store. (Personal aside: Aren’t they building parking when the store is built? Why should we sacrifice infrastructure for those walking and biking in order to provide parking for a commercial building?)

Also note that the committee is considering changes to the traffic calming program. A subcommittee has been meeting, and they aren’t ready to present a report, but we’ll be keeping an eye on that.

Down the Bikes—a program run by former MB board member Pepe Barros—will be doing free bike check up at 2613 Stevens St (my driveway) from 8-11 am. They’ll check your bike and see if repairs are needed. If there is time, you can have them do the repairs. We did this last week, and it was very popular. The program runs on a pay-what-you-can model. If you are able to pay for the repairs, or if you just want to make a contribution when they check out your bike, that will enable them to provide services across the community to people who aren’t able to pay.

Also on the horizon

Don’t forget that there is a state primary election coming up on August 11. For some areas, because of a heavily-Democratic electorate and/or a lack of a Republican candidate, this election will likely determine who will be your state representative or senator.

Absentee ballots can be requested and you can check to be sure your registration is up to date at MyVoteWI.gov. You can also get information on who’s running, where you polling place it located, and all sorts of other useful information.

Your vote is important. Ask questions. And make sure the candidates know you can about transportation issues and how our state money is spent. If you live in Madison, you can also find out about in-person absentee voting, drive-up absentee voting, and all the information you need to vote at the City Clerk’s website. (They always need poll workers too, so you can sign up for that on the Clerk’s website as well.)

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

Weekly update: Biking, urban design, and social upheaval

This image just feels like the last ten days

The protests and other upheavals of the last ten days may seem to have little to do with bicycling, or transportation in general, but as Harald pointed out last week, racial politics and equity is core to our organization as we try to build a city where everyone can bike everywhere. It’s not just about infrastructure; it’s also about personal comfort and safety for those who may be at risk regardless of what mode of travel they are using. But better infrastructure and urban design can create spaces where traffic enforcement is less needed. When slow speeds and sharing of the public spaces—including our transportation spaces—is more natural and easy, we need fewer police to tell people to yield or slow down. This means fewer interactions between road users and the police.

In my day job working on transportation issues, my project at the UW partners with Smart Growth America, an organization that works with communities across the country to build communities where everyone can “enjoy living in a place that is healthy, prosperous, and resilient.” They care about the same issues as we do at Madison Bikes, and the president put out a statement you might want to check out.

What’s happening this week?

Back here in Madison, the week ahead is pretty quiet in regards to city meetings that might impact bicycling or transportation in general.

A Transportation Commission meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, but it has been cancelled. The next scheduled meeting is 6/24.

If you are out on a longer ride, Bombay Bicycle Club has been crowd sourcing locations for water and bathroom stops. It’s been hard to find a place to either get hydration or take a “bio break” now that lots of places are closed or only available for take-out. Check out the map and add information, if you have it.

The Dane County Bike Map has been updated and is now available (or will be soon) in bike shops and other outlets. You can view it on the Madison Area MPO’s website or look for a copy in stores (and libraries, visitor’s centers, etc. when they open again.)

As per usual, there were some interesting conversations over on our Facebook Community. Also, there’s still time to read the current book club selection, How Cycling Can Save the World by Peter Walker as part of our virtual book club. The discussion will be this Friday from 7pm to 9pm with more details to come on exactly how to participate.

In case you didn’t catch the article in the paper or posted on Facebook, Free Bikes 4 Kids has shifted its focus this year to providing bikes to frontline workers. They are still getting bikes into the hands or kids as well, but couldn’t do the big mass give away because of the pandemic and the need to social distance. They are working with community groups to distribute the kids bikes. I think it’s great that they are trying to get bikes into the hands of those who need transportation or just a way to blow off steam.

Our Facebook group has seen a lot of new people asking questions about how and where to ride. We are very excited to see new people asking for advice. I hope everyone who reads this can be a mentor to someone just getting back on their bike or trying to bike more and to more places, whether they want to ride for transportation, fun, exercise, stress relief, recreation, tourism, or sport. I also love this video that assures new riders that there is no “right” way to ride and tells experienced bicyclists to “not screw this up” by making newbies feel they aren’t good enough. Bike sales are up all over the country, and having more people pedaling is great news.

