Action Alert In Depth

The Tragedies of Sauk Creek Greenway

(disclaimer: this is a personal blog and not an official position of Madison Bikes)

Alder Nikki Conklin recently announced the scuttling of a long-planned North/South path through the Sauk Creek Greenway on Madison’s far west side. This is an unfortunate capitulation. The tragedy isn’t so much the loss of the path, but the way in which it was lost and how it unfairly perpetuates a “Bikes vs Trees” narrative.

If you just want action, jump to Next Steps at the bottom of this painfully-long blog.

I’ve also added a footnote1 with updates and follow-ups since this blog was originally posted.


The 26-acre Sauk Creek Greenway snakes from Tree Lane to Old Sauk Rd. There has long been a stormwater project to deal with years of neglect and surges of stormwater from west side development, particularly the parking lots near Menards. The issue became critical after the 2018 floods which resulted in the drowning death of a person in the nearby Chapel Hill-Greentree greenway, an area with many similarities to Sauk Creek. That incident resulted in the $5.9M McKenna Boulevard Flood Mitigation Project.

The Sauk Creek stormwater project’s goals are to stabilize the creek and build a gravel service road similar to the ones in Owen Conservation Park and Pheasant Branch north of Century Ave. The project would also thin the trees according to a soon-to-be-released corridor plan. It’s expected that the City will want to remove all damaged and unhealthy trees, and also many of the less desirable trees that are crowding the more desirable trees. Opinions vary on what is a “desirable” tree, but there’s no doubt the current greenspace is a product of neglect and mesophication, and there isn’t a single healthy oak tree under 80 years old. Unlike Owen, Olin, Hoyt, Picnic Point, and other urban greenspaces, this greenway has never had a volunteer group clearing invasives, burning duff, stemming erosion, maintaining trails, etc.

Throughout the project, neighbors have rightfully expressed concerns about what tree removal will look like, especially after a different tree-thinning exercise a few blocks away seemed excessive:

As far as I can tell, the City departments involved seem to have been responsive, going so far as to inventory the entire 26-acre wood and its 5500 trees, post a list of every public meeting and department involved, publish a community engagement guide, and issue multiple statements to dispel misunderstandings that had arisen. However, throughout the process one can’t help but sense that neighbors seemed more interested in how the project will affect their own properties than the City’s.

Enter the “Friends”

In mid-2022, the “Friends of Sauk Creek” formed. Unlike most “Friends” organizations that help improve our parks and open space, this group’s single goal was to “stop plans to remove 5,500 trees during a reconstruction of Sauk Creek,” i.e., to ensure nothing changes. [Update: their new web site has expanded their mission to include “stop bike paths in the nearby woods.” Their old web site with much of their history is still in google’s cache]. The leaders are nice, intelligent people and they’re passionate about their neighborhoods. But for reasons I can’t explain, their manner of engaging with the City quickly turned belligerent and hostile, and they’ve shown little interest in compromise or finding common ground.2

The group aggressively took the planners to task, demanding details and impacts long before any engineering had been done to provide precise answers. They looked for inconsistencies with what was said by different people in different City departments, jumping on them as signs of malfeasance or secrecy. They apparently filed Freedom of Information Act requests. To this outsider, their treatment of our City officials seemed unfair and unwarranted. Despite all that, a petition they crafted in late 2022 calling for public involvement in tree-clearing decisions was calm, measured and entirely appropriate. It got 373 signatures. I would have happily signed it.

Their true colors were revealed in May 2023 when they rallied to kill a planned youth single-track MTB trail in Walnut Grove Park that would have provided youth recreation similar to the Aldo Leopold Park shred-to-school trails. The trail didn’t endanger a single mature, healthy tree and was environmentally compatible with the park’s existing uses (which include a dog park!). With no environmental reason for their opposition, it’s impossible not to conclude that the “Friends” group is more concerned about the users of the greenway than the health of the greenway. To them, the greenway should remain their own private backyard in perpetuity and anything that brings more people into the area is a threat.

During a meeting in July 2023, City planners indicated that the stormwater project may be coordinated with a long-planned North/South path through the greenway. This would mean paving and grading the access road to ADA and NACTO path standards, adding one or more bridges, and connecting the path to the City’s growing All Ages & Abilities bike network. The idea of a path goes back at least to the 2000 bike plan (pg 84) where it was listed as a “third priority” because “suitable on-road routes exist.” The “Friends” group twists that to say that the City had declared the path “wasn’t a priority.” In reality, “third priority” means exactly that and, after 24 years, many of the other “third priority” projects have been completed, including Wingra Creek underpass, Stricker Pond path, a path in Blackhawk Park, the new Starkweather bridge, etc. The path again appeared in the 2015 bike plan on the future map (figure 4-7, pg 39). It also was on the West Area Plan that kicked off in early 2023.

At some point, East/West path connections through the greenway were also added to the West Area Plan. I’m not sure the history of that, but do know that students headed to Memorial High School, Jefferson Middle School, and the Lussier Community Center have expressed a desire for an E/W connection without having to go all the way down to Tree Lane. For some, an E/W connection will eliminate up to a mile of extra travel and avoid having to take busy four-lane Old Sauk Rd. It will also provide a connection to WisDOT’s planned bike/ped beltline bridge just to the west. Even after Alder Conklin capitulated on the N/S path this week, the E/W path remains in the plan and will surely be a continued fight.

Enter the Boogeyman

Once the “Friends” heard about a paved path, they were livid and shifted their attention towards this new boogeyman — the bike path! After all, what better symbol of hatred than a smug, entitled biker?

credit: AI

Their web site soon shouted “City planner describes creek area as biking hub; it could destroy thousands of trees, birds, wildlife.” Taking a lesson from the “see what sticks” playbook, they brainstormed a random assortment of false and exaggerated talking points, listed below (with my rebuttals):

  • “Thousands of trees removed”, “decimate”, “reduced canopy”, etc. (The stormwater project is what will remove trees! A paved path will only require minor additional tree removals for bridges and the E/W path. Engineers will surely try to avoid the healthy, desirable trees.)
  • “Destroy nature”, “harm animals”, etc. (Paths are not a major factor. Studies do show that mountain biking can impact nesting habits of some bird species in wilderness areas. But this is an urban greenway; any animal here is adapted to houses, highways, noise, and the adjacent dog park. Turtles even dig their nests next to paths.)
  • “The path’s impervious surface will leach toxins into our lakes!” (Path asphalt is inert and the path has no gutters or drains for water to reach the lake. All rainwater soaks into the ground a few feet from where it falls. Porous asphalt can also be used, as Fitchburg did along Lacy Rd. Toxins from asphalt largely come from driveway sealants used by homeowners.)
  • “The grade is too steep and the path will be dangerous!” (The grades are nothing that design engineers couldn’t handle; overall it’s much tamer than paths in Yarmouth Crossing and Pheasant Branch Creek.)
  • “Heat-island, climate change!” (The stormwater project is responsible for the extent of tree removal; their thinning will allow the remaining trees to flourish, improving the overall canopy. Plus, if the path can convince even a single person to give up their car or drive less, that can save up to 250 mature trees worth of carbon capture. Biking and walking are climate solutions, not problems!)
  • “The path will be lighted!” (This is not in any plan and is technically challenging. It would only be added if neighbors asked for it. [edit: see footnote 1])
  • “The cost will be $6M! or $7M!” (The City doesn’t have a design detailed enough to know what the cost will be. By the time the stormwater project has rehabilitated the gravel access road, the cost to add asphalt and bridges should be very reasonable with most costs covered by a federal grant.)
  • “Bikers are fast and dangerous” (FUD. See below for why this path would not be a major bike thoroughfare.)
  • “The path doesn’t connect anywhere!” (Never mind the chicken-and-egg fallacy of arguing against paths because of lack of other paths, this path would have immediately connected to bike lanes on Old Sauk Rd and Tree Ln, and it would nearly reach Mineral Point Rd’s new widened sidewalk. The E/W path will connect WisDOT’s planned beltline overpass at Sauk Creek Park.)
  • “The path isn’t needed because there are other routes on Westfield and High Point!” (This is absolutely true for most bicyclists one sees on the roads today. However, it’s estimated that ⅓ of bicyclists only bike where there are comfortable off-street paths. This path could be the difference in whether a family bikes or drives to Swagat for dinner or whether their child can reach Alicia Ashman Library on their own.)

This last point drives me crazy and points to a major failure in City messaging. This path would never have been a major bike hub or bike highway on the order of the Capital City trail or Southwest Commuter Path. Instead, it would be a backyard greenway path similar to ones in Greentree-Chapel Hill, Oak Meadow, Mineral Point Park, Garner Park, and dozens of others. Those are all important bike connections, especially for All Ages and Abilities, but they attract far more walkers, joggers, dog walkers, strollers, and kids than bicyclists. Most path users are from the adjacent neighborhoods.

A typical 5pm in McKee Farms Park. Five walkers, one jogger with dog, and one fisherman on a bike (obscured).

Mobilization strategies

The “Friends” group issued a second petition in Fall 2023 filled with their false talking points, though it moderated its words on tree removal. Curiously, they only got 305 signatures, far less than the 2022 petition. This could have been due to shortness of time, but it might also be due to neighbor fatigue. I’ve spoken with several people in the area including a few who are serious conservationists and, frankly, they’re bewildered by how sideways things have gone and they’re afraid to speak up because of the power the “Friends” group seems to wield.

Another pillar of their mobilization strategy was to hound and harass every public servant and every public meeting related to the West Area Plan with emails, public comments, and in-person confrontations. Ald. Conklin’s inbox probably has a thousand messages about it, far more than any human could read, let alone reply to. At the Wisconsin Healthy Communities Summit last week, State Senator Chris Larson advised that one key to successful government advocacy was to “point out the problem without being problematic.” The “Friends” group proves him dead wrong! I recall one technical zoning meeting where an exasperated attendee asked of the barrage of Sauk Creek path comments, “Do these even refer to anything on the agenda?” (they didn’t, but it was a public meeting so there was no stopping it)

It was also agonizing to see how much time and energy the “Friends” group was able to extract from their own members. I’ve read every public comment from a half-dozen meetings. Most are earnest and thoughtful, and many brought up well-researched concerns about project bounds, path routing, grade, erosion, proximity to yards — all issues that would be really helpful during the design phase, had there been one. But so many of the messages also raised the same false and exaggerated talking points. At one meeting, a neighbor with a disability stood in opposition to the path because she couldn’t imagine how an ADA path could navigate the terrain. With the project now scuttled, we’ll never know how engineers would have solved that; but they would have.

A third pillar was the press. By framing this as “David v Goliath,” “neighbors saving trees from uncaring City planners,” or “trees versus bikers”, they got a lot of sympathetic press. Allison Garfield’s excellent Capital Times piece “A Silent Deforestation” gave most coverage to the neighbors, but it was extremely fair in presenting the City’s position. WORT‘s earlier coverage was similarly balanced. Coverage in the Wisconsin State Journal was more lopsided for the “Friends”, and Cap Times editor Paul Fanlund proved himself a sucker for the false messaging, lobbing cheap shots against bicyclists in his opinion piece on zoning changes.

The fourth pillar was to capitalize on the public outcry about proactive zoning, as Fanlund had done. The zoning issue is important and potentially affects the entire city, but it has nothing to do with the local Sauk Creek stormwater project. That didn’t stop a former Common Council candidate from making this FOX news-worthy video that egregiously conflates the two issues.

City Capitulation

The strategy of the “Friends of Sauk Creek” worked. The city is now planning to remove the N/S path from the West Area Plan. This is no big loss for the overall bike network, but it is a tremendous loss for low-stress bicycling since beautiful paths like this are often what get people hooked on biking in the first place. I personally think it’s also a huge loss for the neighborhood, but that’s really for the neighbors to judge.

The biggest tragedy for me as a transportation advocate is that this loss is entirely due to misinformation and bullying. The “Friends of Sauk Creek” apparently feels no shame in their tactics and perhaps this is just a case of local democracy emulating national politics. But that doesn’t make it right. It’s embarrassing to see it succeed in Madison.

Of course, the “Friends” aren’t done. Of course they know the path has little impact on tree removal. They will fight the E/W path that remains in the plan. They will fight the stormwater project later this summer. And, in a couple years, they’ll be fighting the off-street bike paths now planned for High Point and Westfield Rds — paths that will end up costing far more than the greenway path and that will remove parking and disrupt the front yards of the fifty or so home- and condo- owners on those streets.

What’s next?

Madison’s West Area Plan updates and information about all upcoming meetings are posted at The Sauk Creek path change has two meetings:

  • virtually on Thursday May 30 at 6pm
  • in-person open house at High Point Church on Thursday June 6 from 6-8pm. Fortunately or not, this falls in the middle of Bike Week!

As bicyclists, our goals should be to show overwhelming support for the East/West path and to try to restore the North/South path through the Sauk Creek greenway.

Our success depends almost entirely on helping opposition neighbors to (a) understand that the paths are not responsible for mass tree removal and (b) that paths will be an asset, not a threat, to the neighborhoods, the greenway and the adjacent property owners.

Let’s mobilize with facts and kindness. Let’s help the opposition think about how they might personally benefit from a path. E.g., walking a dog without getting muddy feet or ticks, morning jogs or birding, walking or biking to dinner, sending your child alone to the park or library, and so on. If quality-of-life gains aren’t enough, remind them that a trail will increase property values by 3-5%.

Most importantly, let’s encourage them to go explore the similar greenways to see what paths are really like and how other neighbors use them. Here are four ideal ones to visit:

  • Middleton’s Pheasant Branch Creek path (at Park St, not the larger area north of Century Blvd) is most analogous to Sauk Creek in terms of narrowness, length, and terrain.
  • The Mineral Point Park path from behind Memorial High School to Inner Drive. This is similarly narrow to Sauk Creek but has a concrete stormwater drain.
  • Fitchburg’s paths like Nevan Springs/Buttonbush and Oak Meadow have adjacent houses. Here you can see how homeowners integrate their yards with the paths while maintaining privacy.
  • The Cap City trail west of Fish Hatchery (park at Adesys) is a popular trail so expect a much higher volume of bike traffic. It has steep grades, multiple bridges, and a meandering creek whose banks are reinforced with natural boulders.
  • The gravel maintenance road in Owen Conservation Park from Inner Drive to Forsythia Pl. This is what Sauk Creek’s new maintenance road will look like unpaved. The corridor width is not that different from a paved path.

There is a path to saving the path.

