Resources and FAQ about biking in Madison
We have collected resources and frequently asked questions about many aspects of riding your bike in Madison.
Madison has a zoning code ordinance that details how much bike parking needs to be included with new construction and what kind of bike parking meets the requirements. This ordinance does not apply to already constructed buildings, but businesses or property owners may respond to a friendly ask for bike parking anyway. See above, “A place I am biking to doesn’t have bike parking.”
Reach out to the business and tell them about the City’s program to have bike parking installed. https://www.cityofmadison.com/bikeMadison/programs/bikeParking.cfm
For more details and email templates you can use, read this blog post.
Bike Path and Street Issues
There are multiple options to buy an annual or daily Wisconsin State trail pass:
- At a trail kiosk: Most trails have multiple self-registration kiosks at trailheads. Fill out the form, put cash or a check into the envelope, and take the temporary trail pass with you. If you buy an annual pass, the Department of Natural Resources will mail you your permanent pass in a couple of days.
- At bike and other shops: Several local bike shops, including Budget Bicycle Center, Wheel & Sprocket, Erik’s, and REI sell trail passes. Other businesses near to trailheads also sell them, for example Olde Towne Coffee House at the Glacial Drumlin Trail in Cottage Grove, Miller & Sons in Verona, or the Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb. There will often be signs on the trail mentioning these businesses.
- Online: If you want to include a donation, you can order a pass from the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks. Without additional cost, you can order a pass on ReserveDane.
There’s a pothole/snow pile/missing sign/malfunctioning streetlight/glass… on the bike path. What do I do?
Take a picture (if possible) and submit a report via the city’s Report-a-Problem form: https://www.cityofmadison.com/reportaproblem/bikeway.cfm This is usually a very effective way to have things fixed. If the issue is on the UW campus, email their bike/ped coordinator.
Some things that may help get an issue fixed:
- take a picture that shows the problem (or include a little sketch that helps understand the exact location or problem)
- include sufficient detail in your problem description
- be nice
- follow up if the problem persists (also see below)
You can contact your district’s alder or use the public comment period at a meeting of the Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission to escalate the issue. Your neighborhood association may also be a good resource. Try posting on Nextdoor and see if you can get your neighbors interested in the issue. Finally, you could email us at Madison Bikes to get advice or post about the issue on our Facebook Group.
If you think this poses an immediate danger, between 8am and 4pm call Traffic Engineering at (608) 266-4767. At other times, call 911. For less urgent problems (e.g. a loop detector that doesn’t detect you on a bike), use the Report-a-Problem website. You can use the Street Signs or the Bikeway Concerns categories. The latter lets you upload a picture, which sometimes makes for a more effective report.
There are lots of excellent maps of our bike network. For Madison and Dane County you can get free printed maps as well as pdfs. The Department of Transportation also has pdf bike maps for any county in the state. And the Bike Fed sells printed statewide maps.
Wisconsin Statute 347.489(1) states that if you ride your bike in the dark, you must have a white front light (either attached to the bike or to yourself, e.g. as a helmet light) as well as a red reflector or red light in the rear. This is the full text of the statute:
347.489 Lamps and other equipment on bicycles and other vehicles and devices.
(1) No person may operate a bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device upon a highway, sidewalk, bicycle lane, or bicycle way during hours of darkness unless the bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device is equipped with or, with respect to a bicycle or motor bicycle, the operator is wearing, a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device. A bicycle, motor bicycle, personal delivery device, or electric personal assistive mobility device shall also be equipped with a red reflector that has a diameter of at least 2 inches of surface area or, with respect to an electric personal assistive mobility device, that is a strip of reflective tape that has at least 2 square inches of surface area, on the rear so mounted and maintained as to be visible from all distances from 50 to 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a steady or flashing red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in lieu of the red reflector.Wisconsin Statute 347.489(1)
This is the legal minimum requirement, but it’s probably a good idea to have an actual light and not just a reflector in the rear. Also keep in mind that certain lights can be very irritating to other people on bikes or on foot, especially when they are aimed to high or flashing rapidly.
I’ve noticed those bike counter displays on the Southwest Path near Monroe Street and on the Cap City near Nortshore Drive. Is there a way to see past counts?
I have an old bike/bike parts that I no longer need. Is there an organization that accepts them as donations?
Madison plows arterial bike paths 7 days a week and holidays.
Yes! As long as you’re in the City of Madison, at least. City code states that “[b]icyclist use of sales and service windows shall not be prohibited.” Don’t expect every employee at a drive-thru to be aware of this, though.
You need a trail pass to ride “on the nine miles of the trail that go through the Capital Springs E-way south of Madison between Verona Road and Nob Hill near Industrial Drive.” However, you can request a subsidized pass if you use the trail primarily for commuting. Cap City Trail website.
Yes, you can. After a question from a Madison Bikes supporter and some back-and-forth emails, we received this response from Metro:
We discussed and have approved bringing your folding bike onboard (so long as it is folded). As with any large item, the key is to make sure to minimize disruption to other passengers ability to move about the bus. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the best spot to stow your large item but I’m sure you’ll develop a system.
I have notified our dispatchers and asked them to get the word out to drivers. We have a very large driver group and it may take a while to get the word out to everyone. Because this is a new development for them, you could encounter some drivers that will not allow the bike on. Please let me know if this happens and I can contact the driver. Our policy still stands that we will not allow bikes inside of buses because of their size, but in my mind, a folding bike isn’t a bike when it’s folded…it’s a bunch of bike parts being transported in a nice neat organized fashion.Madison Metro
Yes, you can, at least within the City of Madison. Madison has an ordinance that prohibits businesses from denying service to people on bikes at drive-throughs. Code of Ordinances, 28.151, Vehicle Access Sales and Service Windows, section (g) states: “Bicyclist use of sales and service windows shall not be prohibited.”
Our primary focus is on Madison. However, our vision acknowledges that connections to neighboring communities are very important and many bike issues don’t stop at city boundaries. Several communities have their own bike advocacy organizations, and we cooperate with them.
For places further away from Madison and for questions at the state level, there is the Wisconsin Bike Fed.
For the most part, it is legal to ride on the sidewalk in and around Madison. More details are below. If you decide to ride on the sidewalk, be nice to people walking, and be aware that people in cars may not expect you at intersections or driveways.
Riding your bike on the sidewalk is generally allowed in Madison. The exception is where buildings extend all the way to sidewalk, as is the case in many parts of downtown or in commercial districts such as Williamson Street or Monroe Street. The City has a brochure giving you the details. Another exception are the inside sidewalks on the Capitol Square. No biking allowed there, because the state government says so. If you ever need the exact city ordinance:
(1) No person shall ride a bicycle on the sidewalk where a building abuts the sidewalk. Bicycle riding on sidewalks is permitted, except as prohibited in this subsection and otherwise regulated in this chapter.12.76 SPECIAL RULES APPLICABLE TO BICYCLES.
Riding your bike on the sidewalk is generally allowed in Monona. The exception is Monona Drive between Winnequah and the city limits with Madison:
(E) Operation on Sidewalks.
(1)Bicycles shall not be operated on Monona Drive sidewalks from the northern limits of the City to Winnequah Road and on the Yahara Cove Boardwalk at River Place.
(2)Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.City Ordinance