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

Action alert: Interchange planned for SE side will create bike-ped barrier

A big, very expensive ($35 million) interchange is planned for the intersection of Hwy 12/18 and County Hwy AB, and it has the potential to create yet another barrier to walking and biking in an area already nearly impossible to reach without a car. It is up for approval on Tuesday at the Council, and a few well-placed letters to alders and our transportation officials might avert this horrible project, or at least delay it long enough to make it more multimodal.

The project will be at the Transportation Planning and Policy Board on Monday evening and the Common Council for final approval on Tuesday evening. Links will access documents, register to speak, submit comments, and/or watch the meetings.

Where is this intersection? Unless you frequent the Ho-Chunk Casino or regularly drive to Cambridge, it’s easy to overlook this corner of the city. A map below shows you where in the city the project is located: ESE of the intersection of Interstates 90/39 and Hwy 12/18 (aka the Beltine.) To the south of Hwy 12/18 is the Ho-Chunk Casino and the Yahara Hills golf course, and to the north is a lightly-developed area that will likely be filling in as the city expands.

The current surface crossings of Hwy 12/18 at Millpond Rd and Cty AB have been the site of several very bad crashes, including a pedestrian killed last fall. But a better solution might be to make Hwy 12/18 a better surface road instead of making it an extension of the Beltline.

Wisconsin DOT has stated that, “there would be [bicycle and pedestrian] accommodations through the interchange, potentially along CTH AB, and along the frontage road. There would be side paths through the roundabouts.” In the future there is the possibility of a dedicated grade-separated bike/pedestrian crossing, and Meier Rd–west of Cty AB–will eventually also be an available crossing, but neither of those projects are part of this construction. It is unclear how low-stress the planned facilities will be on AB or through the interchange, and we know that “planned” projects often take years, or even decades to come to fruition.

The Yahara Hills golf course sits just west of the proposed new interchange. It will likely be developed soon into residential or mixed-use development. The Ho-Chunk nation wants to expand their facilities and is contributing some funding for the interchange project. Both of these impending developments are just more reason to assure that there are appropriate active transportation facilities and access now rather than at some uncertain future date. Not to mention, crossing at Cty AB is quite a detour if one is trying to reach the current land uses that are closer to the interstate.

Although Wisconsin no longer has a Complete Streets law, the city of Madison does, as does the Madison Area MPO. We must make sure that we uphold those policies, even when the project is difficult. The entire project is anticipated to cost $37 million. Why are we willing to spend that sort of money to facilitate faster motor vehicle access, but not the minimum facilities for those on foot and bike?

If you want more detailed information, here is a link to the presentation included as part of the city documents, including more detailed maps. And the text in this document—also part of the packet for the two city meetings—has justifications (if you can call them that) for both building the interchange and why better connections for active transportation are not part of the current project.

As always, you can find your alder and contact information on the Council website.

Categories
Bike News

Weekly update: Lots of people biking, but not many city meetings

If anyone was out this weekend—by any mode—you probably saw a whole lot of people out biking. It is such a joy to see families and slow bicyclists on the streets, trails, and even the sidewalks. When a city has people of all ages and abilities using the public spaces, then it is a good clue that the city is bike friendly.

But how to accommodate all those people when we are supposed to be keeping farther apart? City staff have taken steps to give us more space, and some of the authorized temporary biking and walking spaces have been put in place. The new lane on Atwood near Olbrich Park, barricades to prevent all-but-local vehicular traffic on the Mifflin bike boulevard, and wider shoulders for runners or passing on the Lake Monona Path through Law Park are going to be a big relief to folks. But there are still so many pinch points where runners, strollers, dog walkers, and fast and slow bicyclists are forced into proximity.

The city is asking for your opinion about additional areas that need more space. Where are you seeing problems on your regular rides or in your neighborhood?

