Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Monona Drive Phase Two - A Compromise and a Crash?

The Monona Drive ad hoc committee met this morning to make decisions regarding Phase Two (Winnequah Road north to Cottage Grove Road). The committee conditionally adopted a compromise between the city of Madison and the city of Monona with regard to the configuration of the Monona Drive/Cottage Grove Road intersection.

Broadly speaking, Madison had favored retention of the existing 'slip lane' (variously called a 'hot lane' or 'blow by lane') for soutbound traffic while Monona had favored creating a 4-legged intersection and eliminating the 'slip lane'. The main problem for Madison was the needed real estate north of Cottage Grove Road. Madison tentatively proposed eliminating the bike lanes on the small section north of Cottage Grove Road. (Bike lanes will be retained through the rest of the project).

(For details on the alternatives go here:Monona Drive Update)

However, word has it that Monona may be due for some in-fighting over the width of the sidewalk on the west side of the roadway in Phase Two. The original plan (and consequently the all-important 'environmental document' called for a 10'-wide sidewalk or multiuse path). This increased width would partially accommodate recreational bikers who will continue to use that sidewalk whether there are bike lanes in the roadway or not. The committee later approved a reduction to 8', the bare minimum to still remain faithful to the intent of the plan approved in the environmental document.

The committee has consistently and repeatedly supported a widened walkway or multiuse path in the plan over the past 6 years. Well, some folks who live along that stretch don't like this part of the plan. Former Mayor Lichtfeld has pledged to "fight it tooth and nail." Apparently, the opposition has garnered some Monona city council support. I say 'apparently' because none of the alders present this morning voiced that opposition (Alder Mike Veserat and I are on the committee and alders Thomas and Busse were in attendance).

Bear in mind that with federal money come the federal procedures, restrictions, protections and so forth. We take the money, we play by their rules.

I think the 8'-wide path is the right thing to do. It will acknowledge the reality of the type of users and make it safer by improving sightlines and by creating increased clear traveling width. Perhaps a bigger issue is that changing to a 5' or 6' wide sidewalk would require a reopening of the environmental document that would delay the second phase of the project beyond 2011. That delay would knock us out of our current funding slot in the MPO plan (although I think the chances are small we would actually lose the funding).

It would be a painful irony if we manage to work out our differences with Madison only to shoot ourselves in the foot. Who do we think we are, Cottage Grove?

Stay tuned. The current tentative plan is for the council to have a first reading about the Phase Two design this coming Monday, June 1.


  1. Wait, I'm confused. Madison doesn't have a bike lane north of Cottage Grove Rd currently, and I didn't think that they were going to be redoing that section anytime soon. Would this just be the elimination of a bike lane between Cottage Grove Rd and wherever the Madison boundary line is? Argh, I can't believe that with all of the complaints about how segmented and disjointed the current bike path system is, that we're looking to continue this by getting rid of a small section causing cyclists to either ride in the road (dangerous, slows traffic) or ride on the sidewalk (dangerous, public complaints)... Again, this section is the ONLY part of the lake-loop that is a complete and utter disaster, with the official loop going out through Dean just to avoid Monona Drive. As such, everyone just either rides on the sidewalk or in the middle of the road when going through here.

    As an anecdote, when my wife and I ride into Madison (usually 2-3 times/week), we head up Winnequah to Monona Drive, and proceed up to Walter Street. We take up our state-mandated space, riding two abreast and trying to keep as far right as possible, although with the rough condition of the road it usually ends up that we take up the entire right lane. This is often on Saturday mornings when traffic is light, but if you have a beautiful, paved road complete with bike lanes ALMOST all the way up to where you can pick up the bike path, you're just asking for more and more cyclist traffic which is invariably going to lead to more congestion as cyclists will mix with rush hour traffic. Turning on to Cottage Grove Road (which does have a bike lane after a bit) isn't worthwhile since you'll then have to cross 4 lanes of traffic by the Rte 51 interchange just to pick up the bike path.