  1. Update: Added Mineral Point Park path to the list of suggests greenways to visit. Errata: Although the “Friends” group does not organize it, some Sauk Creek neighbors do independent garlic mustard removal and other woods maintenance. Follow-up: The “Friends” group has not responded to this blog , but instead doubled-down on their misinformation in a May 19 blog. Follow-up: social media discussions about this blog are at Nextdoor and Reddit (and earlier Reddit). A very good policy discussion about paths in Sauk Creek greenway took place in the Dec 13, 2023 meeting of the Madison Transportation Commission (watch here from 1:52:00 to 2:33:45). In it, and also at a June 6 meeting, City engineers said they preferred paths to be lit but that it was very much a design question, decided by public input. ↩︎
  2. To be transparent, I have no first-hand exposure to the Friends of Sauk Creek prior to Fall 2023, so all descriptions of earlier events are based on the public record. There may be other plausible explanations. I welcome the “Friends” or other involved people to help correct the record and point out any mistakes they read in this blog. ↩︎
E-Mail In Depth Newsletter

2023: The Madison Bikes year in review

2023 is almost over. It was a busy year for myself and for Madison Bikes. What did we do? What did we achieve? What went on in the city that is related to biking? The following is my personal, and certainly incomplete, account of that. Be warned: It’s long (and Mailchimp may cut some of it off!)

Madison Bike Week: Bigger than ever

Jerry Schippa, a traffic engineer with the city, nerding out about traffic signals

Writing about the 2023 edition of Madison Bike Week is a little overwhelming: It was the biggest Madison Bike Week ever and no single paragraph can do it any justice. There were bike stations, nerdy signal infrastructure rides, non-nerdy social rides, an amazing party in Brittingham Park, a cargo bikes and an e-bikes test event, bikepacking, and so on and so on. It’s always a big lift to keep all this organized, and then it’s amazing to see how it all comes together.

Cargo bike test event

Infrastructure highlights

Two-way off-street bike facility along Atwood Ave

A number of exciting infrastructure projects were completed or partially completed in 2023. Atwood Avenue was completely rebuilt, with fewer and narrower car lanes, new multiuse paths, continuous sidewalks, and a lot more. A little farther east, on the Lake Loop, the Dempsey and Davies project started and was partially finished: Instead of a bumpy road without any sidewalk, there is now a multi-use path on Davies St. The rest of the project will be completed in 2024. 

New multi-use path on Davies St

Downtown saw the completion of the West Wilson and Broom St project. The Wilson Street corridor had been an advocacy focus for us since at least 2018, and it was wonderful to see the project come to fruition, with a two-way cycletrack on West Wilson almost all the way to Monona Terrace. The full benefit for the low-stress bike network downtown will be realized when the East Wilson portion of the corridor, from Monona Terrace to Franklin, is rebuilt next year. 

Delivery of the Ubay overpass

On the west side, the University Bay Drive overpass was finished. On Hammersley Road we saw the completion of phase 1 of another multi-use path, from Brookwood Rd to Gilbert Rd. Phase 2 from Gilbert to the Beltline Frontage road, where the path will connect to the Southwest Path, is coming in 2024. And finally, another segment of the West Beltline Path, from Junction Road to Commerce Drive opened this year.

West Beltline multi-use path

Aside from these large projects, there were also a lot of smaller, less visible but no less important improvements – more rapid flashing beacons, green crossing markings, improved signal phasing, and so on. An infrastructure improvement of a different kind was the expansion of BCycle into Fitchburg. The all-electric bike share system grew by several stations and bikes, and this resulted in record ridership this year. Next year, more stations in Madison should be coming online.

Bringing federal funding to Madison

Site of a (very delayed) press conference to announce $15 million of federal funding to rebuild John Nolen Drive

If you’re following the local news, you’ll have noticed that the City of Madison was very successful in bringing in federal infrastructure dollars this year. This includes funding for the Autumn Ridge Path and overpass; for the John Nolen Causeway reconstruction; and most recently $6.2 million to implement the city’s Vision Zero action plan. These are all projects that couldn’t happen without federal dollars. Our role in all this? Probably small, but we provided support letters with the grant applications, emphasizing how the projects contribute to traffic safety, connectivity, and equity. 

Candidate questionnaires

Madison Bikes is a non-partisan, educational non-profit. We don’t endorse candidates in elections. Rather, we educate about the positions of candidates so that voters can make an educated decision on who to vote for. Therefore for the Common Council and mayoral election in the spring, we sent out candidate questionnaires again. Because transportation, land use, and housing are inextricably linked, we partnered with housing advocates Madison is for People and Madison Area Bus Advocates. All three mayoral candidates and 19 Common Council candidates responded to our questions

Madison Bikes social rides

Madison is for People X Madison Bikes social ride

It’s a little weird for a bike organization to not organize any bike rides, isn’t it? Well, when we started Madison Bikes we felt that a) there already were plenty of wonderful group rides ain Madison and b) organizing rides wasn’t our core skill set. But this year, after several years of COVID-related lack of in-person interaction, we decided to give it a try. In September and October we slow-rolled around Lake Monona with a group of 30-50 people. The conversations and connections made during and after the ride were wonderful, and we may pick these rides up again once the weather gets warmer.

Small grants

Women-trans-femme-nonbinary bike social during Madison Bike Week (photo: Sarah Perdue)

We’re a small organization and there are a lot of people and organizations out there with great ideas but a lack of funds to turn those ideas into reality. That’s especially true for folks and communities that traditionally have been excluded from or underrepresented in biking spaces. As a small step to fix this, we set up our small grants program a few years ago: A simple application, quick turnaround, locally focused. We’ve had the program in place since 2021, but in 2023 it started taking off. We supported several events during Madison Bike Week: A bike station by the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County; a shop tour and volunteer event at Bikes for Kids Dane County (formerly known as Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison); a women-trans-femme-nonbinary ride and social during Madison Bike Week, organized as a collaborative effort between Madison Women’s Cycling Club, Radical Adventure Riders, and Bombay Bicycle Club.

Improving bike infrastructure data at an OpenStreetMap mapathon (Photo: Stephen Kennedy)

Outside of Madison Bike Week we provided support for a “mapathon”: Local cartographer Stephen Kennedy of LATLONG.SHOP hosted a Madison Bike Mapathon in November focused on adding bike-related data to OpenStreetMap. Nearly 20 community members—most of whom had never contributed to OSM—showed up to learn the editing process. The group added data related to road speed changes, road crossing elements like islands and RRFBs, Bcycle stations, and bike parking infrastructure.

And our biggest small grant that is still ongoing is a video production project by La Comunidad News ONLINE and Madison Vibra: “A Pedaleando Juntos: Inclusive Biking for All in Madison.” The results should be coming in early next year.

In 2024, we will continue and expand the grant program. If you have an idea or know anyone who does, please go to the small grants page on our website.

New people supporting weekly update

In an organization without paid staff, a lot of the work gets done by our amazing board of directors. But of course we can’t do it all, and we have wonderful help from volunteers. Our weekly newsletter is something I’m very proud of, and writing them is a lot of work (I’d estimate that on average it takes me at least an hour to write one newsletter). This year we reached out to our community to recruit new writers. Chris and Daniel responded to that call and are now part of our rotation of newsletter writers. A big thanks to them, and the other members of the team: Ben (another super volunteer), Christo, Kyle (emeritus), Robbie, and Connor. 

The Streets Project

Panelists at The Street Project: Collin Mead (Wisconsin Bike Fed), Baltazar de Anda Santana (Latino Academy for Workforce Development), Morgan Ramaker (Downtown Madison Inc), Alicia Bosscher (safe streets activist and organizer of Ride for your Life Madison). Not shown: Chris McCahill (Congress for the New Urbanism)

In October we hosted a film screening and a panel discussion. The Street Project tells stories about “humanity’s relationship to the streets and the global citizen-led fight to make communities safer. Digging deep into the root causes of traffic violence, the filmmakers engage a diverse array of experts. These expert interviews are interwoven with the stories of real people working to make their communities safer.” To make the connection to what’s happening in our city more explicit, we invited a panel of local experts and activists to discuss the movie and respond to audience questions. The event drew about 120 people and the panel discussion was lively. Stay tuned for some exciting film screening news in 2024! 

Winter events

Winter Bike Anywhere Day

We actually had two successful Car-free Holiday Fantasy in Lights events this year. One at the very beginning of the year, and another one in November. Hundreds of attendees got the opportunity to experience the lights on foot or bike, without having to worry about cars. Our other traditional winter event is celebrating International Winter Bike Anywhere Day in early February. We teamed up with the City and served warm beverages and snacks in front of Monona Terrace on a very crisp-but-beautiful weekday morning. 

Ride for your Life

Video from Ride For Your Life Madison (

October saw what was likely the largest bike and walk safety rally that Madison had ever seen: The Ride for your Life, instigated and organized by Alicia Bosscher, who lost her sister to traffic violence, and a team of the Wisconsin Bike Fed, Trek, Madison Bikes and numerous volunteers. Hundreds of people rode their bikes through the city to demand more safety for vulnerable road users. This was a powerful demonstration for how much support for safer biking and walking there is. Which leads me to the next topic.

Vision Zero

Madison’s Vision Zero policy and action plan have been in place for a few years now. As a reminder, Vision Zero posits that the only acceptable number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries is zero, and Madison’s action plan has a goal to reach 0 by 2035. The good news: After the devastating loss of the lives of three cyclists last year, nobody in Madison was killed while biking in 2023. Four people on bikes were seriously injured, which is the same number as in 2023. The larger picture, however, looks less rosy: After we had seemingly made progress last year, the overall number of fatalities and serious injuries is up again, and the number of fatalities is the highest since at least 2017. 

Biking stats: Not great

Aside from safety, one of my goals for bike advocacy is getting more people to bike more. And so every year I look at several indicators on how that’s going in Madison. What’s the proportion of people biking to work? What do the bike counter numbers tell us? How is BCycle ridership doing? And how does Madison compare to other cities? The very short version for 2022 (2023 numbers won’t be available for another while): It’s not great, but other cities are doing even worse. You can dive into the details in this blog post

Board comings and goings

Our board of directors is the core of our organization and we are very much a “working board.” Everything we do relies on the volunteer labor of our board members. A few board members had to step down because they moved away or had too many other responsibilities. Thanks to Caitlin, Connor, Kyle, and Sam for all your work! We miss you. We also have an exciting roster of incoming board members who will start their terms in January. Stay tuned for a blog post to introduce them. And finally, a big shout-out to the board members and officers who have been and will continue to be part of our organization: Aaron, Beth, Christo, Craig, Eleanor, Liz, Mark, Pete, and Robbie!

Looking forward to 2024

I’ll end here and want to thank you, dear reader, for your support. Maybe you volunteered for Madison Bikes, attended a public meeting, forwarded our newsletter, emailed your alder, supported us financially, told your neighbor how awesome biking is, shared your knowledge in our Facebook group, or just kept biking. I look forward to 2024. Tailwinds!

In Depth

North-South BRT and Bikes: A summary of our community meeting

In late November we hosted a community meeting about the planned North-South bus rapid transit (BRT) route and how it relates to biking. Staff from Metro and the city gave a presentation, followed by an extended Q&A and comments from attendees. If you couldn’t make the meeting, you’re in luck. We recorded the meeting, have the slides to share, and also have a complete transcript of the meeting.

If you have any feedback, questions, or comments, please reach out to us ( or to the city: or via the website

Thanks to Mike Cechvala and the other city staff for their presentation and responding to questions and comments!

If you appreciate posts and meeting like this, consider a donation to Madison Bikes before the end of the year.

Meeting recording on YouTube

You can get time stamps for the Q&A when you watch on YouTube.


Transcript (lightly edited for clarity)

Facilitator: So we’re recording the meeting so that people who weren’t able to join the meeting have the ability to watch it later and that we can also maybe have a summary after the meeting. So yeah, tonight we have several city staff with us who will introduce themselves. After I’m done talking, we’ll get a about 20 minute presentation from the city on the north south bus PRT project. And then really, after that, we will have the opportunity to provide feedback to ask questions. I’m looking at the number of attendees, we have about 30 people. So I think if you are able to you should either put your question or comment in the chat. Or you can also raise your hand if it’s easier for you to talk and so we’ll try to manage that in a way that we get to everything. If we run out of time or if there are questions that can’t be answered immediately. As I said, we’re recording the meeting. We’re also saving the chat. So if we don’t get to a question I think city staff are willing and able to respond to things after the meeting, if need be. And so yeah, I think we should have all that covered so I think I’m going to hand it over to Mike, and all of you. 

Mike Cechvala (Metro): Thank you, Harald. I’m going to try to share my screen here and get us going. And hopefully that’s up. I’m Mike Cechvala. I’m the project manager for North South Bus Rapid Transit. I work with Metro Transit, which is part of the city of Madison. I have a couple other colleagues from the city here and I’m just going to let them go ahead and introduce themselves quick. If I could start with Tom, Liz, Jose. 

Tom Lynch: Tom Lynch, director of transportation. 

Liz Callin: Good evening, everyone. I’m Liz Callin. I’m a transportation planner with the city of Madison. Jose, if you’re on. 

Jose Navarro: Yes, sorry. Jose Navarro, engineer with the transportation department. 

Renee Callaway: All right, and I’m Renee Callaway. I am the pedestrian bicycle administrator in traffic engineering. 

Cechvala: Thank you, Renee. I knew I was missing somebody. Sorry about that. Okay, so let’s go ahead and get started. I just want to start out by saying a couple things. This is a North South Bus Rapid Transit project. This is our second BRT project in the city. The first one is East West, which is under construction right now. We see this as a very big deal. We’re very excited about this project. We see it as being potentially transformative with the East West BRT project. We’re right at the start of the project. We’re just starting to have some public information meetings. We had a few public information meetings a couple weeks ago. And we’re now happy, very pleased to be working with Madison Bikes to get the word out about the project. Just a couple of things about the project. We are at the very top end of the project. We’re just starting the planning process. This is a bus rapid transit project. It’s a project whose primary goal is to improve public transit infrastructure on the North South Corridor. So we do need to kind of focus on that. We do need to kind of control the scope on that. But on the other hand, we would like to use this opportunity to help fix some of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure along the corridor. So it’s a fairly long corridor. We know that we can’t fix everything with it. But we’re going to try to fix some things with it, and we’ll get into some more details later. 

Just one other thing I’d like to point out before we get started is that I think what we’re trying to do here is help bring about a transformation in transportation in the city of Madison. Give people more options to travel, to give them more options besides driving their car, and hopefully reduce the dependence on driving in Madison. Some people will have to drive, but we try to give them better transit options. We try to give them better bike options. We’re going to be struggling because we’re all trying to get access to the same space on the roadway and the same dollars. So it’s going to be a struggle when these assets are limited, but we’re all trying to do the same thing. And so we’d like to work together and have your support on this project. 

