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.

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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.

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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.

Categories
Bike News

On Thanksgiving, thanks for supporting us!

Cranksgiving at the Capitol

As many of us gather with family and reflect on the things for which we give thanks, we want to take a moment to thank YOU for supporting us. We are an all-volunteer organization, so we depend on your members and friends to do the work we do: contact elected officials, write blog posts and on Facebook, help us with events, show up at meetings, and yes, donate to us as well. We couldn’t do it without you!

The past week

The Cap City Trail is back open after some upgrades and repair work. Flooding took a toll on the trail, especially where it crosses streams and passes through storm water areas. You will notice some dramatic changes in a couple of places, but the trail should hold up better in the future.

The Cranksgiving ride collected tons of food to donate the Goodman Community Center for the Thanksgiving baskets they make for families that can’t afford a good dinner. I ran into the ride up at the Capitol, and I was very proud of our dedicated bike community. But the Goodman Center is still taking additional donations through Monday, so it you can help, I’m sure they would be grateful.

The BCycles have gone into hibernation for the winter. They will be back March 15.

Correction: BCycles will still be around until December 14. They will then return March 15. Apologies for the mistake.

E-bikes are officially legal in Wisconsin, although municipalities can ban them from paths. If you have strong feelings, feel free to contact your alder.

This week

There isn’t much going on this week, given Thanksgiving on Thursday and all. We had a little reprieve from our early winter this past week, and lots of people were out biking. But true winter is on the way, and while we still don’t know what the predicted winter storm will bring, but it looks like it will be messy and nasty. If you are biking to a yummy dinner (or driving, walking, or taking the bus), be careful out there.

Monday

The Madison Bikes Community Meeting will meet at 6:00 pm at Bendy Works, 106 E Doty St, 2nd floor. This is the meeting where we invite all our volunteers, or those who are just interested in helping, to meet with us and discuss upcoming projects. We will be talking about what types of activities we want to hold this winter and various advocacy issues.

Also on Monday, Bike Fitchburg hold its monthly meeting, 6:30 pm at the Fitchburg Public Library, 5530 Lacy Rd.

You can learn more about Madison Freewheel on the WORT Access Hour at 7:00 pm. Tune in to the Access Hour in the Madison area on 89.9 FM, or livestream anywhere in the world via http://www.wortfm.org. Learn more about the Madison Bike Center soon to open in the Judge Doyle Square Building downtown. You can also learn about Freewheel’s charitable work and how to use their facilities and support their mission of free bike access for everyone.

Saturday

Celebrate the release of the Trek Midwest Beer. Joy the fun with a 24 mile bike ride around Madison to celebrate the great Cross season. Bring your friends! Ride will LEAVE Cafe Domestique at 9 am, ending at Working Draft for the tapping of Trek Midwest Beer. Route: https://www.strava.com/routes/22276945 (Seminole Trails will not happen if the trails are closed). Cafe Domestique will graciously be providing pre-ride coffee and doughnuts!

Categories
Bike News

Detours, wheel tax, and Winter Bike Fashion Show, oh my

This past week

The county has been repaving the Cap City Trail from Seminole Highway to Fish Hatchery Rd, and one of the more dramatic changes will be smoothing out the S-curve just west of Fish Hatchery. The steep hill and S-curve at the bottom has caught more than one bicyclist off guard. There is a lot of tree loss, but the path should be safer for everyone.

In case you missed our post on Saturday, we went through some of the frequently asked questions about the wheel tax. Check it out here.

Even though the Council will not formally take up the city budget until Nov 12, there are other meetings and decisions that precede the Council meeting(s). The Finance Committee met this past week to decide which alder amendments to the budget should be forwarded to the full council. There were three besides the wheel tax that we were watching. Funding for weekend maintenance of the paths during the winter passed. Additional funding for crosswalk painting also passed. However, funding to make improvements at several intersections with high crash rates did not get the OK from the Finance Committee.

