As part of a referendum in the November 2020 election, Madison voters overwhelmingly approved a sizable continuing investment in the public schools. Continuing that work, there is a survey available to further guide the efforts. Bicycle facilities such as parking improvements aren’t yet represented, but maybe they should be if we want to encourage students to ride to school safely. If you’ve seen the state of the bike racks at West High, for example, well, you know what I’m talking about (class of ’94 here and I think the racks were old then).
On Monday at 5pm the Transportation Policy and Planning Board will meet with a deceptively light agenda. However, the bulk of the meeting will be spent workshopping the Metro Network Redesign. Watch along to get a sneak peak at Wednesday’s public meeting content and see what it’s like to be on a working board like the TPPB.
On Sunday at 11am, check out a virtual screening of “Together We Cycle”, a film that “investigates the critical events that have led to the revival of Dutch cycling culture.” Pepe Barros Hoffens, Executive Director of Down With Bikes and Pedestrian Bicycle Outreach Coordinator for the City of Madison, will be part of the post-film discussion as a panelist. Tickets are free but absolutely consider the suggested $8 donation.
Finally, since we’re putting a very wintry February behind us, it’s gotten pretty sloppy out there on the roads. If you’ve got fenders on your ride, now’s the time to put them to use! If you don’t have fenders, you might find that you can hack something effective (and surprisingly durable) for next-to-nothing:
On Thursday, March 11 at 6pm, pop in to hear the latest on the University Avenue reconstruction effort. The meeting will update us on the latest for the entire segment between University Bay Drive and Shorewood Boulevard, but a lot of us are keenly interested in the status of the option/plan to have an overpass over U-Bay.
Our family dubs cold days, in the single digits or below, “Double coat” weather. A single coat isn’t warm enough so, we double up by adding a fall jacket under our winter jackets. Two coats significantly increases the amount of time kids (or myself) will spend outside in the cold. Why not 3 coats? Well, we discovered two coats is our limit before becoming too puffed up to function, but go with what works best for you. Looks like warmer weather is in the forecast for next week (probably only one coat necessary). Expect the paths and roads to be very sloppy…
Transportation Commission meeting about a number of items including a proposal to add bike lanes on Sheboygan Ave and West Washington. Please take a look at the proposal and provide feedback particularly if you live in this area or commute along this road. You can easily provide feedback through the following methods:
Registering for the meeting which will grant you the following options when you attend – Request to speak at the meeting for <2min – Submit a question via chat (can be anonymous) – Register support or opposition of an agenda item (without speaking or anonymously).
Well, in addition to the bitter cold, we now have some fresh snow. And because of the cold temperatures, salt won’t work to melt the snow and ice. Some roads are clear because they have been plowed and then exposed to sunlight, but many smaller streets are just one slippery mess. Ditto with the paths. So if you aren’t running studded tires and extra layers, it’s been pretty challenging the last week. But I still see people out on their bikes, and that makes me proud that Madison is the type of place that people ride in all weather, and the city and drivers expect it.
But if you are having trouble in a particular area – maybe a windrow at a path intersection or a street where all the snow has been pushed into the bike lane – you can use the Report A Problem link on the city’s website. Winter is challenging for everyone, especially when snow starts making the streets even narrower, and drivers park farther out into the street. But we do have a way to report especially bad spots.
If you missed the discussion on WORT on diversity (or lack thereof) in the Madison biking scene — with Baltazar De Anda-Santana (now leading the Latino Academy of Workforce Development) and Kristie Goforth, executive director of Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison – you can listen to a recording here.
The week ahead
Probably the biggest thing happening this week is the spring non-partisan primary. Depending on where you live, this might be a snooze or a big deal. Turnout is expected to be very, very low, so your vote is especially important. Fewer votes = each one counts more strongly than in high-turnout elections.
For everyone across the state, Tuesday will narrow the field for State Superintendent of Schools. There are seven people running, and the top two will go on to the April general election. You may also have a primary for alder (Districts 9, 16, and 18) and/or school board. (There are no primaries for Madison School Board, but if you live in a different school district, there may be one. I haven’t checked.)
To find out what will on your ballot, as well as where to vote and what you need to bring to re-register if you have moved (aka “changing your registration”), go to MyVote.WI.gov
Now if also a good time to think about talking to the alder candidates about what’s important to you, including both city and district transportation issues. Even if there is an uncontested race or the incumbent is running unopposed, your voice is important. Just a call or email to let them know that biking, transit, pedestrian safety, and/or other issues are important to you is a way to remind them that people are paying attention and holding them accountable.