So we’ll talk about what is BRT, some existing facilities, Park Street timeline, and then we’ll open it up to questions. So a little bit about what is bus rapid transit and how is it different from your standard bus route that we have. So there are a couple of distinctions between bus rapid transit and normal bus service. BRT doesn’t have to have 100% of all of these features, but it has to have some aspect of most or all of them. So for example, direct routes with fewer stops. That’s the primary way that we can reduce the travel time on the route so that it’s more attractive and gets you there faster. A frequent all day service, typically service every 15 minutes throughout the day so that you’re not waiting so long for the bus. Bus only lanes. So typically can’t have all bus only lanes throughout the entire corridor, but we try to have at least half the corridor be in bus only lanes. That’s again one of the fundamental ways that we can reduce traffic delays and have the route not only run faster but more reliably. Easy to recognize stations and buses. Traffic signal priority at traffic lights. Again, one of those fundamental ways that we reduce the red light delay and keep the bus moving. Longer articulated buses so that we can accommodate more people on the bus and faster fare payment. So, you know, these things all kind of work together. We can do some of these things individually to kind of help things, but when we apply this combination of enhancements to a single route. The ultimate goal is to have that route be fast, frequent, reliable, and more comfortable and easier for people to use to give them a more, more rail-like and more, more premium experience using the system. 

Who is building bus rapid transit? The city of Madison is leading the BRT project. We have several partners who are key to making north south BRT happen. One key partner is the city of Fitchburg. About two, two miles or so of the route is within the city of Fitchburg. They’re providing not only support but also funding for the improvements within the city of Fitchburg. Dane County has jurisdiction over part of the route, the Greater Madison MPO, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, which also has jurisdiction over part of the route, and the Federal Transit Administration which will, which would be providing the majority of the capital funding for the project. 

This is a [a photo from the] groundbreaking that we had for the east west BRT system. I think it was about a year ago now. So let’s go ahead and start to look at some maps. 

What you’re looking at here is kind of the overview of the entire BRT system. The east west bus rapid transit line is shown in red here, this is route A in our current transit network as the route a was implemented in the summer of 2023, in terms of the route that it passes that’s shown here. The BRT component of it is the capital investments that’s being made along those corridors so we’re building stations, where the dots are, we’re implementing the transit signal priority. We’re implementing the bus-only lanes. Where we’re purchasing the new articulated electric buses to run along the route. So, you know, BRT is really about those capital improvements to make the make the system better. 

The second BRT line, which is what we’re talking about now, is north south, which is shown in green. This is route B. You can see that route B the north south BRT line shares the corridor with the east west line on East Washington Avenue and through downtown. So it’ll use those existing stations that are being constructed now in the bus only lanes along that part of the corridor. And this will essentially be an extension of those improvements to the north and to the south. So, you know, the project is in some ways split into two, it’s, it’ll be one continuous route and one continuous project. 

But we do have this northern segment along North Street, Packers, Northport, and the southern segment along Park Street, Badger, and Fish Hatchery. So the scope of this project is to add some of those same capital improvements – the stations, the bus lanes, the signal priority along route B that will exist for the A route, should be completed at the end of 2024. So that’s what we’re talking about. 

Here’s just some progress photos of the east west line. So with our second line we have the luxury of actually seeing what we’re planning. These are two stations that are under construction. This one on the left is a station on Mineral Point Road at High Point, and this one on the right is on Sheboygan Avenue at Eau Claire. So you can see these enhanced stations which are under construction. These still have a lot of features that need to be added to it like the seating, the glass panels, and some of the electronics and so forth. And this is a progress photo, so it’s not totally done yet but you can kind of see it start to take shape. This is in the median of the street. You’ll see a platform, this platform is where you’ll stand and wait for the bus or get off of the bus. That height of the platform is 13 1/2 inches; it’s taller than your typical curb. The reason for that is so that the platform is level with the floor of the bus. That makes it faster for people to get on and off the bus, it makes it easier for people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices or, or who find it more difficult to board the bus. They can do it more easily and more safely because they don’t have that step up to come down. Everything is faster and easier. 

You’ll notice that the lanes are red, so these lanes next to the station will be bus only lanes that will exist on about two thirds of the east west line and you know maybe slightly less but comparable part of the north south line. You’ll also notice that the station is in the center of the street, and so one of the most common questions we get is how the heck are you supposed to get on when the doors are on the right side of the bus. The new buses that we’re buying will have doors on both sides of the bus, so the doors on the left side will open as the bus pulls into the station and then you’ll get on and off using the doors on the left side of the bus. When it uses these center running stations and you’ll get off on the right side when it uses the side running stations. 

So, getting into a little bit more detail we’re going to focus on a few key questions or decision points to move forward at this early stage in planning with north south BRT. One of those decision points is the station locations, where should the station locations go. There are some that kind of have to be in certain places. For example we have a station at Erin Street that serves the hospital there. We have a station at, you know, I’ll just point out one on the northside: Sherman and Northport. There’s limited places there where you can cross the street and get to the station. So there are some places where we kind of have to have stations in certain places. But a lot of these station locations can be shifted around potentially depending on what we hear and what we plan and what gets recommended going forward. So those are some things that we expect you to just kind of focus on and we’re really listening to see if anybody has any suggestions. We’ve heard some already so if you’ve shared any with us before, we’re collecting those, those thoughts and ideas, as we adjust the station locations. 

Another thing that we’re looking at is the running way and expand that to say the corridor transportation improvements. So, you know, we’re looking at where should the bus lanes go, but we’re also looking at what other improvements to the corridor would support bus rapid transit but also maybe as an opportunity that that can be fixed with the BRT project. So we’ve laid out the bike infrastructure along the north south BRT line. We’ve separated into the southern half and the northern half. I’m not going to go through all of it, but I will touch on a few things I think at a high level, I think we want to recognize that there are shortcomings in the bike network along these corridors. Fitchburg has made some improvements to Fish Hatchery Road, south of the Beltline where they had a reconstruction project a few years ago. They’ve added some infrastructure like a side path. We have some new bike lanes on Badger Road. Park Street remains a fundamental missing link in the bike network so I just want to point that out. We’ll have some more information on that but I think that’s pretty clear from the maps here. 

Looking at the north side again we have some bike lanes that were installed on Northport Drive. We have some bike infrastructure parallel to Packers Avenue that to some degree is helping things. But again, Packers Avenue, we recognize that there are shortcomings on Packers Avenue. There have been various efforts and plans to improve bike infrastructure to the north side. You know, I don’t think we’ll be able to fix everything along these corridors, but I think we’re looking at ways to bridge some gaps and get us closer to what we want to do. 

So, talking more about the running way and the infrastructure along the route. One of the key decisions is to go center running, as we have shown in the pictures along Mineral Point Road, or to go side running or outside running, which is more like what we’ve been doing for a long time. You know, we have several bus lanes around the city, where the bus runs on the right and the doors open on the right hand side. There are some benefits and negatives to both. Generally, we prefer the center running bus lanes and the reason for that is it eliminates many of the conflicts between buses and right turning vehicles, bikes, cars that are stopped, parked illegally, parked for a short period of time. All of those conflicts typically happen in the right lane. And so when we, even if we have a bus lane, we still deal with those conflicts. But, you know, there are some challenges with the center running bus lane. Typically, the outside bus lanes are shared with bikes, for example, on Mineral Point Road. We are switching from side running to center running and then replacing that shared facility as it existed with a side path on the north side of Mineral Point Road. Outside running is basically kind of the reverse of that. We have those, we have those conflicts, but it’s there, but it retains some of the benefits that are there with the facilities that we have. 

Okay, so getting into infrastructure a little bit deeper here. The project can be broken up into a few segments that have a number of things in common. We’re going to start at the south side, looking at Fish Hatchery Road south of the Beltline. This is in Fitchburg. So Fish Hatchery Road was reconstructed a few years ago. We will maintain most of the investment that was made along that corridor. We need to retrofit BRT into that. We’re not tearing it all out. So we will retrofit the stations in the median or on the side. If we flip the bus lanes from the side to the center, we’ll do something similar to what we did on Mineral Point Road, which is make the right hand lane a general purpose travel lane and then make the left lane bus only. So we remain two lanes in each direction. 

Going across the Beltline, Badger Road would be in mixed traffic. That’s just one lane in each direction. Not many changes that we would make there other than retrofit stations. 

Going up Park Street. So we’re going to talk a little bit about Park Street. Park Street is going to be a big part of this. So Park Street is due for a full scale reconstruct. It has pavement that is in poor condition. It also has many shortcomings in its cross section. It accommodates cars fairly well. It does not really accommodate buses or bikes very well. It does not have continuous bike facilities. And it has very few trees along it. To be straightforward, it’s not a very urban corridor. It’s a fairly car centered corridor and we’d like to improve it as we reconstruct it to make it a little bit more of a balanced facility and support that urban vision. So we’ll talk a little bit more about that. 

As we go north along Park Street, once you get north of about Fish Hatchery Road, Park Street is in better condition. That will not be a full reconstruct. That will be a retrofit. We will retrofit the stations and bus lanes into the corridor as it works. 

And then this section in the central part of Madison, again, no changes. That is being constructed now. We’ll leave the east-west corridor on North Street, which is opposite of Milwaukee Street. Again, that’s a single lane street, one lane each direction and then left on Commercial. So that will be in mixed traffic. No major changes to those corridors. 

As we get on to Packers Avenue, we have kind of a complicated intersection with Aberg Avenue. So we will serve a station there. There are a couple of different ways we’re looking at doing it, but right now we’re using the on and off ramps to serve stations on the ramps at Packers and Aberg. From there, we’ll go into new bus lanes on Packers Avenue and then around the curve onto Northport Drive. So currently Packers Avenue and Northport is three lanes in each direction. The concept would be to make the center lane bus only and then the two right-hand lanes would continue to be general purpose traffic. 

And then this loop on the north end would likely just be in mixed traffic as we go around the loop and serve the stations on that loop on Troy Drive, Green Avenue, and then back around on Northport Drive. 

So we also have some preliminary concepts for the changes to the bike facilities as it relates to this. And again, very preliminary, just putting some ideas out there. Starting on Fish Hatchery Road, if we were to go to center running, we would no longer have that shared bus and bike facility, but we would instead rely on the shared use path that has been built along one side of Fish Hatchery Road. It would still be technically legal and allowed to bike on Fish Hatchery, but I think we recognize that that’s basically not really an option for the vast majority of people and that most people would choose to use the side path. 

Going to the north, no real changes on Badger Road. Those bike lanes would remain on Badger Road. And then Park Street, I’ll show some concepts in just a second here, but that would be a full reconstruct with a new shared use path along the west side of Park Street between Badger and Fish Hatchery. That path would replace the existing facilities that kind of exist on Park Street. There are sections of Park Street that kind of have a bike lane and kind of don’t, and they kind of start and stop. So that whole concept would be replaced by a path on the west side of Park Street. We would then have an improved crossing on Park Street and provide connections to parallel routes to continue journeys to the north for people who don’t want to bike on Park Street. 

As we get farther north, north of Fish Hatchery or West Washington, depending on how you define things, again, very few changes. We do have the bike lanes on Park Street north of West Washington, so those would remain as they are. 

Flipping again to the north side, no substantial changes on North Street or Commercial Avenue. We have an existing bike lane on Commercial. We do not have one on North Street. And then coming around to Packers Avenue, no large scale changes to bike facilities. But again, we’re looking at some of those intersections to see how there may be some ways to improve crossings, make connections that don’t exist. 

And then no substantial changes to the bike lanes on Northport. So we have bike lanes that start right around Sherman Avenue. It’s kind of different in each direction, but west of Sherman, we basically have on-street bike lanes there. And then no changes to Troy Drive and Green Avenue. So we’re going to kind of start from the top, starting at Northport and work our way down. Just dive into these concepts a little more deeply. And just again to point out, these are very preliminary high-level concepts, trying to feel out if we’re on the right track here. 

So this is what our stations generally look like on the east-west line. Again, center running platforms with enhanced shelter and station amenities. Bus lanes in the middle. This is currently a three-lane street in each direction. So we have bus lanes in the center, two general purpose travel lanes. One area that we’re going to spend some time looking at is this particular intersection of Northport, Packers and Darwin. This intersection was rebuilt, I think, about 10 years ago. It is very difficult to cross. It’s basically impossible to cross. So we’re looking at ways to not only incorporate BRT through this interchange with a station somewhere in this block, but also try to make it more urban and more easy to cross and navigate for people who are walking and biking. No easy answers. Don’t have anything to show you yet, but that’s just a focus area that we’re looking at to try to make some larger scale improvements. Just a note on these drawings. The blue lines indicate bus lanes, and then the green lines indicate buses and mixed traffic. 

Moving down to Park Street. So this is a general overview of our concept for Park Street. Again, just looking at cross sections right now, looking at general concepts. Bus lane going in each direction, one to two travel lanes in each direction. We’re looking at the possibility of reducing the number of travel lanes from two to one along the middle part of Park Street. We don’t know if that’s viable yet. We think that that would help reduce the travel speeds and make Park Street more urban and safer. It would allow us to widen the things like the medians and the terraces. Still looking at that, it’s difficult because it is a state highway, so they do have jurisdiction and we’re looking through those options. But the general concept here is right now Park Street has three lanes essentially in each direction, two travel lanes, and then an auxiliary lane that’s a parking lane in some places, it’s a bus lane in some places, in some places it’s a parking plus bike lane. So taking that third auxiliary lane and turning it into a continuous bus lane on the left side of the street. 

We’d also like to make some improvements like widening the terraces so that we can actually get some healthy terraces with some street trees to provide shade and that more comfortable feel as many other urban corridors in Madison have, but Park Street does not. Some of that space is coming from the median, so reducing some of the median width and allocating it where pedestrians are more likely to be. 

And then this is a concept for the widened sidewalk or the side path that would replace the standard five foot sidewalk on the west side of Park Street. There are some reasons why it’s on the west side but I’m not going to go into that detail. So that would replace this sidewalk with a path that’s wide enough for bicyclists and pedestrians to pass each other, providing a protected facility between bikes, pedestrians and traffic. 

Just moving our way south on the corridor again blue is BRT and bus lanes, green is mixed traffic. Looking at this area now which is essentially the south transfer point, I don’t have anything to show you but this is another just kind of complicated area, as was the intersection of Northport and Packers. We have a couple things going on here. So the south transfer point will be redeveloped into a mixed use development. It will no longer function as the south transfer point because the BRT line will not stop there; it will continue to go to from the south and to the south. So we’re looking at ways to replace that facility with a facility that’s more supportive of the BRT infrastructure that keeps buses moving, that has a little bit more of an urban feel to it. And so there are a few options that we’re exploring there – again I don’t have anything to show you yet, but I’m just pointing out that we’re looking at this area and looking for ways to accommodate what we need to have there. We don’t have the same volume of buses and the same number of routes coming in and out of that area as we had before the transit network redesign. But we do have a couple routes G,H, and O that will interact with the north south BRT line route B, and so we do need to do that so we’re looking at some options in that area. We’re also looking at the Park and Badger intersection. This is an intersection that was again rebuilt about like 10 to 20 years ago. And again, it’s very car oriented. It does not serve pedestrians, bikes or transit users very well. And so we would like to make changes to that intersection to benefit all users of that intersection. 