The week ahead

Plenty of detours to keep track of. The Campus Dr Path east of the Vet School is supposed to close soon and stay closed until March, although it was still open as of Friday. A part of the SW Path northeast of Midvale is supposed to be closed starting Monday morning. Also, work on the Yahara River Path under Johnson is supposed to start on Oct 30. East Mifflin by Lapham school is closed, but should be open on Tuesday. There are more outside of downtown.

The good news on campus is that the work near Limnology — between the Lakeshore Path and Memorial Union is done! Less conflict with pedestrians now.

The best way to keep up with what’s going on is to subscribe to the city’s Friday update from Bike Madison.

Monday

Madison Bikes Community Meeting for all committees at 6:00 pm at Bendy Works, 106 E Doty St, 2nd floor. In case you haven’t noticed, we are no longer posting individual committee meetings. Instead, we are having a “community board meeting” on the fourth Monday of each month. Everyone is welcome, and this is where we will talk about what we need to do in the areas of advocacy, communications, events, and volunteer opportunities. If you want to be involved, but don’t know exactly what area you want to help, this is a great opportunity to find out where you can fit in.

This Monday, we will probably be talking about all the things we need to do — and for which we need help — to out on the Winter Bike Fashion Show on Saturday, Nov 2. If you can help out on Saturday, we still need some volunteers, from demonstrating the bike racks on the bus parked outside to greeting people at the door. Email Liz if you can help out.

Also on Monday is the monthly Bike Fitchburg meeting, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Fitchburg library, 5530 Lacy Rd, Fitchburg.

Tuesday

The city council will hold a special meeting to discuss and vote on the above-mentioned wheel tax. The meeting will be early — 4:30 pm in Room 201 of the City County Building — to allow alders to also attend other committee meetings that evening. A reminder that your voice is important, and you can contact the entire council or just your alder to voice your opinion. Don’t know who your alder is or need contact information? Go to the Council webpage to find that information. You can also attend any council or committee meeting in person to speak or just to fill out a comment card (if you don’t want to stay.) Yes, they do pay attention to constituent comments!

If you are interested in what’s going on with BRT, you can hear about the options for the downtown portion of the routes. City staff are trying to decide whether the BRT should go around the Square, the outer loop, or some other route. The BRT public information session is 6:30-8:00 pm at the Madison Senior Center, 330 W Mifflin.

Thursday

Although there aren’t any big issues of interest to bicyclists on the Transportation Commission agenda, it’s always a good idea to keep track of what is up with the overall transportation discussion. You can watch the meeting or check out the agenda here. Or attend in person: 5:00 pm in Room 215 of the Madison Municipal Bldg.

Saturday

As you must know by now, if you’ve been reading any of our communication, is the Winter Bike Fashion Show at the High Noon Saloon from 1:00-4:00 pm. It’s free, family-friendly, very fun, and very informative.

Before the WBFS, you can also drop by the Mayor’s Neighborhood Roundtable at the Central Library from 9:00 am-Noon. This is a great place to find out what’s going on across the city, meet up with neighborhood organizers, and find out more about what resources are available to improve your part of the city.

Sunday

Bombay Bicycle Club Fall Meeting and Potluck at the Lussier Center at 5:00 pm. You must be a member of Bombay and RSVP to attend. More information can be found here.

2019 Battle of Waterloo cyclocross races at Waterloo Fireman’s Park 9:00 am – 3:00 pm. Bring your bike and join in on the fun, or come out to cheer on the riders as they compete in the fast and furious sport known as cyclocross! Food and beverage available for purchase – Cowbells encouraged!

Categories
Bike News

FAQ on the Vehicle Registration Fee (also known as the “Wheel Tax”)

There has been a lot of discussion, as well as confusion, about the “Wheel Tax” that the mayor has proposed as part of the upcoming budget. So we thought we’d try to answer some of the questions that have popped up as well as explain why we think that bicyclists should care about it.

What is a wheel tax?

Simply put, it is a local registration fee for your car. Each year you have to renew the registration on your car with the state of Wisconsin, and this is just the same as that registration fee, except this additional fee goes to the city of Madison if your car is registered to an address in the city. You will pay it at the same time as you pay for state registration, and the state will send the money back to the city.