The cold is unrelenting. Are you still out and about on your bike? I myself am off the bike for health reasons, but on my walks through the neighborhood I still encounter people riding. Last night on the way back from the grocery store, a young woman rode past me, happily singing to herself. So yes, even in this weather biking can be not only a means of transportation but also a source of joy!
Biking and diversity on WORT
Tune in tonight for a conversation on biking on WORT’s acccess hour. Our former board member Baltazar De Anda-Santana (now leading the Latino Academy of Workforce Development) and Kristie Goforth, executive director of Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison, will talk about diversity (or the lack thereof?) in Madison’s bike scene. You can listen on 89.9 FM or online.
West Washington Ave
West Washington Ave between Bedford and Broom will be resurfaced. Right now the street has car parking on both sides and an overly wide travel lane in each direction — wide enough to regularly confuse people about whether there are two or four lanes. The City now proposes to add bus lanes and bike infrastructure to the corridor while keeping car parking in place. The plans are still in an early stage, but at a public meeting last week this design was presented:
Related to the West Washington Ave project, Metro is holding a public hearing on proposed changes to bus service. Among them is a plan to move some routes (the 8, 12, 15, 70 and 72) off State St and onto West Washington Ave. Other proposed changes are to suspend the 10 and 27 and compensate for that by increasing service on the 2 and improving service on the 38. You can find all the relevant info here. The public hearing is this Wednesday, starting at 6pm.
Free Bikes 4 Kidz
Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison has opened their bike give-away season for the year. Here’s their pitch:
Calling Nonprofit Partners & Schools to Receive Bikes!
Help us spread the news! We are excited to announce that we are ready for nonprofit partners to apply to receive bikes! This is our first call to nonprofits or school partners in Dane County who are ready to pickup bikes in FEBRUARY. Due to unconventional times, we are doing things a bit differently this year. So, if you’re with a nonprofit or school that has the capacity to distribute bikes in FEBRUARY, please fill out our Apply for Bikes form on our website. If you have questions, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get rolling! *Please note that FB4K does not give bikes to individuals. We give bikes to nonprofits or schools who are already working with area youth. If you’d like a bicycle, please reach out to a nonprofit that you receive services from. APPLY FOR BIKES
Winter Cycling Congress
Speaking of winter biking: This Thursday and Friday, the international Winter Cycling Congress is taking place — of course all virtually. Madison Bikes is sponsoring Noelle Reading from Freewheel/Madison Bicycle Center to attend, and she’ll write up her experiences for our blog! Stay tuned.
This weekly is a relatively slow one on the bike events-and-meetings front. It’s as good a week as any to do your research about candidates running in the primary elections on February 16 for alder. For the April general election, the Madison Bikes Board will send out biking-related questions to those candidates running that pass the primary and make these available to our biking community. We’re always happy to hear from you about what you think are the highest priorities for safe biking for all in the Madison community, and where you would like to see our efforts focused.
Looking for a way to help the biking community? Become a trail reporter for the Wisconsin Office of Outdoor Recreation! They need riders to report on the conditions of trails during the year. You can learn more here and sign up to be trail reporter here.
This week, several transportation-related commissions will meet. First, the Greater Madison Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Board has its monthly meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 pm (info here).
The Transportation Policy and Planning Board will also meet Wednesday, at 5 pm. (info here). The agenda is light on biking items, but several items are focused on safety (through the lens of Vision Zero) and Complete Streets; we’ll continue to discuss these projects throughout the year on this blog. Folks following the BRT project might be interested in a report on the left turns on Mineral Point Road, which recommends keeping all turns with center-running buses due to potential delay for motorists.
On Thursday at 6 pm, there is another input meeting for the Vilas Park Master Plan. You can learn more about it here.
On Monday two monthly meetings will take place. First is the Madison Bikes Community Meeting at 6:00 PM. Then, Bike Fitchburg is having its monthly meeting starting at 6:30 PM.
On Wednesday, the Transportation Commission is meeting at 5:00 PM. One item on the agenda might be worth watching. There is a presentation on the high injury network that seeks to identify corridors and intersections with high injury rates to target for vision zero improvements. Vision zero is an approach to infrastructure that seeks to prevent traffic deaths by creating infrastructure that accounts for human failings into its design. Here is a link to the presentation that will be given.