One more thing to show you as we go to the south, the current end of route B is here at McKee and Fish Hatchery. So the current end of route B is essentially one station to the north here on Caddis Bend. So we’re proposing to extend the line about a half mile to the south, that would get it to McKee Road and Fish Hatchery which is this dot here on a street that’s called Triverton Pike. That does a couple things for us. It gets us one stop further into Fitchburg, serving a kind of a node there where people can get to the BRT service from several places around Fitchburg where the current end of route B is just a little bit too far. It also gives us an off street terminal where we can charge the bus. We do need a place where we can charge the electric buses at the end of the line so that they can continue to provide service and not run out of batteries. 

What I’m trying to show you here is that we’re also looking at the concept of extending it a couple stations farther to the south. And this is at the request of the City of Fitchburg. This concept would extend route B farther south along Fish Hatchery Road towards East Cheryl or Lacy Road, providing BRT service to the Fitchburg Civic Campus, which is kind of the downtown of Fitchburg. And so we’re looking into the feasibility of that. There are a couple questions. You know, there is a cost associated with this. And there are some challenges, but we’re looking into it. So, you know, any comments or thoughts about any of these things? Certainly welcome. Or, you know, anything about the project in general? I’m just trying to kind of give you some information about where we are and how we’re planning this project. 

So we’ll come back up above the clouds a little bit, and talk about the timeline. So, you know, the BRT system has been in planning for about the last decade. We’re now implementing the second of essentially the two lines. We are at the very start of the planning process for the north-south BRT route. Planning, design, and environmental evaluation will last from 2023, which is really just about coming to an end here through 2024 and 2025. Construction will last about two years. And then we hope to implement the system within about four to five years. It’s a little bit hard to make any predictions that go out that far, but, you know, probably looking in the 2027-2028 timeframe. 

A couple other ways to provide comments. And, you know, we’ll post this. We can go back to this. But we have an online forum where you can provide comments with a QR code. We also have a map where you can view the north-south BRT line and provide comments on the map. And we can come back to show that. But I just want to kind of finish out a couple other options here. We have a website, If you go there, you’ll kind of see two streams. You’ll see the east-west BRT project, where you can get things like updates to the construction process. And then you’ll see north-south BRT, where you’ll see some of this information and some of the planning work that’s being done. We have an email address dedicated to this project, Those emails go to myself, Liz, Tom, and others working directly on the project. You can also sign up for email updates to get notifications of any upcoming meetings. So it’s a lot of information. It’s pretty dense. I think I’m going to end it around there. And I don’t know, maybe I should just go back here in case anybody wants to get those links. But thanks for that. And we can open it up to any questions or comments. 

Yeah, thanks so much, Mike, for giving us this very brief overview. But yeah, there’s a lot to digest here. And I already see questions in the chat. And yeah, we do have 35 people. So feel free to either put your questions or comments in the chat. Or you can also raise your hand if you’d rather ask it yourself. And I’ll try to keep an eye on here.

I see some questions from Craig about BRT having a dedicated lane on North Park Street between Regent and University Avenue and what that would look like. 

Cechvala: Okay, so between Regent and University Avenue, it does get a little complicated in here. Let me see if I can go back to one of these types of drawings. So what this would look like is we would have dedicated lanes on Park Street as it goes up to West Washington. What this would probably look like is northbound, you have two lanes. So you have those two receiving lanes northbound on Park Street north of West Washington. The left lane would be dedicated towards two cars turning left on Regent Street. So this is shown in somewhat of a simplified fashion. But you’d have two lanes approaching Regent Street. One would be for cars to go. Actually, you’d have three lanes approaching Regent Street. One would be for cars and other vehicles to go through and right, a bus lane, and then a left turn lane. So that bus lane would develop somewhere in between these two intersections. 

Southbound, we’d like to have kind of a similar situation where southbound, we have a southbound left lane that becomes dedicated to turning left onto Regent Street. And at that point, you have a bus only lane that begins and then goes through southbound Park. That would have one southbound travel lane and one southbound bus lane. We are a little bit concerned about having just one southbound general purpose lane at West Washington Avenue. So we’re looking to see if we can truly have that southbound bus lane going all the way through. Another option would be to kind of do that same thing at Regent Street, but then have the second lane open up to general purpose traffic. Obviously, we’d like to have that continuous dedicated bus only lane, but we do need to work within the confines of what we can do. 

Facilitator: Thanks, and Craig had a follow up question on the 400 to 1400 South Park Street blocks where many buildings abut the sidewalk and how that would go together with building a path there. 

Cechvala: Okay, so the path would be from Badger Road to Fish Hatchery. So this section here, this is where we’re doing the full reconstruct. So there are some buildings that are tight to the sidewalk there. It gets a little bit complicated with each one. But in some cases, they’ve set that building back. So in that situation, you’d have a sidewalk, and then a separate path between the sidewalk and the street. At any rate, most of the side path here would be not adjacent to a building directly. Most of those buildings are set back. 

Facilitator: Thanks, and the final one from Craig, would this on street parking on South Park Street be removed or would that be kept? 

Cechvala: We are looking at that section, particularly this section of Park Street between West Washington and Olin. I think it’s hard to say, but there are some businesses there that really rely on parking. The concept shown here would generally remove parking along the entire stretch, but there are some businesses that rely on it. And so we’re looking at different options. Again, we don’t want things to creep too much, but there would be some options that would have parking and that would not have parking. Most likely, the retention of parking would mean that the bus would have to be in mixed traffic. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Matt is asking about bikes on buses, where the current bike racks in the front of the bus have a weight limit that doesn’t allow for e-bikes. So BRT will allow you to bring bikes on board, but will there be restrictions on what you can bring on board? 

Chechvala: So the bikes will be on board, you’ll go in the back door and the bikes will be, there’ll be a space for bikes in the back of the bus, as opposed to on the front of the bus. I mean, you know, this person clearly knows that, but that’s what I kind of pointed out for anybody else that might not know. And the reason for that is it’s faster and it’s easier. A lot of people are very intimidated by going into the street and putting their bike on the front of the bus. And it does take quite a long time with the platforms that are raised up above the street. It really doesn’t work as well. You know, we haven’t, we haven’t thought about what kind of policies we might have for bikes, but, you know, I think realistically the weight will not be a problem. I think the challenge will be the longer bikes and the trailers are just difficult to fit in there. They’re difficult to fit on the front of the bus too, right? And the trailers don’t fit on the bikes on the front and some of the very long bikes don’t fit either. So I think that’s going to be kind of the limitation. And I think what the way it’ll work out in practice is if you can get it in there and find a way for it to fit so that you’re not blocking the aisle and blocking people from circulating on the bus, I don’t think anybody’s going to really complain about it. 

Facilitator: Thanks. I see some support for extending the route to Lacy Road for serving Promega and the Fitchburg Library. And Janet, you have your hand up. So why don’t you unmute yourself and ask your questions before we go back to the chat. 

Janet: Sure, thanks. I’m pretty excited about all this and I’m very happy with the Park Street 15 minute service we have already. So thank you. I was wondering about it for the folks who want to ride their bike to the BRT but don’t want to take the bike along. Is there going to be any bike parking on the medians? 

Cechvala: Yeah, on the east-west line we’re putting in some bike parking strategically along the route. Typically that’s on the side of the street. I think we’re also looking at possible other options for the north-south line. I think that one of the shortcomings is that the bike parking is typically going to be on the side of the street, not in the median next to or on the platform. We don’t really want it on the platform, but we looked at different places to locate the bike parking. So we will try to locate bike parking along the BRT route so people can drop their bikes off there and then continue on the bus. And we’ll continue to look at different options to provide that. 

Facilitator: Thank you. Kaleb is asking about the planned lane widths both for the car lanes and for bus lanes for the route. He understands that some of these streets are state routes, but you’re exploring reduced lane count on South Park and reduced lane widths may also help with achieving reduced speeds. 

Cechvala: Yeah, now we’re getting into the nitty gritty. So if you look at the cross section that’s on the screen right now, I hate to use overused metaphors, but we’re trying to fit 10 pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag. The right of way is 106 feet wide. And to be straightforward, all of these things that we want to fit in here don’t fit. And so we’re looking at absolutely everything. We’re looking at reducing the lane width to 10 feet, wherever we can do that. Even the bus lanes, a bus is as wide as any vehicle out there. It’s eight and a half feet wide plus the mirrors. So if you think about that, an eight and a half foot wide vehicle plus about nine inches of mirrors on each side and then you say, how does it fit into a 10 foot lane? There’s just very little wiggle room, but yet we’re still looking at going down from an 11 foot lane to a 10 and a half or even a 10 foot lane. We’re also looking at even the curbs, curb heads, curb and gutter. Typically the city likes a one or two foot gutter pan with a six inch or 12 inch curb head. We’re looking at even going lower than what we’ve done on any other project to even just try to save six inches on the curb head to get healthier trees. We have the path there that we’d like to have at 10 feet. And we might have to reduce that with a little bit, but we don’t want to reduce it too much. We want to get every inch of that path that we can. We’re looking at the median, as I mentioned, looking at reducing the median. Right now the median is wide enough for a left turn lane, but then also a pedestrian refuge. But if you think about it in between blocks and at intersections where we don’t have the need for a pedestrian refuge because of traffic signals or the way it’s laid out. We’re looking at where can we save room from the median to make it all fit. And that’s why we’re trying to look at even removing a travel lane on part of Park Street. Again, we don’t know if that’s going to work. I’m not going to make a prediction either way, but it’s a tall order. But we’re trying because that will preserve width for other things. We’re looking at all of it. 

Facilitator: Thanks, Mike. Aaron has two comments, which are a little bit longer. So I will maybe try to summarize them a little bit. So first, he highlights that there seems to be some research that the increased vehicle congestion that can result from BRT implementation when it is not paired with improving bike and ped infrastructure can, oh, sorry, I shouldn’t have tried to summarize this. Well, let me get to the question part of that point. Are you confident that the bike and pedestrian options included in your plan are legitimate options that will actually impact the number of people who are able to forego driving? And then the second question is maybe a little bit more specific about what it means to have a widened sidewalk. How wide is that going to be? And how does that relate to the fact that 10 feet, as we have seen in some other projects, is not enough and leads to conflicts between people walking and biking? 

Cechvala: Yeah, so I think the first question was, do we think these changes will have a meaningful effect? I mean, I think we’re hoping to, you know, we’re trying to have a real solution on Park Street where we really have the opportunity to do something. I think we’ve been finding that in many cases for many people, just having an on-street bike lane with no separation or protection on some of these higher volume, higher speed streets, even though the speed limit is 25, it’s just not desirable for a lot of people. 

The second question was about the width of the widened sidewalk. Our preferred width would be at least 10 feet. Again, going back to the potato analogy, you know, I think we need to be realistic. If we can get as much width on it as we can, I think we’ll have a better facility than what we have today. Tom maybe has something to add. 

Tom Lynch: I think, you know, part of our goal is to promote mode shift, right, to have people use transportation that’s less impactful to our environment, but part of it also is just safety. And when Harald said, you know, all ages and abilities, that’s something that’s particularly needed in South Madison. You think about some of those, you know, you have a middle school there, you have a splash park there, you have a swimming pool there, you have the library there, and a parent can’t tell their child to go to the library, right, where do they bike? And so, I’m just going to say, we are trying to make a meaningful improvement in transportation choices that are less impactful to the environment, but we’re also trying to provide some safer choices for every age, you know, and every ability. And so I’d say that, particularly in South Park, is as much of a goal as anything. 

Callaway: Yeah, and I’ll just jump into, I just wanted to say, you know, we’re focused tonigh, just particularly on the BRT corridor, but this is certainly not the only project that we will be moving forward, related to walking and biking, in the South and the North part of the city. So, this is just what’s happening with BRT. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Mark has two questions or comments. One of them is, what about, and again, I’m guessing, Mark, feel free to chime in if that’s not right, what about protected bike lanes on Park Street, I guess, rather than having a combined multi-use path? 

Cechvala: Yeah, the question is about protected bike lanes on Park Street, as opposed to the shared-use path and widened sidewalk. We looked at that option. We are proposing to widen the sidewalk for a very simple reason, that we can make use of the existing five-foot width of the sidewalk, so we can expand it by five feet and get a two-way facility. Whereas, if we had a one-way facility on each side of the street, we would need a five or six-foot width, plus the buffer on both sides of the street, and it’s just not going to fit. 

Facilitator: I’m going to jump a little bit ahead, so I’ll come back to other questions after, but this seems to be a good follow-up. Andrew is asking the reasoning for having the widened side path on only one side of the street, where widening on both sides would allow safe travel without having to cross the street as many times. 

Cechvala: Yeah, and I hear you, and that statement is absolutely correct. I think, unfortunately, the answer is the same. You know, this corridor really needs to be 10 feet wider, and it’s not really practical to acquire a strip along the entire corridor. And so this is what will fit in the right of way. Not a great answer, not what we’d like to deliver, but that’s the answer, unfortunately. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Greg is asking about Madison’s Complete Green Streets Ordinance, which came into effect after the east-west BRT was already underway, and that complete green streets ordinance seems to require a bike facility along the entire length of Park Street. Is that not correct, or will this plan provide that? 

Callaway: Sure, I can probably jump in on that one, Mike. So, complete green streets does show part of Park Street as being part of the all-ages and ability bike network. So, from ErinStreet south, however, it is also transit priority for the full BRT length. The portion to West Washington is also on the state highway network. So, obviously, you know, we want to try and accommodate the all-ages and ability bike network within the right of way, while also realizing it’s transit priority and it is a state highway. So, I think, does it require it? It doesn’t require it. It requires us to look at it, to review the trade-offs, to engage around those, and try to find solutions to accommodate the needs within that corridor. But it isn’t the full length that’s on the all-ages and ability bike network currently. 

Facilitator: Thanks, Renee. Peter is pointing out, thanks for the great presentation. BRT has great potential to expand transit ridership to folks currently opting for single occupancy vehicles. By not directly serving the Dane County Regional Airport, that seems like a missed opportunity. Is a route that can directly serve the airport something that can still be considered? 