If you can—if you are a confident bicyclist—consider taking a different route via local streets rather than the paths as the weather warms and more people haul their bikes out of storage. The families and less-experienced bicyclists, as well as those on foot, will appreciate the consideration and additional space.

Want to know when the paths are less crowded? Here’s some data from the counters and the SW Path at Monroe and Regent and the Lake Monona Path at North Shore:

Is it possible some of these changes will stay after people go back to work, stores open up, and there is more car traffic on the roads? Hard to say. But there is already a plan–passed before the current situation–to improve the stretch of Atwood next to Olbrich Park. You can see the plans below, or take a look at all the city documents online.

The week ahead

In case you missed the memo, all city meetings are happening online, but you can still register to speak, listen in, and see all the documents. There aren’t any transportation-related meetings this week, as the Transportation Commission meeting has been cancelled. Just in case you want to watch a city meeting, you can find the schedule, agendas, and links on the city’s website.

Our monthly Madison Bikes Community Meeting—which would normally happen on Monday, April 27—is being postponed two weeks. We will be rolling out more advocacy efforts, and we want you to participate. After all, it’s our members, followers, and volunteers that make us strong, and we can’t do it without you. So mark your calendar for Monday, May 11 for the advocacy-oriented Community Meeting. We’ll give you all the details about how to participate.

Now that construction season is upon us, we will have to contend with some detours. With construction on McKee Rd (Cty Hwy PD)–including a new bridge for the trail over the road–there will be a detour for the Badger Trail starting Monday from the Bicycle Underound (junction of Cap City, SW, Cannonball, and Badger Trails) to Subzero Parkway. The detour will utilize the Cannonball/Military Ridge Trail and local streets and will be signed. PDFs of the detour are available on our Facebook Community Group. Because the intersection of Seminole Hwy and McKee is also part of the project, Seminole might not be a great option in that area either.

Also Monday, if you want to hear what cities around the country are doing to give people more space during the pandemic, the National Complete Streets Coalition will be holding a webinar at 12:30 pm CT.

For the future – virtual biking-themed bookclub!

Thank you to everyone who showed interest in our virtual bookclub! We will kick off the bookclub by reading How Cycling Can Change the World by Peter Walker. If you are interested in participating, contact Marybeth McGinnis (marybeth@madisonbikes.org). We will meet on Thursday, May 21 at 7pm. More info to come – please join us!

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

Weekly update: Biking in the time of social distancing and teleworking

Whether you are working at home and going stir crazy, or headed to work but nervous about the bus, your bike is your best tool. Not only do you control your own transportation and know where all parts have been, but we all need some stress relief from the scary news and constantly-changing warnings. And being outdoors and physically active is just a great thing for both physical and mental health. Whether you are a year-round commuter or usually wait until “spring” to get back on your bike, now is a great time to make sure your bike is in working order and go for a spin.

Just like during the spike in gas prices in 2008, stories are popping up about people using bike share or pulling out their dusty bike and pumping up the tires to have another way to get to work instead of crowded (and maybe germy) transit. Those of us reading this update are hopefully a bit ahead of the curve and our bikes are ready to go.

The past week

Before everyone was sent home and events cancelled, I attended an event for donors at the Pinney Library. The new library is such a great location, right off the Isthmus Path, and there is lots of covered bike parking and a bike repair station –⁠ with the Madison Bikes logo showing that you all pitched in to help raise money for the library.

One other recent development is that the BCycles are back out. So if don’t have your bike with you, it needs a little spring work, or a friend is joining you after getting downtown another way, you can now grab one of those sweet e-bikes and get some fresh air.

The week ahead

As you can imagine, the weekly calendar is going to be pretty short this week. There aren’t any city meetings of note this week, and most community events are cancelled. There wasn’t much on the calendar anyway, as it happens, and most city meetings will be delayed or cancelled. Those that are happening will likely be done remotely, although it’s unclear how public involvement will happen.

One item of note was the Monday lecture by Dr Robert Schneider of UW-Milwaukee, “How to Increase Walking and Bicycling: Mode Shift Theory and Supporting Studies.” It’s been cancelled, but will be rescheduled for the fall.

