Friday, September 24, 2010

Bringing Dutch-Style Bicycle Facilities to the U.S.

On Thursday, the Bike Fed's Education Director, Jessica Binder, had the pleasure of attending a ThinkBike presentation in Chicago that explored the details of the Dutch bicycle infrastructure that supports the 80% people who bicycle at least once per week in the Netherlands. The Dutch consulate and Chicago DOT brought in a team of Dutch bicycle planners to share their knowledge and ideas. To attend this workshop, Jessica Binder had a very euro-style day. She biked her Taga bicycle (converts from bike to stroller and can hold a child - see picture at right) to the Amtrak station, converting the Taga bike into the Taga stroller so it could be brought on board the train. Once in Chicago, she converted the stroller back into bike mode and was early for the 8:30am start time for the conference. She wrote this note summarizing some of what she learned:
The highlights of the workshop included learning that, in the Netherlands, bicycle mode share declined to about 10% in the 1970s. Through major investments and a paradigm shift, much like the one the U.S. is experiencing now, they were able to recapture a lot of trips - bringing them to 28% bicycle mode share today. From a tram with a special open air cart to push bicycles up hills to streets with 18 mph speed limits, the Dutch have created a utopia for cycling that we in Wisconsin can learn from. Milwaukee's Bicycle Plan and some infrastructure plans for Madison draw on the Dutch for inspiration. After today's talk, I will too.

To help bring innovative bicycle facilities to Wisconsin that can get more people to ride more often, please join the Bike Fed. Your support helps us increase funding for bicycle infrastructure. Join now at and save 15 bucks with coupon code JB15off until October 15th.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Milwaukee by Bike is approved by Common Council

The Milwaukee Common Council just approved Milwaukee by Bike, the bicycle transportation plan that the Bike Fed helped develop. The plan passed nearly unanimously, with just one opposing vote, as you can read in this article from Tom Held of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Thanks so much to everyone in Milwaukee who educated their representatives about the need for better bicycle facilities and how better biking conditions will contribute to Milwaukee's livability and economic development.

The plan would add more than 200 miles of bike lanes, boulevards and trails to Milwaukee, but our work does not end here. The Council has approved the plan, but it has not yet budgeted for its implementation. It will be important for Milwaukee residents to continue to let their council members know about the importance of bike facilities to the city's growth.

To read the plan documents, go to

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Milwaukee Bike Plan one step closer to reality

Jessica Binder, the Bike Fed's education director, attended this morning's meeting about Milwaukee by Bike, the city's proposed bicycle plan, and has great news to report:
Today the Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety Committee voted to accept the Milwaukee Bicycle Plan. It was energizing to see the City Engineer wonderfully articulate the benefits of cycling and investing in cycling infrastructure. All the members of the committee were supportive of the plan and, while we do not anticipate any issues with the full Common Council adopting it when it meets on September 21, bicycling supporters are encouraged to call their alderpeople by Monday, September 20, and urge them to vote for the Bike Plan. From today's meeting, it was very clear that alderpeople are responsive when their constituents speak out and contact them.

If you can, please also attend the full Common Council Meeting where the plan will be voted upon. It's on Sep 21 at 9 a.m. in the Common Council Chambers (3rd Floor of City Hall).
For more about today's meeting, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal's Tom Held wrote up a nice summary of the meeting for the paper's website.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Madison, Milwaukee and La Crosse make national Bicycle Friendly Communities list - again!

The League of American Bicyclists yesterday announced its list of 2010 Bicycle Friendly Communities, and La Crosse, Milwaukee and Madison are on it once again. Madison received gold, the second-highest designation (with platinum being the highest), while Milwaukee and La Crosse each received bronze. You can download the complete list of honorees here.

Badger State Trail Grand Opening - Northern Section

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the city of Fitchburg will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the northern 6.1 miles of the Badger State Trail, the state's first interstate trail connection with Illinois. The ceremony will take place at the trail kiosk at Market Drive in Fitchburg.

According to the Fitchburg's 4th district alder, Steve Arnold,
"The completion of this connection, from bicycle-loving Madison to the Jane Adams Trail in Illinois, with connections to the Capital City, Military Ridge, Sugar River, and future Cannonball State Trails, will unleash a torrent of 150,000 to 250,000 visitors a year to the Badger State Trail, promising to improve the health, economic vitality, and recreation opportunities in the region."
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Saturday September 18, 2010 at 10:00 am. at the trail kiosk located at Marketplace Drive (in the Fitchburg Commerce Park south of McKee Rd., also known as County Hwy PD).

See the Bike Fed's events calendar for more details about the event.

Note: The final link from County Highway M to Purcell Rd. (a distance of 1.1 miles) may not be open for the ceremony. To bypass this section going south, Arnold suggests riding west on CTH M, south on Borchert Rd., and east on Purcell Rd. back to the trail, a 2.0-mile detour.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A city where bicycling went from 0.6% to 6.5% in four years

Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman and Madison Director Amanda White are in Chatanooga, Tenn., at Pro Walk Pro Bike 2010, a conference organized by the National Center for Biking and Walking. The annual conference has attracted 500-600 people from around the country, including bicycle advocates, planners and administrators from state departments of transportation, and city pedestrian-bicycle coordinators.

"The consistent overall theme is that the bicycling movement is growing," Amanda says of the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference. More people, including people at all levels of government and business, are getting involved.