Why is the city doing this now?

The city has a deficit for the upcoming budget year. This means that we either have to reduce spending or raise more revenue.

The state legislature has made it very difficult for cities to raise additional funds for their budgets. There is a cap on how much they can raise property taxes each year. But Madison is growing, and many people would like to have a better transit system. This money will allow the city to both fund basic services (police, fire, parks, garbage pick-up, social services) as well as maintain or expand transit.

Without additional revenue or cuts in other areas, current Metro service would need to be cut. This would mean less frequent buses, shorter service hours, or the elimination of whole routes. Part of the wheel tax revenue would also be used to provide more summer bus passes to youth or bus passes for people with low incomes.

One big project the city wants to undertake is bus rapid transit (BRT), which has been discussed extensively for the last couple of years. BRT is a special type of transit that is faster than regular buses, but cheaper than rail. There’s a lot of details that we can’t cover here, but suffice it to say that transportation planners, elected officials, and other decision makers in the city have decided that this is the best way to improve transit in Madison. You may or may not agree, but if you want more information, go to http://www.madisonbrt.com/

Having a dedicated source of funding to support transit will also help the city get federal funding. We’ve applied for federal funding before, but haven’t gotten it. The federal government likes to see some assurance that a project will go through, and one way to show that is to have a pot of money. We have to compete with other communities that have dedicated funding for transit from a regional transit authority (RTA), a local sales tax, or other dedicated funding.

So, I’ve heard that a wheel tax has to be used only for transportation. But I’ve also heard the mayor and others talk about how this new fee will be used for other city services.

Yes, that is a bit confusing. By state law, local registration fees or wheel taxes can only be used for transportation costs. But right now, we are using property taxes to support transit, walking, biking, as well as driving operations and infrastructure — everything from snow plowing to patching roads and paths, as well as actually running Metro, buying gas for the buses, and paying the drivers. So what we are really doing is moving some of those expenses off the property taxes and moving them to the wheel tax. But ultimately all the money ends up in the same pot, so now we have additional property taxes to pay for those non-transportation things. If we don’t pass the wheel tax, we are going to have to make cuts somewhere else.

So for people that like transit, you can think of this as taxes car owners to pay for transit. If you think transit is not useful to you or the city shouldn’t be spending more money on it — and there are plenty of people out there who feel that way — it’s easier to swallow that the wheel tax will fund things they want to fund.

Isn’t a wheel tax regressive? If you have a junker car you pay the same as someone with a new luxury car.

Yes, that is true. No matter your income or wealth, no matter what car you drive: If you have a car, you will pay the same fee. But we don’t have many choices, given the constraints that the state has put on cities. We can’t use many of the tools that are used in other states, like local gas taxes, an RTA, local sales taxes, or other revenue sources (many of which are regressive as well). This is pretty much all we have. And low-income residents are less likely to have a car or multiple cars in their family than those with more money. And low-income residents are also more likely to be dependent on transit. Improvements to transit will benefit low-income residents (and cuts in Metro service would hit them especially hard). The city is also planning on using some of the revenue to provide support to low-income residents to offset the cost of the fee. We are prohibited by state law from refunding the fee or prorating it by income.

I ride my bike almost everywhere. Why should I care about transit?

Madison needs to move away from depending on cars and get more people using other modes. Fewer cars on the road both directly benefits bicyclists by making the roads safer and more pleasant, and it will free up space for better bike infrastructure, bike parking corrals, and other things we want. But that is only going to happen if we give people alternatives to driving their private cars. Transit is a key piece of that.

And a lot of people who bike also use transit, when they don’t want to ride because of weather, illness, carrying a bunch of stuff, traveling with people who don’t bike, or even just because they are tired. Transit allows us to throw our bike on the bus if we have a flat tire or the weather turns nasty. Transit lets less committed bicyclists or new bike commuters know that they have a back up. It allows more people to bike because they know they won’t be stuck if something happens. Bicyclists should all be out there pushing for more and better transit, because it just makes it easier to bike, even if you never use it.