The Madison Bikes Board of Directors is meeting on Monday at 6:00 pm, but we will be doing so online instead of at the central library.

Also, the Traffic Skills 101 class scheduled for Saturday on the UW campus –⁠ a prerequisite to take the League of American Bicyclists training to become a League Cycling Instructor –⁠ has also been cancelled. We’ll update you when that has been rescheduled. Besides being a requirement to become an LCI, the Traffic Skills 101 is a great class for someone wo either wants to feel more comfortable on different types of infrastructure –⁠ everything from paths to bike lanes, small streets, and even roads with a bit more traffic –⁠ or your friends, family, and colleagues that don’t feel comfortable biking on the street now.

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

The polar vortex can’t stop us!

Last week

Of course, our Winter Bike Anywhere Day and our commuter stations had to be on the coldest day of the year –⁠ this past Friday. All the media outlets made it sound like stepping outside would mean certain injury or death, but despite the cold, we had a hardy crew visit both of our commuter stations: one outdoors in Law Park and the other in the toasty lobby of HotelRED.

Thanks to our sponsors, volunteers, and all the people who came by to say hello, share a cup of coffee, or grab a snack. We love seeing you, even if your beards, eyelashes, and face masks are covered in frost.

The week ahead

And now that our event is past, the weather has warmed up, the sun is setting later each day, and we are all thinking of longer rides with less need to bundle up. The city schedule is pretty light this week, and there are just a couple of community meetings.

Monday

Transportation Policy and Planning Board will be meeting at 5:00 pm in room 215 of the Municipal Bldg. There isn’t anything specifically bike-related on the agenda, but several items might affect streets and issues important to bicyclists. The TPPB will again be considering the downtown routing of the future BRT lines. Some alternatives may affect infrastructure or bicycling comfort level on some streets, and all alternatives have trade offs. The choice is mostly about putting BRT on the Capital Square vs the outer loop, but there are a few variations on those two main alternatives. They will also be looking at the west side route options, but those both are less thorny and less likely to affect bicycling routes.

The other issue on the agenda that may be of interest is an update on the Wilson St project that we have written about in the past. There are no new materials available for this agenda item, and no decisions are going to be made at the meeting.

If you are interested in this meeting, you can attend in person, peak to any agenda item, or watch the meeting on line.

Madison Bikes Board of Directors will be meeting at 6:00 pm at the Central Library. All are welcome to attend. Our next working meeting –⁠ the one where we have more discussions for volunteers –⁠ will be next Monday, Feb 24, at 6:00 pm at Bendy Works on E Doty St.

Tuesday

Wisconsin non-partisan primary. A national election year can be very confusing in Wisconsin because there are FOUR election days. February is the primary for non-partisan elections. That means winnowing down the slate to two candidate in the following races: Supreme Court, School Board, and County Supervisor. So make sure to vote on Tuesday. If you need information on how to register, where to vote, or what you need to vote, go to this statewide site or check out the League of Women Voters, who also publish candidate answers to help you pick your candidates.

What are the other dates and what are they for?

  • April 7: Election of Supreme Court, School Board, and County Supervisor AND the presidential primary.
  • August 11: Partisan Primary for state Senator, state Representative, and US Representative. No US Senate race in Wisconsin this year.
  • Nov 3: National and state election: President, US Representative, and state Senator and Representative.

Also Tuesday, the UW will host another Crossroads of Ideas discussion, this time on Affordable Housing in Dane County. These are always interesting sessions, as they bring together the academic, business, and public sector participants for a lively exchange of ideas. One way to make housing more affordable? Make sure people have good transportation choices instead of being tied to driving everywhere.

Thursday

Hands-on suspension service session at Slow Roll Cycles, in the Lake Edge Shopping Center, 4118 Monona Dr. This is a more advanced class, and you need to have attended one of the earlier classes and enroll. There is also a fee. More information can be found 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

Happy MLK Day and clear path weekend!