    This plan seems extremely short-sighted, and I'm floored that with the millions of dollars that we're going to be spending on this that we're going to make it either inaccessible or extremely inconvenient for cyclists.

    For more on Wisconsin DOT bicycle rules: (note how in WI bicycles are expressly prohibited from sidewalks unless local ordinances allow it.

    For more information on Wisconsin Bicycle Advocacy:

  2. Madison opposes a bike lane? So the bike lane will run all the way around the lake except for the stretch above Cottage Grove Road? While I absolutely respect the concerns of property owners along that stretch, eliminating the bike lane is dangerous for everyone. Monona drive is currently dangerous and bike-unfriendly enough that many riders take to the sidewalks, which is not good for riders or pedestrians. Eliminating the bike lane from planning will only make this situation worse. Surely there must be some compromise possible?

  3. I am an avid cyclist who does whatever I can to respect the rules of the road. However, whenever I make the trek from my Monona home to downtown Madison, I have no choice but to disregard the posted "No Bicycles" sign along the sidewalk between the monastery and the East Side Business Club. This is strictly for my personal safety. Riding a bicycle along Monona Dr is an accident waiting to happen. A bike lane, or some sort of bike friendly corridor from the Winnequah/Monona Dr intersection to Olbrich Park is desperately needed.

    This isn't a matter of "Monona" or "Madison". It is a part of the Lake Monona Loop and is used by hundreds of people from many different communities each day.

    I hope you are able to come to a compromise to make this stretch of road safer to all of those who use it.

  4. Oh, crap. I knew this would happen. You need to look at the plan carefully.

    No, no, no, Madison does NOT oppose bike lanes.

    The Monona Drive project ends at Cottage Grove Road. There are currently no bike lanes on Monona Drive north of CG Road.
    Currently, the plan ONLY carries the bike lanes through the intersection and then transitions back to no bike lanes within a couple hundred feet of the intersection. The bike lanes would ONLY be omitted for that couple hundred feet. This would help resolve some of the issues surrounding that intersection.

    Bike lanes will be integrated into the roadway from CG Road to Broadway. The 8'-wide walk in the northern end is primarily for recreational bikers to get them up to Winnequah Road.

    Yes, Travis, you are confused! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

    But, yes, this project will not fix all of the bike safety and transportaion concerns and it will not address the section north of CG Road, but it will be a major improvement. You can't fix everything at once.

  5. Sorry Doug, not confused. As I understand it, we're discussing the elimination of a bike lane from Cottage Grove Rd north until the end of the proposed construction zone, correct?

    If so, I stand by my points. You're basically saying that Monona Drive will be bike friendly and encourage cycling, particularly towards Madison, except for this one area where you're either going to be forced onto the sidewalk (dangerous) or forced into traffic (also dangerous). How exactly is this going to promote cycling?

    True, Madison does not have a bike lane going north on Atwood, and cyclists will be forced to fend for themselves in traffic or on the sidewalk. Does that mean we shouldn't be forward thinking and planning for the future when Atwood *is* redone? Monona Drive hasn't changed in (30?) years, and so whatever we're planning here will be around for another 30 years, probably more. If there is no bike lane coming north from Monona, there won't be any reason for Madison to put one in when they redo Atwood, leading to a catch-22.

    It's just frustrating that if we're doing a complete redo of Monona Drive that we don't have future plans in mind for what the traffic (both car and bike) patterns are going to be. Your claim that this will not solve everything is fine, but what happens in another 10 years when upper Monona Drive and Atwood is renovated? Will we go back and revisit this issue and try to put in a bike lane then? Or will we fight like hell for a bike lane on Atwood, and then have this "couple hundred foot" section with no bike lane?

    At the last information meeting I asked about a fully separated bike lane with both directions going on the same side of the street such as: and was told that it couldn't be accomplished due to snow removal (no snowblower small enough?), but are we sure that it wouldn't be possible to make something work along those lines (smaller sidewalk, bike lanes physically separated from traffic)? It would encourage recreational cyclists off the sidewalks and still be adequate for more, uh, hard-core cyclists. Recreational cyclists mainly care about being physically separated from traffic which is why they ride on sidewalks...