Cechvala: Yeah, that’s actually a good question. And that’s been in part of our presentations. We took it out of this one for brevity, but let’s go ahead and talk about it. So, as we were planning for Route B and the north-south BRT line, we knew it would come up either Sherman or Packers, because those are basically the two roads to the north side. And then, we looked at where it should go from there. One option would be the airport. One option would be the Northport – Troy loop here, historically served by Route 22. And we also looked at doing both. And I’ll just, I’ll start out with doing both. You know, again, thinking about what BRT is and how it’s different from a local bus route, it needs to be fast and direct. If it’s too out of direction, it’s just not going to be competitive. It doesn’t matter how many bus lanes or how much signal priority or how many limited stops we have. It’s just not going to be direct. So, anything that tries to go to the airport and then come back and do the rest of the route is just not going to be time competitive with driving. So, looking at doing one or the other, we did look at the ridership and kind of the utility of going to the airport and going to the west. It felt like there’s a lot more demand to the west. There’s a lot of housing. There’s a lot of medium and low income families living to the west. And so it felt like we were accomplishing a bit more by going to the west. 

We’ve also implemented some changes with the transit network redesign. The airport was historically served by Route 20, which ran about every 30 minutes but required a transfer at the north transfer point and kind of a wait and a delay and then you transfer to Route 2 or 4 to continue downtown. We replaced that with Route D2, which comes up Sherman Avenue and then goes directly to the airport. So, no more waiting through the north transfer point. It doesn’t have the frequency or the capital improvements, the bus lanes, the stations that BRT has, but it does have that direct route to downtown. But this is also something that we are interested in hearing others’ thoughts on. If you think we should re-look at this and maybe you prefer the airport, we’d like to know that. Again, these aren’t decisions that we made lightly. These are decisions that are difficult and have a lot of different aspects to them. So, if you think that we should re-look at that decision, that’s information that we’d like to know. 

Facilitator: Thanks, Mike. Benjamin is pointing out and asking you to consider kids on bikes with any of these street projects. On-street bike lanes are not a safe solution and what would be required for safe bike infrastructure to be put into any street or transit project? 

Cechvala: Yeah, I think Tom touched on that, so I’m not going to repeat what he said. But generally, we’re trying to get away from the old standard of just slapping bike lanes on the side and move towards a more protective facility like you’re seeing here. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Nick is asking about dual use of a single bus lane. Probably most of the time that buses going opposite directions pass each other, it will be at a station. So, I guess you have a single line serving both directions, if I’m understanding that right. 

Cechvala: Yeah, so this is a question that we sometimes get, and this is a strategy that has been used on other systems. We call it single track. So, if you think of it like a train, a light rail system or a freight train or whatever, they sometimes have sections of single track where you have one track and the train goes both directions on the same track. You could have a system that has a single track that’s buses, and that is used in some areas. 

There are some pretty significant challenges to it. It really only works on short lines or lines with infrequent service. What happens is with these bus lanes, we’re trying to avoid traffic congestion. But if we have two buses, if we have buses going the same direction in the same lane, we could say, okay, great, we eliminated 10 seconds of traffic congestion, but now we’re waiting for three minutes for this bus coming in the opposite lane to pass us. The other challenge with it is at the stations and at the busy intersections, which the stations tend to be at the busier intersections, that’s where our choke points typically are. So, what happens is those choke points where we have the most need for space, that’s also where we can’t do the single track. And so we end up with a lane in each direction at the stations at the busy intersections. And then if we were to try to have a single track bus lane in between the stations, it’s like, well, okay, what are you trying to get for that? If you’re trying to have a better bike facility, it’s like, okay, then your bike facility is going to get shrunken down to the same cross section at the intersection where you need that better bike facility the most. Because of those challenges, we typically don’t do the single track, but there are some places where it is a tool that can be used. 

Facilitator: Liz posted some comments on other ways to provide feedback. Liz, do you quickly want to say something about those? 

Callin: Sure. I just posted the link to the desktop version of that interactive map. I was seeing a lot of comments coming in on that. So keep those coming. Those are great. And then also just the link to the comment form is in there as well. And we’ll also download the comments from this chat too, if people have to go and try to reply to those. Yeah, this is the best way. And if you can’t get to that or whatever, probably the second best way and easier to remember is just email us,

Facilitator: Next question. Janet is asking, will there be traffic lights at every station and or begbuttons  to activate those traffic lights? 

Cechvala: Yep. So all of the stations are typically at traffic signals. And so you would use the crosswalks to get to the median station. That’s another thing that comes up a lot. What happens is when we have the stations in the middle, every time you go to or from the stations, you have to cross half the street. And so, you know, yeah, you do have to cross the street to get to the station. But when we have bus stops on the side of the street, depending on where you’re going or coming from, you’ll have to cross either none of the street or the entire street. So you’re not actually crossing the street more. You’re just crossing it half of the street twice or the full street once. 

But yeah, on the east-west line, for example, we’re putting in five new traffic signals. Two to three, depending on how you count it. Two or three of those are for bus operations. And I’ll say two and a half are because we have a BRT station at an intersection that is not signalized. And so we wanted to put that signal where people can cross the street. One of them sort of serves both purposes. So there probably will be a couple of new traffic signals with this project for those same reasons. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Matt is pointing out that we keep hearing the reason that things can’t be done is that there isn’t space in the right of way, but there would be space if we removed more car lanes. Why can’t we do that? 

Cechvala: We’re trying. We’re trying. Yep. Towards the south end, towards Badger Road and the Beltline, that’s probably unlikely. And on the north end, north of about Olin, it’s pretty unlikely because of the traffic volumes. Tom, do you have something to add? 

Lynch: Yeah, maybe we’ll just add that, as you said, they’re under WisDOT jurisdiction and we are doing traffic modeling, trying to show the Wisconsin DOT that the traffic delay impacts are not unacceptable. However, they get to have the final say on this. It’s their facility. And so, as Mike said, we’re putting in the fight, seeing if it can be done, but the decision will be the Wisconsin DOT’s decision. 

Facilitator: There are two questions or comments about the northern part of the route. Robbie is asking, can you please go over the north side plans again? What bike facilities will be on Northport? There are lots of destinations there, especially for kids and low income neighborhoods on both sides of Northport. Nicholas is pointing out that the Troy Drive loop, whether that has the same ridership potential as the rest of the route. 

Cechvala: Okay, so yeah, I’ll kind of take those together. So the basic plan for Packers and Northport in this blue section is to take one of the three travel lanes and convert it to bus only. This facility was reconstructed recently. We don’t see major changes to this corridor. Again, just thinking back to some of my opening statements here, we know that this is a 15 mile corridor. We know that there are shortcomings. We’d like to use some opportunities to fix some of them. We do need to contain the scope and do what we can. So we are not planning major cross section changes to Packers or Northport. We do know that there are some pieces of side path along Packers. We’re looking at maybe ways to kind of connect some of those dots perhaps. This intersection at Aberg and Packers is somewhat problematic with the discontinuous path and the flying right turn. So we’re looking to see if there’s some ways that we can make some of those connectivity improvements. And then this interchange here between Packers and Northport, trying to find some way to connect the gaps in that area. But the on street bike lanes along most of Northport there would not be changed with this project as we’re currently envisioning it. 

And I think then the second question was, what’s the demand potential for this one way loop on Troy, Green and Northport? I think there’s quite a bit of demand there. This pair at School Road serves a pretty good number of people in this area. And then also the north side is fairly disconnected from a pedestrian and street grid standpoint. So School Road does serve people coming down here and getting on the bus. Kennedy Road serves quite a number of apartments and other people living in this area. These two, they serve a couple of important destinations, the Central Wisconsin Center and the Mendota Mental Health don’t have a ton of ridership potential, but I think as we improve transit service, those are important destinations to serve and perhaps some improvement. 

One challenge that we have with this loop today is because it’s a one way loop, I’m just going to go over this briefly, but we need some place to end the route, right? So the bus goes to the end of the line, and then they sit and then, you know, they might have 10 minutes to take a break, use the bathroom, the bus charges a little bit. And most importantly, what happens is if the bus gets to the end of the line late, they have that recovery time so that they can turn around and start the return trip on time. So the problem with a one way loop is where do you do that? Right now, we’re doing it at Northport and Sherman. And so what happens is people getting on this loop, they get on the bus, they wrap around the loop, they go to Northport and Sherman, and then they sit and that’s the end of the line. And so they sit there for 5, 10, 15 minutes and wait for the bus to keep going while the driver’s taking their break and getting back on time and all those kinds of things. So I think that issue is making the service less attractive than it could be. And that’s another issue that we’re trying to solve with this project. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Stefan has a question. So parts of Park Street require a complete rebuild, which is a good way to justify major configuration changes. Will we also be able to justify major changes on the Packers Northport-Darwin intersection, even though the pavement condition isn’t dire? There’s a good amount of space there, so many slip lanes, but a bike-ped friendly design will require big changes. 

Cechvala: Yeah, I think that’s a good question. I think we’re still struggling with that. It’s a little bit inconvenient that it is pretty new. I think we’d ultimately like to rebuild the entire thing as a new urban street T intersection. It is very expensive. It is very invasive. You start to look at things like, what do you do with all this extra land that is no longer necessary? So I think that we may end up with some smaller improvements there. I think we might look at things like, how can we have bicycle and pedestrian connectivity? How can we kind of retrofit what’s there? And I think your initial reaction might be, how can you retrofit what’s there? It’s just really not built like an urban intersection at all. But I think there are some things that we can do to at least provide connectivity. So we’ll be looking at that full range of options. Again, the cost of this project, definitely, I don’t want to lose track of the fact that we do need to make this fit within a reasonable budget. BRT is an expensive project. It uses a lot of the city’s budget. And we do need to not only be cautious and conscious of that, but there are also limits to what we can do with our grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration. And they have certain thresholds and limits on what we can spend the money on. And they compare the cost to the projected ridership. And they have limits that way. So we’ll hope to have more information soon. 

Facilitator: Thanks. Benjamin has a very specific question. Is there a plan in place to avoid getting stuck waiting to turn eastbound on Johnson from Park Street? 

Cechvala: So the northbound right turn from Park Street to Johnson, that is a very sticky spot. We get hung up there quite a bit. I hate to sound like a broken record here, but we have a couple ideas. None of them are going to be easy, but we’re looking at kind of small signal timing and signal adjustments and kind of minor changes to more major and more invasive things. The solution will probably be somewhere in between there. But again, I don’t have anything to show you. But we’re looking at that. That’s another one of those spots where we’re trying to do something that really has a lasting benefit. That’s a good point. It’s a really sticky spot. We struggled with that right turn for many years. 

Facilitator: Thanks. And it seems like the chat is starting to slow down. Kaleb has one maybe final question. Are you planning to have coordinated signaling at all BRT stops to make a call for pedestrian phase when the bus stops? 

Cechvala: Yeah, so the concept is when the bus goes through the intersection, it can call the crossing for the walk light. And that will help if you’re getting off the bus and you can’t get to the intersection in time to press the button. So you don’t have to wait an entire cycle to cross the street. We’re setting up some of the infrastructure to be able to do that. I don’t think we’ve decided exactly where and how to implement some of that. But it’s definitely on our radar. And so we’ll at least have the options to do some of that stuff. 

Facilitator: All right. Oh, just as I was about to say, we don’t have any more questions. Benjamin, the entirety of North Sherman looks like an obvious candidate for a protected bike corridor. Is there any way to use momentum from this project to jumpstart that sort of project as part of a comprehensive Vision Zero goal? 

Callaway: So I was going to say we have some planning work unrelated to BRT around our bike network and our all ages and abilities bike network and doing some prioritization. That will be starting in 2024. Don’t have an exact date for when we’re going to start that because we just got our agreement with the US DOT for the funding we’ll be using for that, as well as some pedestrian planning. But definitely, we want to kind of look at that. We know for sure we hear a lot from the north side. And so we’ll be taking a look at that and prioritizing things so that we can get projects into the hopper and find the ones that will have the most impact to get to the top. So that’s not exactly an answer about North Sherman, but there’s some momentum on the all ages and ability bike network and prioritizing them and getting them into our various funding streams and prioritizing applications for additional grant funding as well. 

Facilitator: Excellent. And I think I was about to send you an email at some point, whether you would be interested in talking about that bike network planning effort a little bit more at a future community meeting. So stay tuned. If you’re not on our email list already, please subscribe and you will get notified about meetings such as this. Tom has a question about the range of the buses between charges. 

Cechvala: Yeah, good question. It’s not really so much a question of range. It depends on a lot of factors, such as the hilliness of the route, the speed that you drive at. Driving on the freeway really drains the battery. We think of it in terms of hours, in terms of time, and that varies just as much. But, you know, it kind of varies anywhere from, I’ll say, about 7 hours to about 10 to 12 hours, depending. But what we’re doing is we’re putting the en route chargers at each end of the line. And so that will essentially allow it to keep going continuously. I don’t know if that’s really what will happen, but our goal is to have enough time at the end of the line so that the bus can keep running all day long. And at least make it from the morning to the very end of the day, even if it needs to get charged up overnight by the time before it goes out the next day. But that is the goal, to make it last all day with the en route chargers. 

Facilitator: Great. One comment from Tara about pushing buttons for the walk signal. I think we covered that already, maybe, but there’s another vote for not making people push buttons, especially at new lights for BRT. 

Cechvala: Yeah, just one thing I’ll add to that is where we are changing the traffic signals along the BRT route at the stations, we’re typically putting in the audible pedestrian signals for people who are blind and need that. Historically, we haven’t done that at every traffic signal, but we’re preemptively doing that on the BRT routes. 

Facilitator: That’s awesome. Thanks. All right. If I, for some reason, skipped over your question, maybe now is the time to raise your hand and make sure you still get in the queue. Otherwise, I think we can probably wrap up. 

Cechvala: Thank you, everybody. It’s a very good discussion. Again, appreciate any feedback or questions in any of the forums that you see on the screen or to get a hold of us, please don’t hesitate. 

Facilitator: Awesome. And yeah, we will make this recording available in the next couple days on our website. Yeah, don’t hesitate to reach out to us as well, Madison Bikes, if you have any specific questions that you want to share with us and the city or only with us. And yeah, thanks so much, Mike, and everybody else for being available to answer this great range of questions. Have a good night. I see lots of thanks in the chat. So, thanks.

Action Alert Bike News In Depth

Mineral Point Road’s “Widened Sidewalk”

(disclaimer: this is a personal blog and not an official position of Madison Bikes)


On 12/5/2023 the Common Council approved the most bike-friendly version of the tree-friendly plans before it. The final path will be 10′ wide for about ⅔ of its length, and 8′ wide for the rest. There will initially be a section of 5′ sidewalk by Nautilus Park (across from Oakwood Village), but the City promises to address that in the next few years.