Monday being a holiday, everyone can enjoy the newly-cleared paths across the city due to the additional money in the city budget. This our first test of having paths cleared on the weekend and holidays, and Friday’s snowstorm was the perfect test. Can you imagine waiting until Tuesday to have tour paths cleared? Two TV stations also covered this new service, after the city issued a press release, but we’ve all been very excited to have the paths treated as well as local streets.

The Greenbush Neighborhood Association has a survey on traffic issues along Vilas Park Drive as part of the master plan for the park. We were specifically asked to share it with bicyclists, since this is an important route for a lot of people. You can access the survey here. Although originally planned to run through the end of the month, they will probably extend that deadline. Feel free to pass it on to your networks and other groups.

The week ahead

There’s not too much happening in city meetings, but there are some great classes and community events this week. It looks like everything is happening on Wednesday.

Wednesday

The city will hold two sessions of their bicycle-friendly driver training. When this came out, I called John Rider — who is teaching the class — and asked who he saw as the intended audience. They are targeting small businesses who have fleet drivers or delivery services, but anyone is welcome to sign up. This is the first time the city has taught this class, and the registration deadline was Friday, but more sessions will be available in the future.

In the evening, the Transportation Commission will be meeting at 5:00 pm in Room 215 of the Municipal Bldg. Earlier this month the Transportation Planning and Policy Board had a presentation on the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (aka traffic calming.) At this meeting, the TC will also receive a presentation. So you can watch the meeting streaming or check out the PPt.

Trek will hold a handle bar taping class at their west store off Mineral Point Rd at 6:00 pm . This is a great way to spruce up your bike, and if you aren’t sure how to put new tape on your handle bars, bring your bike along and learn by doing. Registration required.

Another community class is being offered by Slow Roll bike shop in Monona. This one is a level 2 suspension learning class. You do not have to have attended the 101 class to attend this one.

What have we been talking about on Facebook?

Besides the usual discussions about bad intersections/roadways and insufficiently-cleared lanes and curb cuts, there was a lively discussion of the best neighborhoods to buy in if one is going to bike to the UW. Someone from Austin posted that she and her family are looking to buy a house, and they wanted a bicycle-friendly real estate agent. The good news is that we all decided that there are many good neighborhoods with safe, easy biking to downtown and campus, and so therefore the agent one works with is less important. (But people had lots of agent recommendations too.)

Someone also posted a link to a study finding Madison the third most sustainable metro area for transportation, principally due to our high use of biking, walking, and transit. Nice job.

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

Monday Update: University Ave updates, Jan 4 Family Ride

With the holidays upon us, our calendar is pretty empty. That provides a great opportunity for a recap from last week’s University Ave public input meeting.

Before we get to that, a quick reminder that early in the new year, our Holiday Fantasy in Lights Family Ride is happening. Join us at Lakeside Coffee House on January 4 for free coffee and hot chocolate and the ride over to the holiday lights in Olin Park. More information on Facebook.

Now let’s get back to University Ave. A reminder that this project runs from Campus Dr/Farley/University Bay Dr to Shorewood Blvd. The construction has been pushed to 2022; it was previously planned for 2021. If you want to see any of the materials and presentations from the meeting, you can find them here. You can also find contact information for key project staff and alders as well as a way to sign up for future updates on the project.

I know this is another long blog post, but there is a lot going on with this project. I won’t go over all the things that haven’t changed from the first meeting. You can read about in my Dec 16 blog post. At that time, I didn’t have the materials for this meeting, so below are the things that have changed.

First things first. I want to thank everyone who attended, wrote an email, called city staff, and otherwise contributed to making this a better project. As you will see below, several elements have been added to make the project more friendly to a multimodal future. (It’s still going to be a very large, busy road, but sometimes you have to take the victories when they come, because otherwise all looks bleak.) Your comments and advocacy on this project truly made a difference, so I want to acknowledge that.

The tl;dr bullet points are:

  • Wider sidewalk on the south side should help all non-motorized users
  • No right turn on red from side streets will hopefully improve safety for and yielding to anyone in the crosswalk.
  • Countdown walk signals and continental crosswalks at all intersections
  • Sidewalk on the north side of street will go all the way from University Bay Dr to Shorewood Blvd
  • Lots of changes to transit stops and pullouts for buses in anticipation of BRT
  • Change in speed limit on both University Ave and Campus Dr.