    Oh, and Mark, feel free to ride in the middle of the lane on Monona Drive / Atwood. The Wisconsin DOT recommends it (I'd say that MD / Atwood qualify as "narrow lanes", see here:, and every time my wife and I do so I feel like we're our own little 2-person Critical Mass, standing up for cyclists rights and pointing out that if I had a bike lane, I wouldn't be holding up traffic.


  6. Also, as a follow-up, from what I can gather from the plans from the last meeting, we're talking about 429' between Cottage Grove Rd, and where the bike lane would start (around Michaels? The map for the 2nd alternative isn't that clear). That's more than halfway from Cottage Grove Rd to the Olbrich Ave, the first place that cyclists could duck into side streets to continue over to the bike path. The slip route does look like its less distance, but since the plans are being revised I'm not sure exactly how much distance we're talking about here.

  7. Travis, are you suffering an irony deficiency today?? I was making a generally snarky comment about your confusion.

    Anyway, yes, when Monona/Atwood is rebuilt there will be bike lanes added.

    We are adding bike lanes from CG Road to Broadway. That improves biking access. (Unless you have to have 100% of everything you desire all at once in order to see that progress is being made.)

    This project never extended beyond CG Road. The project follows the route of CTH BB from CG Road to Broadway.


    Riding in the middle of the lane on Monona Drive, in my opinion, only pisses people off and does not do anything to further the interests of bikers.


    I don't know that the idea of a fully-separated bike facility was ever considered. I don't know if you could have that fit in here or not, but we are too far along (way, way, way too far) to make that kind of change now.

  8. Sorry Doug, the weather must be getting to me... :)

    I'm still thinking that we're talking about over 400' of additional construction and a possible bike lane north of CG road, at least according to the plans drawn up as "option 2" on the .pdf (page 14) from the meeting back in April. This seems to be due to the need for MD to go from 4 lanes to 5, and that it needs to start widening at Michaels (??) for it to get to the full 5 lanes wide. If you check the plans, there's a bike lane running the entire section along the western side. I'm just concerned that if there is a section of several hundred feet without a bike lane now, when Atwood / northern tip of MD is redone (with a bike path) there's not going to be any desire to go back and put a bike lane in since we'd run into the same width / space issues that we're currently trying to fix... Would we really go back to property owners and widen it *again*, just to connect the bike lanes?

    And I know that riding a bike on MD isn't specifically *helpful* per se, but it's legal, fun, is the shortest route to Madison, and does happen to make the point that cyclists are vehicles, they belong on the road (not the sidewalk), and if we had space to ride off to the side of the road we'd gladly do so. Besides, with there being 2 lanes in each direction, cars only have to momentarily slow down before passing us, just like if there was a loaded dump truck or farm implement driving slowly along.

    My wife and I will probably be riding into Madison for the farmers market this Saturday if you'd like to come along. You could experience what riding along Monona Drive is like at a time when it's not that busy...

  9. Doug,

    You are being unclear, and it seems to me that this comment thread is on the verge of descending into an unproductive place.

    Let me attempt to summarize:
    1. In your original post, you state that Madison has proposed to eliminate the bike lanes north of Cottage Grove Road.
    2. The project(s) currently in process extend from Broadway to Cottage Grove Road and includes bike lanes for that length of road.
    3. Travis, Mark, and I have argued that bike lanes are essential to the safety and comfort of cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians using Monona Drive/Atwood.

    I think our concern is that even "a couple hundred feet" of missing bike lane creates a hazard for everyone. My experience as a cyclist and a driver is that things work best when everyone behaves in a consistent and predictable manner. The sudden disappearance of a bike lane will make it impossible for cyclists to behave in a consistent and predictable manner. I think our protest is over the idea of even having the temporary disappearance of bicycle lanes under consideration.

    Given the bicycle traffic currently and the likely increase if the Broadway-Cottage Grove section is improved, it is not responsible to remove the bike lanes from any section of plan, and a compromise should be found.