Also Wednesday, Madison Bike Center is running a Beginner Mechanic Session from 3-5 PM. Their Beginner Mechanic Sessions are free open-house-style workshops where people can go work on their bikes and learn how to fix them. No experience necessary. The topic for this session is how to check a secondhand or post-crash bike for safety.
On Thursday, there’s an opportunity to volunteer with Free Bikes 4 Kids from 6-9 PM. No experience is needed and volunteers will be cleaning and prepping bikes. For more information email email@example.com.
So far this winter we’ve had some pretty nice weather for cycling: dribs and drabs of snow, but enough warm days to let the streets clear up. That changed towards the end of last week, and seems to be continuing with persistent small amounts of snowfall coupled with colder temperatures.
You might appreciate the ongoing efforts to keep the shared use paths clear. It makes a particularly big difference on long weekends like this, where the cleanup previously would have had to wait until Tuesday after 2-3 days of traffic, leaving an icy mess. For a great discussion of these efforts and more, check out the City of Madison’s Everyday Engineeering podcast episode titled “I Want to Ride My Bicycle”. The guest is our own Grant Foster, who dual-wields his Alder hat and his Madison Bikes Buff.
While it’s likely to be a big news week in many ways, it’s a relatively slow week for cycling-related meetings and events.
On Thursday at 12pm, the city will hold the first virtual meeting for public participation for the Odana Area Plan (registration required). This west-side area is a bit larger than it sounds — bounded by Mineral Point Rd to the north, Segoe Rd/Presidential Lane to the east and then following the West Beltline on the south and west. One specific item to check out is a map of the draft bicycle network plan, which reads like a long-term wishlist for bicycling facilities. You can see a lot of ideas for new both on-street and shared-use paths plus a few overpasses/underpasses for the Beltline. Look for the dashed lines on the map and lighter pink dots on the map.
If you can’t make this one or prefer an evening session, there is a second meeting scheduled for Wednesday, January 27 at 5:30pm.
Motor vehicle traffic dropped significantly early this year, but has recovered to 90% of pre-COVID levels.
Overall monthly bicycle volumes on the Southwest Path are consistent, however there is a notable shift in volume to the weekends.
The average city wide motor vehicle speed has decreased, but the number of extremely high (100mph) speed related crashes have increased transportation fatalities.
Metro transit recorded a 27% reduction in revenue hours last year, however the department remains on stable financial footing. The city is expecting transit ridership to recover in 2021 and views transit as a “key transportation mode”.
Parking revenue is down over 50% and which resulted in a $6 million dollar operating loss.
The city made deliberate efforts to minimize the impact of traffic and transit change to communities of color and low income households. For example, metro fares were suspended from March to August.
Traffic Engineering COVID-19 Response
Added signage to encourage and inform people of physical distancing guidelines.
Modify signal timing to eliminate the need to press walk buttons and reduce pedestrian wait times.
Implement 4 miles of temporary shared streets to expand low stress bike and pedestrian facilities.
Temporarily closed streets, created dedicated curbside pick-up spaces and converted parking to outdoor restaurant seating, to aid local businesses.
2020 Traffic Accomplishments
Madison adopted Vision Zero with the goal of eliminating all traffic related deaths. Adopting Vision Zero is a substantial achievement that encourages the city to use data driven methods to review and address hazardous roads and intersections. See figure below is a data driven example of how 2020 vision zero projects were distributed with a focus on equity.
Complete Green Streets initiative will consider how to use our precious roadway space more equitably, by considering all transportation modes in addition to motor vehicles.
Improved and expanded bike facilities. I have seen a lot of new green and white paint at city intersections and I hope you have has well. You can view the report to see the full list of improvements.
2021 Traffic Engineering Initiatives
Vision Zero. This was adopted in 2020 and you should expect to see this every year. Getting to 0 traffic deaths is a big deal and will take a lot of work.
School Crossing Guards
Shared Streets – this was one of the positive outcomes of the COVID pandemic and there maybe ways to make some changes semi-permanent.
Green Complete Streets. A long list of projects to make our city more equitable to all methods or transportation. Lots of exciting projects on this list.
Twenty is Plenty is an initiative to reduce residential street speed limits from 25mph to 20mph. Lower urban speed limits reduce pedestrian fatalities and don’t significantly impact average vehicle speed.
Change how traffic calming funds are allocated to make the process more equitable.
On-street parking ordinance review to consider changes to Madison’s parking permit structure and incentivize real estate developers to incorporate facilities for alternative transportation modes.
