Wednesday night, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin demonstrated that he gets that bicycling is a good investment even in difficult economic circumstances. Before a packed house, Mayor Soglin announced his proposal to increase funding for bicycle projects and programs in 2012 to $4.4 million, up from $4.1 million in 2011. He made the announcement at Moving Bicycling Forward in Madison, an event hosted by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin in which the Mayor and other community leaders’ gave their perspectives on helping Madison achieve 20by2020 (20% of trips made by bike by the year 2020).
While this was great news to the more than 250 bicycle supporters who packed the room and poured out into the hallway, the message that investments in bicycling are even more important during tough economic times is one that municipalities around the rest of the state would be wise to consider. Madison continues to see the benefit of their history of investing to make the city a better place to bicycle and the leaders are keen to continue to reap the economic return in terms of jobs and the improved quality of life benefits the city has enjoyed.
Mayor Soglin’s tone was serious and to the point. He did not mince words when he said it was no fun putting together this budget. Soglin said the constraints placed on Madison by the State combined with debt service from municipal borrowing leave the City with little choice but to cut planned increases in services and programs across the board. Still, he managed to save many planned bicycle projects, which dollar for dollar produce more jobs and higher economic returns on investment than traditional road projects.
“We have to look at the possibilities that bicycling opens up in terms of recreation, in terms of sport, in terms of commuting. At the same time, we have to put it in terms of all the other challenges that we face,” Soglin warned. Here he mentioned the recent spate of assaults on the city’s trails indicate there are social problems that need to be addressed. The Mayor also noted the need for a comprehensive transportation plan that emphasizes land use while it considers all modes of transportation, walking, bicycling, transit and motor vehicles.
While it was great to hear Mayor Soglin and the other community leaders sound off in support of bicycling in these tough economic times, at the same time it was humbling to witness the vast turnout of so many citizens committed to cycling. The variety of people was also indicative of the broad, bi-partisan support for bicycling in our State Capital. Attendees included college students, young professionals, seniors, a sizeable number of women, and even a few toddlers, and there was also a noticeable lack of spandex in this crowd!
I found the meeting to be an incredibly motivating event and I hope the attendees did as well. There were many moments during Tony Fernandez’s presentation, that the audience spontaneously applauded bicycling projects and efforts of the city. The positive energy and excitement from the audience pulsed throughout the room.
I came away from the meeting inspired by the huge number of committed attendees and very optimistic for the opportunities to move bicycling forward in Madison, despite difficult budget times. We have a lot of work to do as we strive for 20by2020, but with such a supportive, committed bicycling community, I’m sure we will unite together and achieve great accomplishments over the next few years. I look forward to working with all of you.
In case you could not attend, below is a short recap and a video of the Mayor’s speech.
Mayor Soglin began the evening’s presentation by sharing his vision for bicycling in our community. The Mayor’s key points included:
- Difficult economic times – The Mayor explained that Madison is in difficult economic times. He cited previous years’ spending and new burdens placed on Madison by the state as reasons why drastic cuts are needed.
- Overview of projects proposed in the capital budget – Mayor Soglin explained that his proposed 2012 Bicycle and Pedestrian Capital budget is an increase from a budget of $4.1 million in 2011 to a proposed $4.4 million in 2012. He then went through and listed some of the projects that are included. These projects can be found in the Mayor’s 2012 Proposed Bicycle & Pedestrian Capital Budget.
- Bike path safety – There has been an increase in the number of assaults on some of Madison’s bike paths which has Mayor Soglin concerned. He’s going to work with the police department to address some of these safety issues. Mayor Soglin explained that these incidents on the bike path reflect a larger issue of neighborhood safety and child development in at risk communities. He stated that we must take care of our children and work to provide safe, healthy neighborhoods in Madison.
- Bike parking – The shortage of bike parking downtown is also a concern of Mayor Soglin’s. He understands the need for more bike parking, but available space in our downtown is limited. There is much competition for space including sidewalk cafes, benches, etc. One issue the Mayor’s office is currently working to address in regards to bicycle parking is mopeds parked in bicycle parking areas. Currently, state law allows scooters to park in bicycle parking stalls. The Mayor wants to change this policy. He stated that he is exploring the option of a local ordinance that would restrict bicycle parking but would alleviate this issue. He hopes the ordinance will go to the Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Committee soon. The Bike Fed is also working with the Mayor’s office to change the state ordiance to allow local communities to decide whether they want to allow scooters to park in bicycle stalls.
Tony Fernandez, Civil Engineer for the City of Madison, gave an excellent update on the bicycle projects that the city has implemented in the last year and insight into upcoming projects. His presentation with diagrams and projects pictures can be found here: 20110907.TFpresentation. A few of the exciting new connections over the next 1-3 years include:
- Cannonball Trail – a connection from downtown to Fitchburg.
- Starkweather Creek Path (west branch) – a connection from the east side of Madison to Sun Prairie.
- Diagonal crossing at Atwood & Dunning – the city’s first diagonal crossing that would give bikes and peds a special signal to cross at a diagonal.
- Glacial Drumlin Connection – this is the last link in a non-stop 140 mile connection from downtown Milwaukee to downtown Madison.
Our other dynamic speakers included:
- Brian Munson, Vandewalle & Associates
- Paul Muench, Urban Land Interests
- Toni Gnewuch, Dream Bikes
- Amanda White, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin
Here are some links to other media coverage:
A big thanks the Chris Fortune and his team at Saris Cycling Group for helping the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin organize the meeting and thanks to the City of Madison for sponsoring it. Much appreciation to Paul Muench and Urban Land Interests for offering the use of the room. We also thank Jamie Forrest and Trek Bicycle Corporation for the excellent event photos.