Categories
Bike News

We need YOU. Speak up, volunteer, be a model

Once more, we just want to remind you that YOU are important in making the city a better place to bike and to help others feel comfortable on the city streets and paths. Speak up about what you care about; talk to city staff, your alder, your employer, the management of the places you shop, or other decision makers. Help us out by volunteering and donating. And be an example to others, like maybe being a model of how to get around by bike. (See below for an upcoming chance.)

Although we still have warm weather coming up this week, we can all feel the chill creeping into the air. But not only is it not time to put your bike away, it’s actually time to start thinking about how to equip yourself and your bike to ride all winter.

We are busy planning the Winter Bike Fashion Show, and just in case all our blog posts and Facebook messages have escaped your notice, remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, Nov 2 at the High Noon from 1:00-4:00 pm. Invite your friends, especially the ones who think you are nuts for biking in the winter. Or maybe you are winter-bike curious? This is just the event for you. And it’s family friendly.

BUT‚Ķ. We will need models! Would you be willing to share your wisdom? Show off your favorite cold weather clothing trick? Talk about fat vs studded vs skinny tires? Explain how your route changes –⁠ or doesn’t –⁠ when there’s ice and snow to deal with? No experience needed. Just fill out this form, and we’ll contact you. (It says the deadline is Sept 30, but if you are interested, just let us know.)

And if you want to help us with the event, your input and time would be quite welcome. We are an all-volunteer organization, so drop us a note if you want to help with this event or any other aspect of the organization.

Last week

Have you ever seen that velomobile cruising around town? The State Journal ran a story about Nick Hein, the owner, so now you can read all about the vehicle and the man who pedals it.

Another bicyclist was severely injured by a hit-and-run driver, this time on the 900 block of South Park St. Unfortunately, this part of the road does not have bike lanes, despite what the article says. There are sharrows in the right lane, but that treatment is completely inadequate for such a high-volume road, where drivers often far exceed the 30 mph speed limit.

This past Saturday, the city sponsored a Bike and Talk Action Workshop to discuss how to more safely get around the south side and what improvements need to be made to make the area safer. Maybe they talked about the lack of bike lanes on Park St?

The week ahead

Monday

Another open house to gather ideas for a plan for Law Park will be held 6:00-7:30 pm at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, 501 East Badger Rd. Since this is an important walking and biking corridor for all of us, your input is important. There have been five open houses, and this is the last one, so if you can’t make this one and still want to provide input, email city staff at LawPark@cityofmadison.com.

Wednesday

Two miles of the Cap City Trail will be closed for resurfacing. The section that will be closed is between Fish Hatchery Road and Seminole Highway. Work is expected to be completed sometime in November. More information is available in this State Journal article.

If you are curious about cyclocross or want to practice, stop by Badger Prairie County Park, 4654 Maple Grove Dr, Verona, from 5:30-7:00 pm. A series of practices are happening now through the end of October. There is always a beginner and intermediate option. More information about what to expect and the groups putting it on is available on the Madison Bikes Community Calendar.

Also Wednesday is the Madison Area Transportation Planning Board (MPO) meeting at the Water Utility Building, 119 E Olin Ave, from 6:30-8:30 pm. The MPO allocates all the federal transportation money for the entire metro region, and this month they will be approving the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), that’s all the projects that might get funding for the next five years. This is done every year with a new TIP, but it’s an incite into where your money is being spent. The MPO will also have a presentation on the bus rapid transit planning study. Want to see the materials for any of this? You can find them here as a PDF.

For more information….

More information on road projects and upcoming events are available from the city via the Bike Madison weekly update put out by the city Pedestrian-Bicycle Coordinator. This weekly email s much more detailed information about specific construction, detours, and official city business. Thanks for Renee Callaway for keeping up informed.

And if you have a anything to add to the Madison Bikes Community Calendar, send us an email.

Do you appreciate the weekly updates and work that Madison Bikes is doing to improve the city for all ages and abilities? You can donate to support our work.