The path will still be a “camel”, changing width and zig-zagging dozens of times, and with several sections where path and road are uncomfortably close. But it will be a glorious camel that will come to be loved by all! And, at 2.5 miles long it will also be, by far, the longest continuous off-street side path that Madison has ever retrofitted into an existing corridor.

In 1966, the Capital Community Citizens lobbied for a bicycle way on Mineral Point Rd to serve Memorial High School, then under construction. The idea of a “bike lane” or “bike way” was such a foreign concept that one member thought it might be a series of wood planks in the ditch next to the road. Opposition was fierce. “I’ve got problems with bikes on any main thoroughfare in the City of Madison,” the police chief testified. The highway commissioner and public works director were also opposed. One Alder offered a facetious amendment to study lanes for other schools, pointing out the Pandora’s Box they risked opening. 

Nearly 60 years later, Mineral Point Rd is on the verge of finally getting an off-street bike facility. Sort of.

Like the proverbial camel being “a horse designed by committee”, the City’s proposed widened sidewalk (meeting Oct 24, 2023) is unlikely to satisfy any of the interests fighting over it. The route will zig and zag, but still require cutting down plenty of trees. Its width will change seemingly at random from 10′ to 8′ to 5′, with the narrowest and most convoluted points being near intersections and danger spots like the heavily-trafficked Kwik-Trip driveway. Depending on how it’s built, the sidewalk may have a seam down the middle, leading to unevenness from frost heaves. There has also been no reduction in the number of driveways, despite a weak pledge that the City would explore doing that.

The new sidewalk will serve local needs and the High School, and for that I’m grateful. But it’s no transportation corridor and it certainly won’t tempt drivers from their cars. I’m not even sure it would have saved Taylor Dunn, the bicyclist killed last year in the final stretch of an 8-mile commute to his baking job on an e-bike he’d just purchased to save on bus fare.

How did we come to this and how can we prevent this in the future?

The future?

Bus Rapid Transit or Bust

The City’s haste to roll out Bus Rapid Transit is understandable. After decades of analysis paralysis – transportation studies, debates, and failed initiatives – it was imperative that we finally commit to mass transportation able to help Madison’s surging population. We knew the roll-out would not be perfect and that stakeholders would need to make concessions. What we didn’t expect was that those concessions would fall entirely on the shoulders of bicyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, neighborhood groups, and urban forestry. Those interests are now pitted against each other over scraps of pavement while single-occupant vehicles (SOV’s), arguably the root of most of our transportation woes, were virtually unscathed.

No one got the shaft more than the bicycling community. Despite the City painting a deceptively rosy picture of how BRT and bicycling were complimentary, bicycles have essentially been evicted from 2½ miles of East Washington Ave, 2½ miles of Mineral Point Rd, and ½ mile of University Avenue. These were high-stress routes, to be sure, but they were efficient and intuitive, and dedicated lanes helped bikers reach the many businesses that lined them (even during rush hour). As a replacement, the City offered sidepaths and widened sidewalks for Mineral Point Rd and University Avenue, and an uncommitted mish-mash of paths, widened sidewalks, bike boulevards and intersection improvements for East Washington. In the case of Mineral Point Rd, the original promise of a 10′ path soon morphed into an “8-10′ widened sidewalk”, and now it’s in danger of being crooked and having 600′ of normal 5′ sidewalk. For the 2700-3200 blocks of University Avenue, the forthcoming widened sidewalk will be technically illegal to bike on because it abuts businesses like Century House, Bagels Forever and IHOP, violating ordinance 12.76(1).

Suggested bike route improvements near East Washington Ave.

Pedestrians didn’t fare much better. Since 2021, the near-Capitol section of East Washington Ave has seen twelve pedestrian injuries and one fatality, easily crowning it the City’s most dangerous road for pedestrians to cross. Despite that, BRT required the removal of curb bumpouts, a pedestrian safety feature installed a decade earlier. BRT’s center-loading stations will also bring many more pedestrians into the traffic lanes, with some choosing to do it “Frogger” style.

In contrast, motor vehicles feel virtually none of the pain. With the exception of Whitney Way’s road diet (which pre-dated BRT), not a single traffic lane, driveway, or intersection is being shrunk, closed or restricted. The only changes I’m aware of are to turn lanes and traffic signal phases.

In Praise of Trees

The emotional pull of saving trees is undeniable. E.g., anyone taking a ride this fall along Devil’s Lake’s South Shore Drive will feel gut-punched by how many trees were cleared with that road’s recent reconstruction:

South Shore Drive, yesteryear and today. Credit: Skillet Creek Media

But there’s a tremendous difference between quality trees like the glorious oak at Homestead Shoppes or the large stands in Garner Park, and the terrace trees planted over the last five decades. These terrace trees are intended to compliment the road and they’re often on or near sanitary sewers, stormwater drains, and utility lines. They’re limited to species that won’t shower debris onto the roads and whose roots won’t damage curbs or the underground utilities. They are as natural as trees on a golf course or at Disneyland. These trees are indeed infrastructure and, like any other infrastructure, the City must be allowed to make improvements to them.

When thinking about climate and climate action, it’s important to maintain perspective about the real villains and solutions. For example, consider that it takes 80 mature trees to offset the carbon footprint of one electric car, and 250 trees for one gas car1. This means about 200 square miles of forest is needed to absorb the CO2 from drivers who use Mineral Point Rd each day. Meanwhile, a single bicyclist or e-bicyclist with a 12-mile round-trip commute is annually offset by just 3 mature trees.

If quality bike infrastructure helps convince just one driver to take up bicycling, that’s an instant savings of 77 – 247 trees for CO2 absorption alone. Add to that reductions in pollution, the heat islands due to roads and parking spaces, the construction costs, and the daily danger vehicles pose to bikers, peds, and each other, and one can’t help but conclude that quality bicycle infrastructure is part of the climate solution and it deserves everyone’s support.

Where do we go from here?

The City is now focused on North-South BRT, with public input meetings in November 2023. Prepare and SHOW UP. Just as with the East-West BRT meetings in 2021, many of the most critical choices have already been decided and public input will be brushed aside due to the tight timeline. For example, with talk so far focused on the much-needed South Park St redevelopment, I fully expect bicycles to be quietly evicted from 1½ miles of South Fish Hatchery Rd and 1½ miles of Northport Drive. This cannot be allowed to happen.

South Park St could follow this model. Madison Complete Green Streets 2022

Similarly, the rollout of North-South BRT would be a fantastic opportunity to create new bike and ped facilities along Packers Avenue and the eastern part of Northport drive. These would serve the Oscar Mayer redevelopment, the airport, Madison College, the area around the shuttered South Transfer Point, and the neglected north side. So far, there has been little discussion and no budget for any of this.

Speaking of … isn’t it absolutely bonkers that BRT will pass within ½ mile of the airport but not stop? And, if if BRT is so smart with jump queues, connected signaling, and 15-minute intervals, why can’t both directions of BRT use the same lane between stops? (like how trains at Detroit and Minneapolis airports work) I digress…

Independent of BRT, here are a few concrete things I plan to keep front-of-mind at future City meetings:

  • Get the City to stop widening sidewalks or building side paths without also reducing the number of driveways and crossings. The current approach is reckless and endangers bicyclists, as studies show that sidewalk riding is over twice as dangerous as road riding2. With Mineral Point Rd’s north-side widened sidewalk, over half the driveways could be removed without limiting business access. Of particular benefit would be the removal of driveways at Kwik Trip (2x), Capitol Petro, and Culvers.
  • We need an ordinance stating that all major streets get bike lanes regardless of the existence of a nearby path or widened sidewalk, even if that means sacrificing car lanes or on-street parking. It’s tragic how major reconstructions like Monroe St, 2700-3200 University Ave, and Atwood Ave did not get bike lanes while Mineral Point Rd is losing the bike lanes it had. This trend must be stopped.
  • There’s a fine line between protected lanes and Death Star trenches. E.g., the Bassett St protected lane is a both a success and a nightmare. The City really needs to do another protected lane experiment, this time with terraces on both sides. This is very relevant to South Park St.
  • Single-occupancy vehicles (SOV’s) and cross-town traffic on the isthmus are the twin root causes of most of Madison’s transportation headaches. The City should work to increase travel times for cross-town traffic. Brussels did this and within just one year saw a traffic drop of 27% in the city center, plus an “astonishing 36 percent jump in the number of cyclists.” Some ideas to achieve this:
    • High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane restrictions.
    • Stoplight timing to slow traffic without lowering volume.
    • Asymmetric roads with more outbound capacity than inbound.
    • Turn restrictions to limit shortcuts.

Lastly, it is important that we continue to support Bus Rapid Transit! Despite maybe feeling like we’ve been run over by one, BRT will provide tens of thousands of people a viable alternative to their SOV’s, and that benefits us all.

  1. and ↩︎
  2. “The Crosswalk Slam” ↩︎
Action Alert In Depth

The Time is Now for a John Nolen Drive Underpass

(disclaimer: this is a personal blog and not an official position of Madison Bikes)

Last fall, Bicyclist Thomas Heninger was killed as he crossed John Nolen Drive by a distracted driver racing 60+ mph to beat a red light. His death is an exclamation mark on just how dangerous the grade crossings are at North Shore Dr and Broom St. That’s something we bicyclists know all about.

Thankfully just groceries. 2020. Photo: Tom Wilson
Car crossing slip lane against “No right turn” light. Sep 2022. Photo: Kai Mast
Slip lane knock-down. Aug 2019. Photo: Chris Collins

Danger aside, almost more impactful are the daily inconveniences of the grade crossings: tight staging areas, multiple “refuge” islands, lengthy wait times, slip lanes, complex & confusing signaling, uneven railroad tracks, and, of course, the noise and smell of 50,000 daily cars and trucks. To many, the North Shore Dr and Broom St crossings are an ordeal best avoided.

It is time to build an underpass so that bikers and pedestrians can have safe and unimpeded movement between the Lake Monona waterfront and the City’s interior.

An underpass is not a new idea, but it is a challenging one.

Why Now?

  • The City’s John Nolen Drive (JND) Reconstruction project is in full swing, and the concrete poured will shape the causeway and southern Law Park for 30+ years. When City engineers brought up various crossing ideas at a recent public information meeting, the underpass concept received, by far, the most support. If this project moves forward without an underpass, it will be nearly impossible to add one later for reasons explained below.
  • The City itself recommended an underpass as a long-term solution in 2017’s Blair/John Nolen Drive Corridor Study
  • Engineer Ron Shutvet independently researched the technical feasibility of two underpass concepts in the Dane County Master Plan Collaborative 2011 & 2017. His designs are practical and innovative.
  • In the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge, two of the three designs called for underpasses in this area. One called it a top priority. With the next steps of the Challenge, Madison’s JND project engineers will have access to technical and aesthetic expertise of a world-class urban design firm to build an underpass that Madison can be proud of.
  • The City’s long-discussed plan for two-way cycletrack along Wilson Street is now kicking off. That new path will provide the gentlest climb from the lakefront up to Monona Terrace and the Capitol Square. This new path needs a low-stress connection to the path along John Nolen Drive.

What are the Obstacles?

  • Water. A tunnel under today’s John Nolen Drive would be 3.5′ below current lake level and 6′ below the high water of 2018. I’m told it is still possible, but only with careful engineering and costly pumps.
    The workaround is to raise the streets! The City’s 2017 JND/Blair corridor study did just that, raising JND by the bare minimum of 2′. Ron Shutvet’s concepts went farther, raising the streets 6-7′, raising the railroad 4′, and also realigning the tracks. These are not far-fetched ideas. Every part of Law Park’s surface is man-made and both the road and the railroad tracks have changed many times over the last century. There’s no reason we can’t do it again to create a better, safer, and friendlier waterfront.
  • Multiple jurisdictions. Possibly the biggest obstacle is that a tunnel would involve State DOT highway, State DOT Railroad, and the State DNR. To City engineers, such multi-jurisdictional projects are hassles, adding meetings and extending timelines by months or years.
    That’s a poor excuse not to get this done! The City works with the State all the time on Hwy 151 and beltline projects. Passenger rail will require Federal coordination. Just a few years ago, County, State, and Federal agencies successfully worked together to realign the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks near the airport. When the need is there — and the underpass is a top need — multiple jurisdictions can work together to get the job done.
  • Money. An underpass will cost several million dollars, and it is not currently funded. Thanks to the $15M Federal grant secured last month for the John Nolen Drive project, the City now has much more freedom to explore underpass concepts.
    Overall, the underpass cost is also low compared to the value it brings to the City, the Bassett Neighborhood, non-motorized transport, and recreation opportunities. It would immediately become the main way to reach the lakefront from campus or anywhere south or west of the Capitol, shaving minutes off every bike/ped journey. It would also achieve many of the lofty goals of the Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge at a fraction of the price.
  • Time. The City hopes to have a final JND causeway design in 2024 and do construction in 2026. An underpass would likely delay that schedule. I feel it’s worth it. As mentioned earlier, if reconstruction proceeds without an underpass, it’s almost certain that none will ever be built.

Does an Underpass Have Other Benefits?

  • Street-level crossings would still be needed but could be engineered to a more car-friendly standard, meaning less delay to drivers, less idling, better air quality, and less acceleration & braking noise.
  • One of Ron Shutvet’s options includes stormwater filtration. All three Lake Monona Waterfront Design Challenge firms also included stormwater management to reduce the amount of pollution reaching Lake Monona.
  • One of Ron Shutvet’s options also realigns the railroad tracks so that Broom St only has a single track crossing instead of two. This simplifies our streets and enlarges Brittingham Park 2.
  • Raising JND where its causeway meets North Shore Drive might allow for higher boat clearance into Monona Bay, which could be helpful during high water events like 2018.
  • The 4-acre “Brittingham Park 2” west of JND with the courts and dog exercise area is difficult to reach and lightly used. An underpass would seamlessly connect it to the lake, increasing its exposure and making it a good place for amenities sought by lakefront visitors such as playgrounds, picnic areas, bathrooms, etc.
  • Although this is a bicycling blog, an underpass would naturally benefit pedestrians of all types and especially people who have mobility challenges. My wheelchair-bound mother lives on West Main St. I pushed her across the Broom St crossing — two traffic islands, six ramps, two sets of railroad tracks with uneven pavement, three signal phases, and cars whizzing by in front and behind us non-stop; I will never do that again.

For an exhaustive list of underpass pros & cons, please see Ron Shutvet’s Master Plan Collaborative document.

Wouldn’t an Overpass be Better?

To clear the railroad tracks, an overpass would need to be 50% longer and almost twice as high as the current bridge over East Washington near Starkweather Creek. It would eat up much of Law Park, block views, have long ramps, and add ½ mile and 30′ of climbing to anyone’s journey. At a JND public information meeting, a majority of attendees said they would take a street-level crossing rather than use such a bridge.