I am impressed by the significant achievements made by the Mayor, Director of Transportation, city alders, traffic engineers and others to make transportation in our city more equitable for all Madison residents. In particular, I applaud city leadership in their clear prioritization of all modes of transportation, not just cars, and look forward to the numerous initiatives planned for 2021. I am proud to join the effort to shift of our great city to an environmentally sustainable, livable and equitable example of what is possible. You can help too, by attending public input meetings, voting for candidates who support all modes of transportation and encouraging others to bike.
Mandatory Bike Registration Repeal
The mandatory bike registration ordnance was unanimously repealed this week by the city council. This might sound bad, but is is a good thing because this outdated law was a barrier to biking and wasn’t effective at deterring bike theft. If you would like to register your bike there are voluntary national registration services available.
If you haven’t read Harald’s wrap up of 2020, it’s worth checking out. (what, you don’t read it as soon as it’s published every Monday?) It’s easy to forget how much we’ve done and where we’ve had wins. We couldn’t do it without you, the biking community. Your voices are what give Madison Bikes strength and influence.
And although everyone has said it already, “Whew! I sure hope 2021 is better than 2020.” The only good thing in biking news was that a lot of people who hadn’t been biking discovered the joys of two wheels, and our local bike shops did a bang-up business, often selling out of… everything.
Although you might have to watch out for a few icy patches, the snow and recent hoar frost have made Madison a true winter wonderland. It’s a great time to take your bike out and enjoy the quiet that a snow blanket provides.
Aldermanic elections this spring
Looking ahead to the new year, we will soon be moving into yet another election, although nothing quite as dramatic as the November (and continuing) presidential rugby scrum. I don’t think my heart can take more than one of those every decade.
But Tuesday (Jan 5) is the deadline for candidates for city council to file paperwork to run. If there are more than two candidates in a district, there will be a primary on February 16. Then the final election for aldermanic seats is April 6. All 20 seats are up for election, with many current alders not running again, so this is a good opportunity to ask the candidates (even if there is only one) where they stand on bicycling and other transportation issues. If they seem unsure why these issues are important or what the barriers are to biking in your district, you can be both an advocate and a source of information for them.
Not sure what district you are in? You can look it up here.
And maybe some on this list might think about running in the future. Alder elections are every two years, and many seats go uncontested. We have two board members with experience running and serving, so we can answer a lot of your questions.
Madison Bikes is planning on sending questions to all the candidates, and we’ll publish the answers. But having a personal conversation with your representative probably has much more influence than our handful of questions.
Tuesday, on the Council agenda is a proposal to repeal the mandatory bicycle registration ordinance. Why? It costs more to run the program than it takes in each year; compliance with the current ordinance is low; the current program is not an effective way to return recovered bikes or use staff resources to improve bicycling across the city; and free national online bicycle registration services have made recovery of bicycles across jurisdictions much easier.
Wednesday, the Board of Public Works will approve plans for phase 2 of the Demetral Bike Path. This is the last section needed to complete a link from the Yahara River Path to Commercial Ave. This is just a pro forma vote, but it’s nice to see an important link moving forward. Every little bit helps.
Madison Bikes is here for you, but you can be here for us as well
In the year ahead, there will be many important decisions made that will affect bicycling in the city.
Some are big:
a complete reconstruction of a road, which provides opportunities to add or improve bicycle facilities;
decisions about prioritizing one transportation mode over another in a corridor;
how Bus Rapid Transit will integrate with bicycling or possibly displace current bike facilities on the route;
removing parking in order to provide buffered or physically protected bike lanes.
Other decisions are small:
new or better paint to delineate bike facilities;
a curb cut moved that allows easier transition to a path;
repaving a bumpy path or filling a bunch of potholes;
making sure a traffic signal detector picks up bicyclists using a road and not just motor vehicles.
We will do our best to keep you informed of these decisions and how you can have an influence. But if you see an issue in your neighborhood, on your rides, or near where you work or shop, you can both let us know and talk to your city representatives or city staff. Sometimes all it takes is pointing out an issue to get it fixed, or at least get it on the radar to be fixed in the future.
Once again, it is time for a review of another year for Madison Bikes. And what a year it has been, for our organization but more so for all of you, all of us. It’s hard to summarize all the things that have gone on, but I will try anyway.
And before I forget: If you want to support Madison Bikes financially, donate here.
Also a thanks to my weekly update coauthors, Robbie, Ben, Marybeth, Kyle, and Jim. A lot of work goes into these emails, and we can only do it because we have an awesome team.
