Bicycle pedestrian committee meeting, TONIGHT!!! (5/22)

We’ve been pushing this a bit on FB/G+, but it’s imperative that ALL cyclists who are able come down to the motor vehicle/bicycle/pedestrian committee meeting tonight.  Last year ~40 people showed up and spoke in favor of more bicycle infrastructure, and not a single one for either pedestrians or motor vehicles.  Let’s keep that theme going, and DEMAND that the city use our tax dollars in a way that supports our chosen mode of transportation.  Here’s my speech so far, minus the pleasantries/butt-kissing/etc.

1)  Bicycles are transportation
Last year (and again this year?), just about everyone stood up and stated something along the lines of “I choose to use a bicycle as a means of transportation, and I find it hard to get from Point A to Point B”.  People are not standing up asking for scenic, winding pathways through parks and green spaces for their Sunday afternoon rides with the family, but rather are looking for utilitarian routes that focus on safety and continuity.  A “suggested bike route” that goes 2 miles out of the way might be fine for a recreational ride, but if you’re trying to commute along that route day after day you’re going to be taking the shortest, fastest and most direct road you can.  That scenic route also  might not start or end by your home/work/restaurant/shop/etc that you are trying to get to.  To say that there is a bike path a mile away from where your office means *nothing* when you’re trying to actually *get* to your office.  We’ve seen success stories here like the Southwest Commuter path, a trail that has (by Madison’s count) 3,500 riders on it _per day_ in the summer time, and it’s not that hard to see why:  It’s straight, the hills are gradual, and there are limited road crossings through much of it.  It allows cyclists to get up to 15-17mph speeds without having to stop every couple hundred feet for another road crossing as cyclists have to do on the East side Capital City trail, crossing 7 streets in around 1/2 a mile (or crossing 8 streets in about a mile).  We need to recreate the success of the Southwest Commuter path in different areas around the city, even if it means eliminating some of these myriad of cross streets.

2)  Contiguous network
This also means that the City needs to focus on “connecting the missing links” in our great bicycle network.   The City likes to focus on the *big* projects, like the Cannonball trail or multi-million dollar bridges, but please don’t forget about the smaller projects that are *desperately* needed.  The City needs to take a step back and evaluate the needs of people as we try to get from our homes to places of employment and leisure.  For example, there currently is *no* way to get to the West Towne Mall from downtown safely on a bicycle.  None.  I know this because my wife works 2 blocks away from it, and her bike commute goes something like this:  11 miles on side streets, bike paths and bike lanes, 1 mile of sheer terror on a busy 4-lane road with no shoulder or bike lane.  Odana Road has no shoulder or bike lane after Whitney Way, and to get over to the bike path along the Beltline would require making a left across 5 lanes of traffic at rush hour.  Mineral Point Road has bike lanes after Whitney Way, but since there are no bike lanes *on* Whitney Way it’s not an option either (and again, would require a left across 7 lanes of traffic to get on to Mineral Point Road).

The vast majority of recreational cyclists are not going to ride to the mall specifically because of this 2 mile “gap” in bike lanes.  We *need* bike lanes on Odana Road between S. Whitney Way and the West Towne Mall.

There is also no easy/direct route from downtown to Hilldale Mall, either.  Here are the directions from the bike lane on University Ave:

-University Ave to Babcock Drive (bike lane ends on University)
-Babcock Drive to Parking lot 41, to Farm Place
-Farm Place to Bike path along Campus Drive
-Bike path to University Bay Drive to Marshall Ct
-(Left on Marshall Ct)
-Right on Bike path to Purdue St
-Left on Shorewood Blvd to Bike path on Locus Drive
-Left on Rose Pl, straight at traffic light to Midvale, to Hilldale Shopping center

And do we really wonder why there are several thousand cars in the parking lot and only a dozen bikes locked up to the bike racks outside?  Hilldale and West Towne are both major draws for employment and destinations (along with employment centers at Research Drive, Yellowstone Drive, Grand Canyon Drive and so on), and yet they are inaccessible by bike unless you are willing to ride in the middle of traffic at rush hour.

3)  Education
Lastly, for those times when there is no option but for cyclists to ride in traffic, we **DESPERATELY** need better education for both cyclists and drivers.  I understand that adding 6 feet in width to a roadway such as Odana or Atwood would be prohibitively expensive.  I understand that in some areas it’s not even possible to do so.  However, for those times we need more information getting to all of the users of the road that CYCLISTS MAY USE FULL LANE.  Much of the animosity between drivers and cyclists comes from the fact that many people are ignorant of Wisconsin State Law.  Wisconsin DOT states that when traveling in a “substandard-width lane” (less than 14′ wide I believe?), a cyclist is supposed to ride in the center of the lane.  This pretty much applies to any road in Madison without a shoulder or bike lane, including Odana Road and Atwood/Monona Drive.

To motorists, however, it often appears that cyclists are hogging up the road and intentionally slowing down traffic.  I was riding home about 2 months ago on Monona Drive with Shannon, and I was riding as I should, single file in the center of the lane (I was also doing ~18mph since I absolutely *hate* that section, and I was well lit as it was getting towards dusk).  First came the LOOOOOONG LOUD HONK, and then an older driver pulled up next to me and “informed” me that I wasn’t supposed to be on Monona Drive, that bikes weren’t allowed on it.  I managed a quick “bicycles are vehicles under WI state law” but what it shows is that much of the conflict is directly driven by ignorance.  He truly thought that I wasn’t supposed to be there, and so was annoyed and angry that I was taking up “his lane”.

We have the tool to combat this and inform *all* users of a cyclist’s right to be there.  It’s the MUTCD “BICYCLES MAY USE FULL LANE” official black-on-white square sign.  This isn’t conveying any additional rights or responsibilities on to cyclists.  What it does is inform EVERYONE that bicycles have a legitimate right to be on the road.  It’s education.  It’s telling people what the laws of the state are.  It’s reinforcing the message to cyclists that “yes, you can ride in the road, and you should ride in the center of the lane as WisDOT instructs”.

Why can’t we have this sign on every sub-standard-width-lane road throughout Madison?  Why not educate *both* drivers and cyclists as to what our rights and responsibilities are?

And if I can get that down to 5min, I’ll be shocked…..

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