Some attendees did express concern that underpasses can be dark, wet, unsafe places, especially at night. The hope is that any John Nolen Drive underpass will be a showpiece of Madison, acting more of a natural corridor than an out-of-the-way tunnel. The City has experience in this, and underpasses built in the past decade under Verona Rd and Gammon Rd are wide and inviting (see the ride-through videos on YouTube).

Next Steps?

May 2023 is the critical month. My impression is that City Engineers are inclined to keep the overpass concept on the back-burner. It is now up to the City’s Transportation Commission to insist that an underpass be included in the project. Public input can help! Please follow the John Nolen Drive project, take its surveys, and email your thoughts to Please submit comments to the Transportation Commission in advanced of its meeting on Wed May 24, 2023. Also, reach out to your Alders to let them know how important the underpass is, so that they are informed when the project finally comes before them.

E-Mail In Depth Internal news

2022 Year In Review

As the days grow longer in the new year, it’s time for Madison Bikes to look back on everything that happened in 2022. In 2021, we were responding to traffic violence, strategic planning, and adapting to the challenges Covid continued to present for getting together. This year saw similar challenges, and lots of encouraging signs for the future.

Bike Events and News

Madison Bikes hosted and participated in a number of events in 2022. In February, we were out on the Capital City Trail with a coffee and pastry station for International Winter Bike to Work Day. Thanks again to our generous local partners for providing coffee, treats, and discounts to keep commuters warm.

Photo: Harald Kliems

Ride the Drive was canceled for only the second time since 2009 (2020 being the first). Madison Parks hosts this event and chose to prioritize other programming this year, citing challenging staffing shortages that had contributed to an understaffed and poorly executed event in 2021.

In July, we were excited to check in with Dr. Dirk von Schneidemesser at the Memorial Union Terrace for our first in-person social since 2020. Dirk visited us in 2019 to talk about his key organizing work that helped pass the first bike law in Germany, and shared some good tips for keeping a community focused on bike safety, including ensuring language used when covering crashes does not blame victims or use euphemisms like “accident” that can make traffic deaths feel mundane and unpreventable

We worked with the WI Bike Fed for their Healthy Communities Summit event in September and had fun leading summit attendees on an afternoon tour of local bike infrastructure. On Halloween, Madison Bikes board members Harald Kliems, Robbie Webber, and Caitlin Hussey joined city Pedestrian and Bicycle Outreach Coordinator Colleen Hayes on the WORT Access Hour to talk about biking and walking in the winter. We talked about how to get started if cold-weather biking is new to you. If you’d like to listen to the program, you can find it in the WORT archives (Monday, Oct 31 at 7:00 pm.). 

Healthy Communities Summit. Photo: Madison Bikes

We organized a packed Madison Bike Week from June 5-11 with dozens of local organizations hosting events throughout the week, along with a ridealong with the mayor and a Madison Bikes party outside to cap things off. We also gave out $1500 to local organizations hosting bike week events for the first time in our first series of small grants. Sadly, we cannot mention 2022’s bike week without remembering Taylor Dunn’s death. On June 7th he was riding his bicycle to work around 4am when he was struck and killed by an intoxicated motorist at the intersection of Mineral Point Road and High Point Road. A vigil was held, and a ghost bike was placed to create a memorial for Taylor. 

Biscuits 4 Bikers at Bike Week with GRiT and other supporters. Photo: Harald Kliems

While data show overall reductions in crashes causing serious injury as Vision Zero projects are implemented, the number of driver vs bicyclist crashes causing serious injury has not significantly changed. TOPS data show 2022 was the deadliest year for Madison bicyclists on record (going back to 2001), with 3 riders killed by drivers. Predictably, all crashes involved roads and intersections designed for high vehicle speed with minimal separation of drivers and bicyclists. Will Cummings was killed in August while riding his bike on Pflaum Rd. A ghost bike placement and dedication was held on August 17th with Will’s family and friends. MPD blamed Will’s death on a poorly designed bike lane. In October, a man was killed after being struck by a driver while crossing John Nolen Dr. at the N. Shore Drive crossing of the Capital City Trail. An investigation into this crash is ongoing.

Madison Bikes Participated in the city’s World Day of Remembrance talk on November 15th, where Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway gave a moving speech in remembrance of her grandfather and brother, who were killed in a car crash, and reaffirmed her commitment to fulfilling the city’s Vision Zero goals.

Later in November, Madison Bikes board member Aaron Levine gave a presentation to the Lake Monona Waterfront Ad Hoc Committee to convey the huge opportunity for bike safety and capital accessibility presented as the John Nolen and Lake Monona Waterfront are slated for a massive design and rebuild project that intends to transform the parkway in the coming years.

The Monday after the new year, we hosted Holiday Fantasy in Lights at Olin Park without cars!  The Sheraton graciously hosted a pre-party from 4pm-5pm with hot chocolate, snacks, and swag. A very large turnout, and relatively mild weather made for a great event.

Madison Bikes President Harald Kliems rides through the lights. Photo: Ilana Bar-av, from Cap Times coverage of the event

Big Safety & Efficiency Plans

A number of consequential city plans and programs relevant to our mission were funded/approved this year. The city’s Vision Zero Action Plan was approved. This lengthy document outlines where crashes causing severe injury and death are occurring, who is affected by them, steps the city will take to eliminate these crashes completely by 2035, and how progress will be measured. Madison Bikes has been a stakeholder in the engagement group providing input on this plan. Unfortunately the city did not get a multi-million dollar federal Safe Streets For All grant it applied for to help jumpstart this program, but can reapply again for FY23. This program gives out $1 billion per year of grants over 5 years to local governments for safe streets projects as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The Complete Green Streets guide was finalized in late 2022 and complements the Vision Zero Action plan in reframing the goals of street design to be focused first on safety and accessibility for users of all modes of transportation, rather than moving traffic first and squeezing any other priorities afterwards.

Photo: Transportation Modal Hierarchy chosen by Madison residents surveyed during Let’s Talk sessions used to inform the Complete Green Streets guide

The Safe Streets Madison program approved its first two batches of smaller-scale projects designed to increase traffic safety, and improve bikeability and walkability. These projects range in estimated cost from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, with total approval of about $1,000,000 in projects. The High Injury Network created as part of the Vision Zero process guides project selection, with most projects focusing on intersection modifications and vehicle speed reduction strategies.

An updated Transportation Demand Management program will help ensure large residential or commercial developments, employers, and institutions are incentivized to accommodate modes of transportation other than driving alone when applying for new building or parking permits. This effort works in tandem with the new Transit-Oriented Development Overlay Zoning District encouraging higher-density development within ¼ mile of high-frequency transit and BRT. A big Transit Network Redesign centered around BRT was approved in June, and the project broke ground in December.

While these ambitious new programs align with our mission in a number of ways, there will inevitably be many bumps in the road as individual projects are designed and implemented. We look forward to many new opportunities to advocate alongside all of you in the coming years.

New Infrastructure, Planned and Built

Overall, it was a slow year for new bike infrastructure with projects postponed due to staffing shortages, contractor availability, and design conflicts. A handful of exciting projects were approved in 2022 to be constructed in 2023. Highlights include a number of significant bike/ped safety and usability improvements slated for the Atwood Ave. rebuild from Fair Oaks to Cottage Grove Rd. A compromise plan endorsed by Madison Bikes was approved for this project after extensive advocacy efforts and strong alder support. A plan for the Hammersley Road project from the Southwest Path to just west of Whitney Way will create a new multi-use path and eliminate turn lanes to make crossing Whitney Way safer. Community and alder support for on-street parking removal were key to making this project happen. Remember to talk to and thank your alders!

A handful of projects were completed this year. A stretch of Tokay Boulevard was upgraded from unbuffered to buffered bike lanes. Buffered bike lanes were also installed on Old Middleton Road from Eau Claire to Capitol Ave. Previously, there was an unbuffered bike lane between N. Eau Claire Ave. and Old Sauk Road, and no bike infrastructure further West. Getting buffered bike lanes required removal of on-street parking from almost 2.8 miles of road! 

Resurfacing of the notorious “hairball” intersection (John Nolen Dr., Williamson St., S Blair St., and E. Wilson St.) was also completed. Making this intersection safe for all ages and abilities would require accepting a reduction in motor vehicle throughput. While Madison residents are generally willing to make this tradeoff, the Wisconsin DOT often is not. That said, we did win some safety improvements. Crossings of John Nolen/Blair from the North and South are better separated from traffic, and the slip lane onto Willy St. is narrowed. A vehicle lane on E. Wilson up to S. Franklin St. was replaced with a buffered bike lane and significantly more pedestrian space.

The Cap City Path intersections at Ohio Ave., Jackson St., and Russell St. were all upgraded to at-grade crossings when surrounding streets were resurfaced, while Ohio Ave. and Jackson  St. were both narrowed to one lane. We are excited to see more of these raised intersection crossings and intersection narrowing planned for a few 2023 bike projects!

The Aldo Leopold Pump Track project that began in 2021 completed an awesome Skills Loop in 2022, and plans to add a “shred to school” trail in the future to allow kids to easily ride between Leopold Elementary and all of the fun at the park. The collaborative work between the city’s MadBAT program and local residents, businesses, and nonprofits that allowed this project to happen is truly inspiring. After much debate, the western end of Vilas Park from Edgewood Avenue to the shelter was finally closed to motor vehicle traffic in June, with plans for more bike/ped improvements to come.

2023: Good Things to Come

Persistence from elected officials, nonprofits, and our large community of advocates is essential to ensuring the many ambitious plans enacted this year can eventually create a city any person of any age or ability can comfortably navigate without a car. We are grateful for the many individuals and organizations that have taken time to join us this last year in organizing for bike events and projects, reaching out to elected officials, and partaking in so many other impactful actions. Happy New Year.

Guest post In Depth

Advocacy in action: Report from a Vision Zero workshop

This post was written by Mary Pustejovsky. Mary is passionate about safer streets in Madison. She has lived in Madison since 2020, and has lived in San Jose, Providence, Boston, Chicago, and most recently, Austin, Texas. She’s excited to put down roots and make Madison the best biking city in America. She has two cargo bikes (a Tern GSD and an Urban Arrow), bikes everywhere with 3 kids, and nothing makes her happier than getting more families on bikes.

What is it like to attend a neighborhood meeting about traffic safety? What are some strategies you can use to advocate for biking and safer streets?

I recently attended a Vision Zero workshop session hosted by Alder Tischler (District 11) at Sequoya Library. This was not an officially city-sponsored event, as there had been a previous session with city staff. This meeting was to get people together to discuss specific ideas for calming traffic in our community. The meeting specifically focused on Westmoreland, Hill Farms, and Midvale Heights neighborhoods.

Overall, many people are concerned about safety in our community, and have noticed a lot of speeding and crashes. However, different people have different ideas about how best to address these issues. At my table, there was one man (I will call him stop sign guy, SSG) who kept bringing up the fact that cyclists run stop signs. While that may be true, I pointed out that many drivers run red lights and speed constantly as well. I was glad to have a fellow cyclist at my table who bikes everywhere with his family. 

Intersection of Segoe, Laub, and Berwyn: A lot of pavement and long crossings for people walking.

We were tasked with coming up with ideas and then presenting our top 3 ideas. SSG brings up that there are a lot of crashes at Mineral Point and Segoe. He suggests widening the intersection to have a dedicated turn lane. We write it down, but I am skeptical: Wider intersections, especially two blocks from an elementary school and a middle school, are not safer for people walking and biking. I suggest that the intersection at Laub/Segoe is unnecessary. Two streets intersecting with Segoe here is unnecessary, and removing one of them would make space for a rain garden to help with stormwater runoff. People seem interested. Other ideas that got a lot of support were raised, or tabletop crossings for the SW Commuter Path at Odana as well as Glenway. Raised crossings mean that the path is kept at grade and people driving on the street need to dip up and down to cross it, rather than making path users drop down to the level of the road. These crossings already have a median, with one lane in each direction, and the raised crossing would reinforce the message that drivers should be cautious. People at my table seemed supportive of this as well. 

Raised crossing on the Cap City Trail at Russell Street

We then discussed the amount of people speeding on Midvale, especially near Cherokee Middle School. SSG seems to believe “there is nothing we can do” or “we need more education and enforcement.” Unfortunately he must have missed the Vision Zero presentation where officers from the Madison Police Department pointed out that they don’t have the staff to sit and write tickets all day. Engineering changes to the street are more effective, and they slow drivers at all times, not just when there is a cop with a radar gun. There were other suggestions too: Flashing beacons as well as speed feedback signs on Midvale to alert drivers to how fast they are going. I’m not convinced of their efficacy, but we put it down as another idea. Our final summary of ideas to the larger group included rain gardens, tabletop crossings for the SW Path, and protected bike lanes on Midvale.

Other groups had good suggestions about where to put roundabouts etc. This information was collected by my alder to share with city staff.

Overall, I recommend attending these types of meetings with a buddy if possible, as it can give you more confidence in supporting treatments that make a difference. There are always naysayers like SSG, but they are in the minority. Most people want safer streets. People want to bike but don’t feel safe doing so. Show up, and don’t worry about arguing with the negative folks. Just keep the focus on the positive changes needed. Acknowledge their opinion but redirect the conversation back to problem solving, instead of ranting or complaining. You are unlikely to change their mind, and that’s fine. Keep your focus on specific changes that you’d like to see to make the street safer. 

So reach out to your alder or to city staff ( State a particular problem, and suggest a solution! So instead of “wow it’s hard to cross the street” you could say “I’ve noticed it is hard to cross XYZ street. I think it might be a good candidate for a pedestrian refuge island or curb bump outs, which would slow turning vehicles and provide more visibility for people walking.” 

Speak up, it really does make a difference.

E-Mail In Depth Internal news

Bye bye 2021

It’s the very last day of the Madison Bike Year 2021. Last year’s post was titled “A Madison Bikes year like no other.” Looking back that was certainly true, and looking back at 2021, many of the themes — COVID being the big one persisted. Let’s look back at some of the events of the year.

Winter Biking

In a normal year, we would have done something to celebrate Winter Bike Day in person. But with winter bike counts down and an ongoing pandemic we decided to it call off for 2021. Promoting biking year-round is nonetheless an important part of our mission. We decided to produce a video for this purpose and released it January:

Madison Bikes Winter TV, Episode 2: Staying Warm 

What better way to welcome spring than to wash your salty winter bike, or to get your summer bike out of storage and make sure it is working well. In April we partnered with BikEquity, Wheels for Winners, Down With Bikes, and DreamBikes and hosted a Spring Wash and Safety Check event near Brittingham Park. 