More details and other changes below.

The city is accepting comments on this meeting until Jan 1, so let them know if you have any ideas, comments, gripes, or compliments. (See project page for contacts in the materials, but the main contact is the project engineer, Glen Yeoger.)

Now the longer version.

My pet peeve—that there were no bike facilities on the south side of the road, leading many people to take to the sidewalk on their bikes—has been heard, if not fixed in the most optimal way. Instead of a standard five-foot sidewalk, there will be a sidewalk measuring 7-8 feet along the length of the project. This is still too narrow to call it a “path,” and I anticipate continued conflict between people biking, walking, and waiting for the bus for the bus, but it does give everyone more space.

This wider sidewalk was achieved mostly through narrowing the travel lanes on the road. These narrower lanes should also help slow traffic a bit. And that’s another piece of good news. The city is planning on lowering the speed limit on this part of University Ave to 30 mph (currently 35 mph), and Campus Dr will become a 35 mph road (currently 40 mph.) Lower speed limits are always good for people trying to cross the street, and for those traveling along the road as well, because it gives drivers more time to react to situations.

Source: Tefft, B.C. (2011). Impact Speed and a Pedestrian’s Risk of Severe Injury or Death. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In another safety improvement for people biking and walking, the city plans to prohibit right turns on read on all the streets coming in from the south. This will significantly improve conditions for those who are biking on the sidewalk as well as all who use the sidewalk. Not being able to turn right on the red will discourage motorists from inching out into the crosswalk and assure that they won’t just surge through as they are looking left to find a gap in traffic. One reason riding on the sidewalk “against” the adjacent traffic on the road is that motorists turning right are only looking left; they rarely look right to see pedestrians and bicyclists approaching from the right or coming up to the right of their car, either on the street or on the sidewalk parallel to them.

Current conditions on University Bay Dr: People walking either have to walk in the bike lane or take the goat trail visible on the right. Source: Google StreetView

Also on the sidewalk front, there will be a full sidewalk on the east side of University Bay Dr all the up to the Children’s Hospital. This will be an improvement over what is there now, which only goes as far as the driveway to the VA Hospital.

And another improvement on the bike end of things is that the 2600 block of University Ave—which now looks more like an off ramp from the larger portion of University Ave eastbound to “old” University Ave—will have an actual bike lane. Not only is an on-street lane here a good idea to encourage people to not ride on the sidewalk, but it will visually narrow the road to slow drivers as they enter the neighborhood.

For people trying to cross University Ave, there will be continental crosswalks and countdown timers at all intersections. These crosswalks are more visible, so hopefully that will increase yielding by turning motorists. (We’ll see.)

Continental crosswalk standards for Madison. Source: City of Madison Engineering

Many people in my neighborhood would have liked to have seen the removal of the right-turn lane from southbound University Bay Dr to westbound University Ave. There is far too little yielding by motorists, regardless of whether they are facing a red or green light. And pedestrians—including transit users getting off at the University Bay Dr stop—have to get to the “refuge island” in order to then cross University Ave itself. The city is not getting rid of that slip lane, but they are proposing to add a table top crosswalk, which would both elevate pedestrians for better visibility and slow drivers.

There will also be improvements to the crosswalk on the east side of University Ave/Farley. Up until about 15 years ago, there was NO crosswalk there (!) Now the city wants to make that the preferred crossing from people headed north. The eastbound buses and future BRT will be stopping in a new pullout lane on the east side of the intersection, so transit users will already be on that side of the street. I think a lot of northbound pedestrians from the neighborhood prefer this side anyway, because you are facing all the left-turning traffic and can see if someone isn’t paying attention. (I personally hate crossing with my back to the left-turning folks. I just don’t trust them, and I want to see if I’m going to have to jump out of the way. Seriously.)

The diagonal crossing at Ridge should be easier to handle, as the city is planning on retiming the walk lights to reduce delay in the two-stage crossing. Right now, it feels like a long time standing in the median as car rush by on both sides.

