City of Madison, Wisconsin


  Cycling Infrastructure


Links to City cycling office or resources  
  City cycling map  

Updated - 2006-09-03 - 05



General Impressions



"Madison – The City of Cycling Highways"


    Cycling through the city on a network of off-road bike trails is one of the pleasant experiences in Madison. Occasionally, one needs to go on the road for part of the ride. Frequently, these roads are quiet or have bike lanes. Part of one trail is abutted with community gardens where the “farmers” rent the ad by the amount they occupy.

    This network of of-road trails would appeal to a much broader base of the public and encourage them to consider cycling as their transportation mode for the next trip. Having a fleet of buses that will take bikes enhances the use of the trails.

Cycling Mode Share

Reported as approximately 8%.

Definitely, there is a critical mass of cyclists making drivers aware that cyclists will be about.

Vision for Cycling

Madison is at the Gold-Level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) rating. The Bicycle Friendly Community Campaign is an awards program that recognizes municipalities that actively support bicycling. A Bicycle-Friendly Community provides safe accommodation for cycling and encourages its residents to bike for transportation and recreation. The League of American Bicyclists administers the Bicycle Friendly Community Campaign.

    At the opening session to the Pro Walk Pro Bike 2006, Madison’s Mayor David Cieslewicz announced that he is unhappy to always be behind Davis, CA which has a platinum rating. He has set up a committee whose job it is to draw up a plan to make Madison a Platinum-Level Bicycle Friendly Community.

    In discussion with one member of this committee, one was very unsure of this plan would be anything more than a technical exercise, rather than being approached from a visionary perspective focusing on what would draw people to cycling instead of using their cars.

Building the Network for a Specific Customer Base or for a City Strategy or Vision - Human Factors Considerations

When this question was asked the engineer responded quickly on what roads they were going to apply bike lanes and which not and which roads would not receive any cycling infrastructure treatment.

When asked if the system is being designed for current cyclists or to draw non-cyclists to cycle, there was no response.

A vision of cycling in the future for Madison was not offered.

Network Planning Direction

  • All collector streets to have bike lanes
• Selected arterial streets to have bike lanes
• Continually evolve bike trails and connect with trails leading to other population centres (ex. Milwaukee, Dodgeville, Illinois and Chicago)
• Some streets will not have cycling facilities or be signed as the cycling volume is sufficient that drivers are aware that cyclists will be present. It is assumed here but not confirmed, except for State St, where posted speed limit is 25 kph, which motorized traffic is operating at the speed of cycling.

Traffic Count

  It was reported that University Avenue handles 40,000 cars per day and 8,000 to 10,000 bicycles.

It was reported that the Mona Lake Trail handles 1,000 to 1,500 cyclists per day.


Network Strength


  The cycling highway, i.e. bike trails, that allows commuting throughout greater Madison and reduces catchment area between bike routes to a short, acceptable distance is the strength of the cycling infrastructure of this city. Madison should be proud of it and other municipalities should envy it and try to duplicate it. The usage of the trails indicates the high acceptance of trails that are removed from street motorized traffic.

    Critical mass is another strength of the network here. Having a large university certainly helps. Having it located in short distance from downtown is another strength.

It can be assumed that this city being a state capital would also be a strength to realizing a good bicycling network.

Opportunities for Improvement

  • Trail Capacity - Many of the trails have been around for a few years and are out of capacity, requiring widening. The scenario was given that originally trails were built with 8 feet width, then it was 10 feet, and now it is 12 feet. Well, they should be now built for 5 metres and, in addition, pedestrian and cyclists should be separated with each having their own trail.
• Maintenance – The older trails and many bike lanes need maintenance work in bringing the surface, ramps, and line painting to acceptable cycling levels that will not deteriorate personal health, especially the spine.
• Signage – While good in parts, there still is room for improvement in route signage, direction, and destination information for tourists and for new cyclists.
• Cycling Traffic Counting – On the Monona Lake Trail one intersection has automatic counters on the three entries into an intersection. Beyond monitoring a couple of streets there is no monitoring program. This needs improvement.
• Bike Parking – While State St. has significant bike parking on the street, it is still much below what the demand is. This holds for other streets as well and for the conference centre.