Spring Bike Wash

Finally, in November we teamed up with Madison Park and Metro and hosted an outdoor winter biking get together at Tenney Park. On a cold and windy fall day, current and would-be winter riders joined over hot coffee (thank you, Cafe Domestique!), exchanged knowledge, and practiced putting their bikes on a Metro bus.

Tenney Shelter with several people and bicycles in front of it. In the foreground a cargo bicycle and a Madison Bikes flag. In the background a Metro transit bus.

Cyclists of Madison turns 1

April was also the month to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the launch of Cyclists of Madison. Each day we post one photo of someone riding a bike in Madison, from an ever growing pool of photos. Even though I have taken the pictures myself and therefore in theory know them, it still brings me joy to check Twitter and see which one has been posted today. A big shout-out to Ben Sandee without whose programming skills this idea would never have turned into something real.

News from the Madison bike ecosystem

Madison Bikes is only one of many organizations that make up our city’s bike ecosystem.

One addition in 2021: Madison Adaptive Cycling. Their mission is to “provide an outdoor cycling experience for differently-abled individuals of all ages.” They hosted a first few events and are set to have an official launch in 2022.

Not a new organization, Freewheel had a big moment in 2021: The Madison Bike Center at the Judge Doyle Square development downtown finally opened its doors to the public. They suffered many delays from forces beyond their control — a malfunctioning sprinkler turning the parking garage into an ice cave, supply chain issues, and so on. But they have been open for a few months now. Go check them out!

BikEquity’s mobile bike library

BikEquity, started in 2020, really took off this year. BikEquity’s mission is “to provides resources, mentorship, and education so that everyone can enjoy cycling for recreation, fitness, and transportation, regardless of income, age, race, or ability.” They put that mission into practice by organizing “bike clubs” for kids and community ride, they provide bikes for those who otherwise don’t have access to them with their bike library, and they host numerous bike repair events in the community.

Bye Heather, hi Marybeth!

Summer brought a bittersweet transition: Our VP, Heather Pape, left Madison for Salt Lake City. It was sad to see her go, but we’re also very happy for her: Her new job is with a transit agency where she can use her many talents to improve public transportation for everyone. Our new VP? The awesome Marybeth McGinnis.

Ride the Drive: A new format, with new issues

Madison Parks has been organizing Ride the Drive for many years. This year they changed the format and it did not turn out well. The idea seemed fine: Instead of a single event downtown, why not have smaller events spread out through the city, centered around our city parks? In practice, it didn’t work out well.

BikEquity at Ride the Drive in Marlborough Park

The way the event is organized requires a huge amount of volunteers. Finding those turned out to be difficult, and it was more difficult in some parts of the city than in others. So on very short notice, one of the four events, around Marlborough Park was significantly cut back: No opening up of public streets to people biking and rolling, and only a few hours of events. Community organizations like BikEquity, who were scheduled to offer programming at the event only learned about this at the last minute, and many residents of the area were not aware either. This left a very bitter aftertaste to the event. As part of the Just Bikes Coalition we have had discussions with Parks to address these issues in future editions of Ride the Drive. How do we ensure that community organizations are fully included in the event? How can we allocate resources so that the event has equitable outcomes, no matter where in town it takes place? Can it be done with less reliance on volunteers?

Loading up the trailers

On a more positive note: Fellow board member Pete and I had great fun using our Madison Bikes trailer to help BikEquity transport a large number of bikes to and from the event!

Deadly Streets, Vision Zero, and a protest

2021 was a deadly year for too many people on our streets. A string of deadly crashes on East Washington Ave prompted us to form a coalition with other groups and hold a Safe Streets protest in July. Last year, the City committed itself to Vision Zero, that is, eliminating all traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. That is an ambitious goal, and without pressure from citizens and activists we will not reach it. The July protest was only one part of our work on this, and there is definitely more to come in 2022.

Dayna Long from DSA Madison addressing the crowd at the Safe Streets protest

Madison Bike Week, and a grant for Padres e Hijos En Accion

After a mostly virtual 2020 Bike Week, this year’s edition was a bit more normal. One innovation this year: As part of our commitment to racial and social justice, for the first time we offered a grant program for groups an individuals who wanted to host a Bike Week activity but needed financial resources to do so. Padres e Hijos en Accion, a community organization centered on Latino kids with disabilities and their families, received a grant for an event that brought together biking and community gardening at Quann Park. We will definitely run the grant program again next year and hope to support even more grantees.

Mayor Satya helping us kick off Madison Bike Week 2021

Madison Bike Week is possible only through the hard work of our board members and volunteers, the support of our community and from the City, and of course our Bike Week sponsors. Thank you so much, Trek and Madicon BCycle, the MGE Foundation, Wheel & Sprocket, Black Saddle Bike Shop, and Schwinn.

New infrastructure, planned or built

Buffered bike lanes on Odana!

Advocating for safe and comfortable bike infrastructure has always been a core element of our organization’s work. 2021 saw a lot of great projects being built or approved. And those projects included some that probably would not have been possible a few years ago: On Whitney Way, a lane of on-street parking was converted into a buffered bike lane, despite the vocal opposition of some residents. A similar design was approved for Old Middleton Road, to be built in 2022. Milwaukee Street between Fair Oaks and Woodmans finally got a bike lane. Odana was converted from 2 travel lanes to one travel lane, a center turn lane and a bike lane.

Buffered bike lanes (and a lower speed limit) on Whitney Way

Other projects ended up less ambitious: W Washington Ave was rebuilt not with protected bike lanes but a mix of unprotected lanes and a shared bus/bike lane, plus a semi-protected intersection at Bassett St. And the plans for the East-West BRT route include at best modest improvements for people biking aside from the Whitney Way lanes mentioned above.

We also saw several new path projects: The Garver Path was mostly completed, as was the final phase of the Demetral Park Path. And a lot of people were relieved when the long-term construction on the Cannonball and Military Ridge trails was completed a few weeks ahead of schedule. A different kind of trail project was the opening of the pump track in Aldo Leopold Park. Captial Offroad Pathfinders (CORP) and Madison Parks did an awesome job there.

Bus/bike lane on W Washington Ave

The most exciting project coming next year: The Cannonball Path will finally be extended past Fish Hatchery Road and connected to the Wingra Creek Path.

2022: We’re ready

The COVID pandemic has been and continues to be hard for so many people, and it has been hard for us as an organization as well. Not being able to meet in person with our fellow board members and the larger community. People dealing with additional stress and grief in their private and professional lives. City meetings that were more accessible because they were hosted online — but then also the feeling of having to attend ever more of them. It all adds up. And so I am very grateful to all the people on our board who kept up with it all and made our little all-volunteer organization what it is. In November we did a strategic planning session to help us figure out where we’re going and how we can work toward our vision in the most effective manner. Who knows what the new year will bring, but whatever it is, I do know that I’m part of an amazing group of people. We’ll continue to work toward our vision: A city where anyone can ride a bicycle conveniently and comfortably to any place in the city and neighboring communities year round. Please join us in that effort. Happy New Year.

E-Mail In Depth

Bikes and Bus Rapid Transit: What is planned?

Bus rapid transit is coming to Madison. If all goes well, the first route will open in 2024, connecting Junction Road on the West Side with East Towne Mall. What makes BRT different from the local bus? The distance between stops is longer, the buses will have dedicated lanes for some of the route, and you can board the bus through all doors. This will make BRT faster than the local bus. The buses will also run at least every 15 minutes from 5am to midnight on weekdays. Finally, BRT stations will have features like real-time departure information and high platforms to make boarding easy and accessible. Travel time between the two ends of the line will be about one hour — much faster than today.

BRT map
Future BRT network. The Red and Blue Lines will the first to open

How is BRT going to work together with biking? We invited city staff to present what is planned and to answer questions. Mike Cechvala, Transit Planner at Metro, Tom Lynch, Madison’s Director of Transportation, and Renee Callaway, Bike and Pedestrian Administrator, joined us for a virtual meeting.

You can watch the whole discussion on YouTube or read some of the key points here. You can download the full slide deck below.

Bikes on board

Currently buses have front racks that transport up to two bikes (folding bikes are permitted on board if there is space). To keep the buses on schedule, this won’t be the case for BRT vehicles. Instead, you will be able to roll your bike on board. The catch: Even though the buses are sixty feet long, there will likely be only space for two bikes. Metro is still investigating options for different kinds of bike racks, but it doesn’t look promising. One constraint: BRT buses will have doors on both sides, which eliminates some possible bike storage options. Wheelchair users will have dedicated space near the front of the bus, and it seemed unlikely that that space would work for bikes when there are no wheelchair users on the bus. Cargo bikes and trailers won’t fit.

Bike parking at BRT stations

An alternative to taking your bike on the bus is to park it at a BRT station. Metro does have plans for bike parking at the stations, but the audience seemed underwhelmed by them. Except for the new terminal stations, space directly at stations in limited. Generally, Metro envisions having four to six ring-and-post style racks per station. Several people in the audience pointed out that this number is too low. If bike parking is not accommodated, more people will try to bring their bikes on the bus. Another aspect of bike parking: Will it be secure? Metro is not interested in providing access-controlled bike parking because of the cost and administrative effort. The stations will have CCTV cameras, providing some level of security for bikes parked right at the station.

BCycle and BRT

Another option to combine bikes and transit? BCycle! If there is a BCycle station near BRT as well as near your destination, shared bikes can be a great solution to the “last mile problem,” that is, how to get from a bus stop to your destination and back. Some BCycle stations are already near future BRT stops, and Metro is looking at adding additional stations. However, BCycle is privately owned and runs without public funding. Therefore it is not certain that these new stations will materialize. Another possible improvement: Metro is upgrading their ticketing system, and they are looking at a possible integration with BCycle. So your Metro smart card or app may also allow you to access your BCycle subscription and unlock bikes.

Dealing with conflicts between buses and bikes

On streets with or without painted bike lanes, there can be conflicts between buses and bikes, especially at stops. Buses need to pull over to the curb and back into the travel lane again, having to cross a bike lane twice. Because the average speed of bikes and buses is similar, this can happen over and over again when you bike along a bus route. BRT will address these conflicts in two ways:

Floating bus stops

When the bus is traveling in the right-most lane, most stops will have a “floating bus stop” configuration. Bus riders will wait on a platform between the bike lane and the travel lane. Unrelated to BRT, the city is currently building a floating bus stop on Bassett Street. So soon you’ll be able to check out a real-life example of this design.

Rendering of a floating bus stop. Bikes pass between the bus platform and the curb

A widened sidewalk on Mineral Point Road

On some stretches, bus lanes and stations will not be on the right but in the center lane, for example on Mineral Point Road. This completely removes any conflict points with buses. There are downsides to center-running bus lanes, however.

On Mineral Point Road what is currently a shared bus/bike lane will be replaced by a widened sidewalk on the north side of the street. People on bikes can bike on the sidewalk in both directions and will share it with people walking. Mike Cechvala compared this design to the sidepath along University Avenue toward Middleton (one difference: University Ave does have painted bike lanes).

Rendering of the widened sidewalk on Mineral Point Road at Island

There was mixed feedback on this: Why a bike facility only on one side? (Answer: Because the city would have to acquire property and/or remove mature trees.) What about the conflicts with people driving cars at intersections and driveways? (Answer: Intersections will have signals and exclusive left-turn phases; driveways may be consolidated, and the path will be put on the side with fewer driveways.) On the other hand, our board member Kyle pointed out that the new design will still be an improvement over what is there now: “I think the cycle track along Mineral Point is a big improvement. I can bike on the cycle track with my kids. I acknowledge you still have to watch for turning cars.”

Disappearing bike lanes on East Washington Ave

East Washington between Blount and Milwaukee Street: Buses in the center, bikes and parking on the right, except during rush hour

On the isthmus, one sticking point are two miles of East Washington Ave, between and Blount and Milwaukee Street. Currently there are three general travel lanes, plus a combined parking and bike lane. To convert one of the travel lanes to a center-running bus lane while maintaining car capacity, the parking/bike lane will disappear for two hours during peak times on weekdays. The idea is that people on bikes will take alternative routes during that time, and the city presented some possible improvements on parallel routes such as Mifflin, Main Street, and the Cap City Trail. However, Tom Lynch was quick to point out that none of these improvements are part of the BRT project itself. While there is some money for them in the proposed city budget, all of them will have to go through their own separate processes and may or may not actually happen.

Big picture questions

When an audience member asked, “if BRT is going to make transit faster and more reliable, why is MadisonDOT still optimizing for SOV [single occupancy vehicle] throughput in many cases?” Tom Lynch responded: I don’t think we are optimizing SOV throughput. In fact, I would say most of our initiatives right now are aimed at reducing vehicle miles traveled. We are interacting with the Wisconsin DOT so that on East Washington and Whitney Way we are reducing motor vehicle capacity. So I think our paradigm has shifted. Safety is becoming our primary consideration, and also providing multiple choices for alternate modes. […] I believe our focus is different now than it might have been five years ago.”

What’s next?

The planning process for BRT is moving full-steam ahead. This Thursday (October 28), 30% designs for the downtown portion of the BRT route will be presented at a public meeting. Metro staff offered to come back. The possible bike improvements on Mifflin, Main, etc. will each be on their own timeline. We will keep an eye on this and inform you through our weekly newsletter. If you have feedback on any aspect of BRT, biking-related or not, you can email

In Depth Newsletter Weekly Update

2020: A Madison Bikes year like no other

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.

A group of people biking through the Holiday Fantasy in Lights course at Olin Park
Holiday Fantasy in Lights Ride (Photo: Mark Renner)

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.

A group of people standing around a bike trailer with three coffee urns on it. Frozen Lake Monona and a rising sun in the background.
Winter Bike Day 2020 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:

A person lying down in the middle of the bike path, with lines marking the edge of the path and the inner 6 feet of it. Text: "Be safe on the path. Always keep 6 feet away from people, including when passing people"

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.

Temporary bike lane on Atwood Avenue A line of barrels separates the right travel lane from a two-way protected bike lane. Two people are biking in in the bike lane.

Madison ranked biking city

In June, Madison received some good news: People for Bikes had ranked Madison the second most bike-friendly city in the US! We took a closer look at that ranking and concluded that biking in Madison is indeed pretty good compared to other places in the US. But it could be much better still. One important indicator: The number of people biking has stagnated for several years, as we explored in a blog post.

Racism, Black Lives Matter, Vision Zero

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.

Cyclists of Madison

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.

Screenshot Cyclists of Madison

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.

Schematic of the W Wilson St Cycletrack

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.

A Metro Transit bus on State St, heading toward the Capitol. A Madison Bike Week ad is on the side of the bus
Bike Week ad on a Metro Bus

Looking forward

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.