There’s more information in the presentation materials, including a few changes I didn’t list here. But I think I covered all the really big ones that are new for this meeting.

Thanks again to everyone who weighed in. Your voice has made a difference, but University Ave will still be a big road, and the intersection with University Bay Dr/Farley will still be a huge intersection with a lot of turning vehicles. It’s better, but still a pretty car-oriented corridor.

Categories
Bike News

University Ave reconstruction meeting Wednesday

Short version

This Wednesday, Dec 18 at 6:00 pm at the Best Western InnTowner, 2424 University Ave (intersection with Highland), the city will be holding the second public information meeting (PIM) about the upcoming University Ave reconstruction. This project — running from Shorewood Blvd to Campus Dr and currently scheduled for 2021 — will be a real test to see if we can rebuild a major corridor that will safely and comfortably serve all modes of travel — a Complete Street. If you live, work, or shop nearby, or if you travel through by any mode of transportation, I urge you to attend the meeting. If you can’t make the meeting, but have a comment, you can contact the project engineer, Glen Yoerger. You can also include Traffic Engineer Yang Tao and/or alder for that area Shiva Bidar.

I wrote about this project and the many current safety problems before the first meeting [presentations at the bottom of project website]. I will go into some additional details for each of the points below, but just in case you just want bullet points, the tl;dr is:

  • At the first public information meeting in June, the modifications that the city presented made some minor improvements for the many safety problems present for bicyclists and pedestrians — and transit users who are pedestrians when they get off the bus — but not at the expense of keeping motor vehicle traffic moving,
  • There are no bicycle facilities on the south (city of Madison) side of the street, and none are planned (unless something has been added since June.)
  • Because of the lack of appropriate facilities on the south side, people on bikes use the sidewalk, which is dangerous for themselves and causes conflicts with pedestrians and the large number of transit users waiting at the very busy bus stops.
  • It is already very dangerous and intimidating to cross the street, and the city is planning on removing one of the current unsignalized crosswalks, at Franklin Ave. Even where there is a signal, turning vehicles and red light running mean that the crossings are uncomfortable and feel dangerous.
  • The intersection of University Ave and University Bay Dr/Farley, has a very bad history of crashes resulting in injury. The city rates it fourth overall in the whole city.
  • This corridor will be one of the first links in the planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route, so there will be even more transit users waiting on the sidewalk and crossing the street in the future.

Source: Vision Zero presentation to the Transportation Policy and Planning Board, Dec 12.

I was hoping that there would be information available before I wrote this post, but so far (as of Monday afternoon, Dec 16) nothing has been added or updated on the City Engineering website for the project. The Transportation Commission was supposed to get an update this past week, but referred it until their January meeting.

The longer version, with more details

Left turns

At the last meeting, we were shown plans for modifications of the corridor. They show a double left turn lane from eastbound University Ave to northbound University Bay Dr. This is meant to move the many commuters through the intersection as they drive to and from the UW, VA, and Children’s Hospitals and other parts of the far west campus. This is also a major entry point for people driving to the eastern part of Shorewood Hills, since there are limited locations to enter the village.

Left turns are a major movement at this intersection — also including left turns from both southbound University Bay Dr and northbound Farley (same street, different name of the other side of the road) to eastbound Campus Dr and westbound University Ave respectively, and these left turns are the bane of pedestrians and bicyclists crossing University Ave at the same intersection. Many people who live in the neighborhoods across University Ave work at the hospitals or use the bus or path on the north side, meaning they cross this road multiple times every day. It is also a critical connection for bicyclists coming from anywhere south or southwest of the hospitals or campus. I have come close to being hit myself when crossing from the bus stop of the north side of the road, and while waiting for the bus on the south side, I witnessed a pedestrian hit by a person driving a car right in front of my eyes. Both involved left turning vehicles.