A good start
The year started out splendidly: To promote year-round riding for people of all ages, we invited the community to join us for a short bike ride through the Holiday Fantasy in Lights course at Olin Park. About 75 people, including many kids, heeded the call on the first Saturday of 2020.
While we had gotten lucky with the weather for the Holiday ride, things looked a little different on Winter Bike Day. In previous years we had tried hosting a full week of events to celebrate winter riding, but conditions were often tough in February in Madison. This year we focused all our energy on a single day — and of course it turned out to be one of the coldest ones of the year! Well, we were out out there anyway, serving coffee and pastries around a fire pit on the Cap City Trail.
With two events already under our belts, we were getting ready for the next one: An early spring ride to the murals of Madison. Then COVID happened and would shape the whole rest of the year.
Pandemic this, pandemic that
The early days of the pandemic saw us and our community jump into action. During the first lockdown, bike shops were considered essential businesses, but many of them had reduced or changed hours. Our board member Heather started a simple spreadsheet keeping track of Madison’s shops, and we, with assistance from the Bike Fed, eventually expanded this to an interactive map of the shops around the whole state. Nowadays we still maintain a map of all Dane County shops and outdoor repair stations.
Another thing early in the pandemic: Keeping your distance on the bike path. We didn’t have a great understanding of the risk of outdoor transmission yet, and public health orders mandated a 6-foot distance outdoors as well. A great opportunity for a fun PSA on the SW Path:
One of the few positive aspects of the pandemic: Like in other cities, Madison designated some of its streets as shared streets. In some cases, cars were kept out completely (Vilas Park Dr), in others “local traffic only” signs were used (e.g. N Sherman, Mifflin), and on Atwood Ave we got a temporary protected bike lane! And for those worried about crowded bike paths, we crunched the bike counter data to tell you when the paths were emptiest.
At the end of May, police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. Suddenly, racism and the Black Lives Matter were in everyone’s minds and out on the street. White people, myself included, faced hard questions about their own actions and the systems of privilege and racism that we are entwined with and that we perpetuate. It’s was a difficult topic then, and the fight against racism is here to stay.
One intersection of racism and our bike advocacy was around Vision Zero. Vision Zero is an approach to traffic safety that recognizes that humans will make errors and that all traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. In other cities, part of Vision Zero has been increased traffic enforcement. But it is well known that this enforcement has disparate and sometimes deadly impacts on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). When Madison was about to adopt its own Vision Zero policy, Madison Bikes submitted a letter (you can download it below) to the Common Council. And the adopted Vision Zero policy does include a clause that acknowledges the harm from both traffic violence and police enforcement and asks for a plan to eliminate that harm.
One project I was really excited about this year is the Cyclists of Madison Twitter bot. Since the early days of Madison Bikes, we wanted to fight stereotypes about who does and doesn’t ride a bike in Madison. I greatly enjoy taking photos of people out riding, and the technical expertise of our volunteer Ben Sandee allowed us to create a Twitter bot that posts one photo a day.
Wilson Street: In the works since 2017
One significant advocacy victory for Madison Bikes in 2020 was the adoption of the Wilson Street Corridor Plan. We had been working on this from the very beginning, back in 2017. And what a long way the project has come since then. Originally, the plan was to keep this important corridor into downtown more or less as it is, except for a widened sidewalk on parts of W Wilson. Through our (and your) tireless advocacy, the final plan looks very different: Ultimately, there will be low-stress bike facilities along the whole corridor, from the SW Path to the intersection at Machinery Row! Should it have taken this long to acknowledge that we need bike facilities for all ages and abilities? No. But Wilson St shows the power of advocacy and persistence.
Madison Bike Week
Madison Bike Week as usual was not an option this year. We had only taken over the organization of Madison Bike Week last year and were all excited about our second round. First, we decided to delay a decision. Then we decided to delay Bike Week. And then we seriously considered canceling Bike Week completely for 2021. In the end, we went ahead and ran a Madison Bike Week as best as possible given the circumstances. I really, really hope that 2021 will get us back to an in-person Madison Bike Week.
There’s still a lot of uncertainty about what 2021 will bring. I’m excited to to welcome three new people to our board of directors! We’ll stay involved with the bus rapid transit project moving forward, and we’re going to do some education for the Common Council elections in April. We have also allocated some funding for a small grant program, supporting BIPOC-led organizations for transportation-related projects. Stay tuned. And thanks for your support.