Amanda was impressed by a Tuesday session that discussed the incredible increase in bicycling in Seville, Spain, in the past few years. In 2006, just 0.6% of trips were made by bicycle (a little lower than the Wisconsin average). By 2010, the rate was 6.5%, thanks to a concerted effort to encourage bicycling that included installing a network of segregated bike lanes (which can be bike paths or simply lanes that are separated from other traffic by a curb), as well as an extensive bike-share program.

Segregated bicycle facilities have a controversial history in the United States, with many bicyclists concerned that they denote second-class status for people on bikes and interfere with bicyclists' lawful use of the road. (See the website of bicycling advocate John Forester for this perspective.) Their concerns are valid, since some states, like Oregon, prohibit bicyclists from using the main travel lanes wherever a bike lane is present (even a poorly designed lane), or from using the road at all when a bike path is present. Thankfully, Wisconsin is not one of these states, so far recognizing that paths and lanes are not appropriate for every type of bicycling.

Despite the potential drawbacks of segregated bicycle facilities, there is good research to show that, when well-designed, they can enhance safety and increase bicycling rates in compact urban spaces like Seville.

Also today at the conference, Rails to Trails Conservancy announced a petition drive it is launching to encourage the American Automobile Association (AAA) to take a friendlier approach to bicyclists and pedestrians. The president of AAA Mid-Atlantic recently advocated for the elimination of existing federal dollars that help build bicycle and pedestrian trails and sidewalks.

According to the Rails to Trails website,
"AAA Mid-Atlantic suggests that an $89 billion annual highway fund shortfall can be blamed on investments in walking and bicycling. But those investments total less than $1 billion annually and produce tremendous benefits for everyone, including drivers. The reality is that many bicyclists drive, support AAA, pay gas taxes and want balanced transportation systems that provide the choice to get around in a variety of ways—for commuting or daily errands, or for fun and exercise."
You can find our more about the petition here.

Last but not least, it looks like the League of American Bicyclists has been inspired by the city of Madison's bicycle transportation goals. Today, Andy Clarke, the League's president, outlined steps that our nation can take to reach the goal of 20% of trips by bicycle or foot by 2020. Here's the slide that shows how:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Madison by Bike guided tour, Sept. 19

Have you ever considered going to work, the grocery store or a friend's house by bike, but aren't sure which route to take or what type of bike gear you might need?

The Bike Fed's Madison office is joining with We Are All Mechanics and 20by2020 to offer Madison by Bike, an fun event to familiarize Madisonians with bicycle routes and resources.

Madison by Bike will take place Sunday, Sept. 19, from 1 - 4 p.m. The event consists of two sessions, a Resource Hour and a Guided Tour. Attend just one session or come out for both!

Resource Hour: 1:00-2:00pm
Held at the Machinery Row end of Law Park (the grassy area near the intersection of John Nolen Drive and Williamson Street). Volunteers will be on hand to answer your questions about biking in Madison and show you how to use the free City of Madison bike map.

Guided Bicycle Tour: 2:00-4:00pm
Enjoy a relaxed, 7-mile guided tour of bike paths downtown and on Madison's near east side. Tony Fernandez from the City of Madison Engineering Department will stop at a few places along the way to educate riders about new bicycle infrastructure and discuss plans for future bicycle improvements. Click here for a route map. This friendly ride is perfect for anyone who wants to experience more of Madison by bike or for those bicycling veterans who want to enjoy a fun, relaxing Sunday ride.

For more information, email Amanda White or India Viola.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Milwaukee bike plan needs your support

mke mayor ride 2009
Milwaukee by Bike, the city of Milwaukee's 2010 Bicycle Master Plan, would add more than 200 miles of new bicycle facilities in the city. The plan will be reviewed by the Public Safety Committee on Thursday, September 16 at 9:00am in Room 301-B of City Hall. It is then scheduled for a Common Council vote on September 21.

If you live or bike in Milwaukee, please attend the Public Safety meeting on September 16 to voice your support for this plan. You can also show your support by emailing, writing or calling your alder and telling them that Milwaukee by Bike is good for Milwaukee. Talking points are available here and a sample letter/email for your alder is available here. You can read the complete plan at

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lance Armstrong and Major Taylor: Two World Champions

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz (left) and bicycling champion Lance Armstrong (right) at Ride the Drive in Madison, Wis., August 29, 2010.

As I was posting pictures from Ride the Drive to the Bike Fed's Flickr page this morning, I noticed Major Taylor on Lance Armstrong's t-shirt, captured here in this photo by Laura Whitmore of Madison Parks.

Major Taylor was a barrier-breaking American athlete on many levels. He was the 1899 world champion for the 1-mile bicycle sprint - an amazing feat on its own, but even more so considering that he was black, and sports associations in much of the country prohibited competition by black athletes at the time. (Later that year, he knocked down the one-mile world record to 1 minute, 19 seconds.) Taylor was America's second black world championship athlete.

Not until after he won the world championship was he allowed to participate in the U.S. national championships in 1900. In 1901, he went to Europe and beat every European cycling champion.

After he retired from racing in 1910, he was plagued by misfortune. At 53, he died in the charity ward of Cook County Hospital, Chicago, in 1932.

But Major Taylor's legacy has not been forgotten. A significant player in preserving his memory is the Major Taylor Association, based in Worchester, Massachusetts (where Taylor moved in 1895 and was pleasantly surprised by a lower level of overt prejudice than he had encountered in his home state of Indiana). A number of Major Taylor bike clubs throughout the United States encourage safe and fun cycling among African Americans through organized rides and events. (Check out the Web site of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, which recently co-hosted a national summit of bike clubs made up of African-American cyclists).

An archive of period newspaper articles about Taylor is available on the Web site of the Major Taylor Society.