Overpass for Campus Dr Path

With the bike path completed on the north side, many more bicyclists are crossing University Bay Dr. Although the plans are to build an overpass of University Bay Dr to provide a safer crossing, there are many questions about whether that will be possible. Until that happens, a double left from University Ave will make the crossing even more dangerous. With the improvements to the Blackhawk Path this year, bike traffic at this intersection will probably continue to increase.

Traffic light at Overlook Terrace/Marshall Court and University Bay Dr to serve new VA parking ramp

In addition to the proposed overpass, the VA Hospital is planning on building another parking ramp just off U Bay Dr. This will generate more car traffic, most of which will be turning left onto U Bay Dr, the VA wants a new traffic light at the intersection of Marshall Ct (where EVP Coffee is), Overlook Terrace (the driveway to the VA), and U Bay Dr. This would pack the following into basically one city block: new traffic light at Marshall Ct/Overlook Terr, the Campus Dr path, railroad tracks and gates, then another traffic light at University Ave. Huh?

The city essentially has no control over what the VA does, because it is a federal agency. They can’t force them to do manage their traffic demand, e.g. by increasing the cost of car parking, or to not build the new ramp. And the city needs a tiny sliver of land from the VA to build the new overpass for the path. The price for that land: the new traffic light to make getting out of the new ramp easier.

One crosswalk being removed

The intersection of University Ave at Franklin Ave, one block west of Farley/U Bay Dr, doesn’t have traffic signals. The proposal is to remove the crosswalk. It’s not a great way to cross the road on foot, but this is just one more barrier to getting across University Ave. It means that people will have to walk a block in either direction to cross the road. Right now, there aren’t really any destinations on the north side across from Franklin, but that could change.

No bike facilities on the south side

Now we come to my personal beef: There are no planned bicycle facilities on the south side. When I ask why we are doing a major road reconstruction with no bike facilities on one side, I’m told, “There isn’t space.” This is a SIX lane road with turn pockets at every intersection. New sidewalks are proposed on the north side and an extra left turn lane at one intersection, but there is no space for bike facilities? Currently there are unprotected bike lanes from Segoe Rd to Shorewood Blvd, as well as all of University Ave west of Whitney Way, so this is a big gap. City Engineering and Traffic Engineering seem to think that people can just cross to the north side and use the nice new path through Shorewood Hills. Or the bike boulevard on Kendall. But neither of these serve the needs or people going to and from origins and destinations on the SOUTH side of the road. There are stores and restaurants as well as new apartments on the south side. I expect the area to be further redeveloped as BRT comes in. Crossing to the north side to go a couple of blocks and then recrossing again, especially if one is headed to old University Ave, just is not realistic. Crossing that portion of University Ave even once is tough, but no one is going to do it twice when they aren’t headed somewhere on the north side.

Consequently people ride on the sidewalk. I see them every day when I take the bus. It’s dangerous for the bicyclists because motorists aren’t looking for people riding on the sidewalk as they inch out at Ridge and Farley to make a right on red. It’s not safe for the pedestrians sharing the very narrow sidewalk on this stretch. And it’s not safe for the people trying to catch the bus — they also aren’t expecting anyone going 10-12 mph on the sidewalk as they check to see if the bus is coming. And that bus stop is going to get a lot more crowded with BRT.

What about the Kendall/Bluff bike boulevard? Well, at the intersection of Shorewood Blvd and Hill St — where the bike lanes on University end and this project starts — the bike boulevard is up a steep hill and on the other side of Quarry Park, so it’s really not practical. If you do get up the steep hill that is…Hill St‚Ķ you can take Harvey for a little while and then duck through an alley for another block. But that ends at Franklin, still a block short of getting you to old University Ave.

Some good news on facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists

Besides the proposed overpass for the path, the other good news is that the plans call for a full sidewalk on the north side of the road from U Bay Dr to Marshall Court (where it exits the strip mall across from Ridge.)

One other nice addition has already been added. If you cross University Ave at University Bay Dr/Farley, you may have noticed that there is now a leading pedestrian interval for the walk light. That means that the WALK light comes on a couple of seconds before the drivers get a parallel green. This gives people walking across the intersection a little head start to get our into the intersection, making them more visible to turning drivers.