    Regarding riding down the middle of Monona Drive: Please suggest an alternative. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal and dangerous to pedestrians. There is no shoulder on Monona Drive that can be used as a de facto bike lane. The outer edges of Monona Drive are riddled with cracks and potholes. If I want to ride from my home in Monona to the bike trail into downtown, taking up a significant portion of the right-hand lane of Monona Drive is a safe and legal option. I do not ride in an inconsistent fashion, and I ride as swiftly as I can. There is nothing deliberately provocative about this action. (And if you took Travis's critical mass comment seriously, perhaps there is further irony deficiency in this conversation.)

  10. I understand the objections.

    In my estimation, the 400+' bike lane extension was probably never going to happen. It was part of the 4-legged intersection plan. Madison is not thrilled about that plan, but would (maybe) go along with the 4-legged part if the real estate impacts can be reduced north of CG Road and thus the elimination of the bike lanes (ONLY for that 400+').

    Monona would probably not support the 'slip lane'/offset intersection option.

    The likely outcomes were either ending the project SOUTH of the CG Road intersection or some sort of compromise (4-legged without bike lanes north of CG Road as I have described).

    Compromise. Governing requires it.

    But really, is no one concerned that the project could be delayed by internal Monona arguing over the sidewalk????

  11. I should add that the 'missing link' extends from Walter Street to Winnequah Road. The project WILL provide an 8'-wide sidewalk from CG Road to Winnequah as well as bike lanes in the roadway. The missing link will be reduced to about half its current length.

  12. Did anyone learn from the disaster at the south end of Winnequah? The hybrid bike lane/"sidewalk" is unsafe for pedestrians and bikers because the design was altered by the council. A multi-use path along Monona Drive needs to be wide to be safe and practical.

    For too long, cyclists have had to make a tough choice at the north end of Monona: either disregard the law and bike on a narrow sidewalk which is not designed for cyclists, OR, detour through side streets and allies to eventually connect to the bike trail which ends at Cottage Grove Road and Hwy 51. I took this detour with my daughter on Thursday, adding over 1/2 mile to the journey to be able to have lunch at Blue Plate. We decided to break the law for our return trip, but the narrow sidewalk makes it tough for everyone, including those driving into and out of driveways. With the narrow path, it is too hard to see what is coming.

    But we have an opportunity to improve this. Now is the time to do it right.

    This winter, I spoke with many Monona citizens who are frustrated with the lack of regard for cyclists, children, and pedestrians on Monona's streets. About 6 families expressed specific frustration with the south end of Winnequah Road, which was botched by the council. The goofy transition from street to curb is too narrow for a Burley or other child-carrying trailer. The zig-zag is also dangerous at higher speeds, so many cyclists simply avoid it, thereby riding out into the street at the chokers, defeating the purpose of having a re-designed street that separates bikers and pedestrians from the auto lanes.

    Let's be clear. The south end of Winnequah could have been a success, but a few citizens with power decided to play games with street design, and these individuals obviously do not ride bikes. We now have a former mayor trying to discourage biking in front of his house by creating another unsafe sidewalk/"bike lane". Monona deserves better, and we should demand better.

    Monona Drive is just too busy, and cyclists, pedestrians, and families are too important to be treated like second class citizens.

    The original design called for a 10' wide multi-use trail, which would optimize safety for everyone involved. The 8' compromise is not great, but the committee gave up 2 feet, and now some want to take another 18 inches.?!?

    The 10' or 8' wide hybrid sidewalk/bike lane needs to wrap around the corner at Winnequah road, right to my front yard, so that pedestrians and cyclists can approach Monona drive safely, without being out in the street. Right now, the sidewalk dumps out into the corner, creating a confusing and unsafe area that gets a lot of use by pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles.

    The Monona Drive project is an opportunity to make Monona more family-friendly. Let's make sure that Monona spends our tax dollars wisely to improve Monona Drive for all of the people, rather than pandering to the whims of a few.