I think I live in bike heaven.

There is a bike trail that passes a few blocks from my house in Madison and travels to within a mile of my land in the Driftless Are:a.   The Military Ridge Bike Trail runs along the Chicago and Northwestern Rail corridor that followed Military Ridge, the divide between the Wisconsin River watershed to the north and the Pecatonica and Rock River watershed to the south.

And now –Just 2 blocks from my house in the other direction– Kendall Avenue has been transformed from a narrow and problematic driving street into a bicycle boulevard.  Cars can still move along it, but their way has been complicated with traffic-calming devices like bumps and cute little round-abouts and signs and big symbols painted on the pavement that make it clear bikes have the right of way here.

That is the kind of thing that keeps Madison on the list of top 10 biking cities in the U.S. even though we have some seriously unfriendly biking conditions in the winter.  (I am a dedicated biker till the snow flies.   I don’t like the odds when a car is skidding out of control in my vicinity.)

Top Ten Biking Cities
1. Davis, CaliforniaBike Info, City Info
2. Boulder, ColoradoBike Info, City Info
3. Corvallis, OregonBike Info, City Info
4. Madison, WisconsinBike Info, City Info
5. Palo Alto, CaliforniaBike Info, City Info
6. Portland, OregonBike Info, City Info
7. San Francisco, CaliforniaBike Info, City Info
8. Tucson/Pima Eastern Region, ArizonaBike Info, City Info
9. Eugene, OregonBike Info, City Info
10. Seattle, WashingtonBike Info, City Info

This list is compiled by The League of American Bicyclists. To get a list of bike friendly cities and towns across the United States. Go to their website .

...Portland, OR

Municipalities want their citizens to bike.  It cuts down on traffic congestion, road wear and carbon emissions.  Bicycle boulevards are popping up around the country – mostly in California and Oregon.  Portland is a fabled oasis of bike-friendly policies.  They have even produced a handbook for creating a bike boulevard.

Check out this 3 minute video to see one in action.

A bike boulevard brings some of the benefits of a bike path to a regular street, creating a shared roadway that is comfortable to cyclists of all ages and skill levels and is a safe and direct route for commuting bikers.

It means giving some streets back to bicyclists and pedestrians.

..Biking in the Netherlands, where they really get it. (photo credit:

“It’s an intermediate step between busy streets and a bike trail,” according to Robbie Webber, who supported biking when she was Fifth District Alderperson in Madison.  “Trails don’t go everywhere,” said Webber in a recent telephone interview.  “If you want a place where bikers feel comfortable, you need to move to another level of bicycle facility, but you don’t have establish a whole separate system.  If more and more people see their neighbors and friends and family commuting by bike — they are more likely to try it.  When you make it easier for people to bike, all the pieces come together.”

So how is the Kendall Bike Boulevard doing?

According to Madison Bicycle Pedestrian Safety Coordinator Arthur Ross, “So far, it’s working well.  There haven’t been any problems or complaints.” He didn’t have any before and after bike traffic figures yet.

...When I walked down to snap this photo, two bikes came past in one minute.

I suspect the figures will show increased bike use.  A couple of years ago I used to zip down Kendall every day  when I was in grad school (it was a decent bike route even before being boulevardized), and I  see more bikes there now.  (Unscientific, I admit — but I know my neighborhood.)

What is the biking like in your neck of the woods?

Is it getting  better or worse?

2 replies

    • Hi Jacqueline! What a treat to hear from you.
      You are absolutely right. When I was living in the Netherlands, I never saw anyone wearing a helmet. I will say for the Dutch that they tend to bike differently than we do. They ride with their seats lower so that they can easily put their feet down to steady themselves. They sit upright and bike at a more leisurely pace and don’t tend to go flying over their handle bars (the way I did twice in my 20s before I got smart enough to start wearing a helmet myself).
      I biked cross country in my mid 20’s sans helmet and only started wearing one so I could role model bike safety to my daughters. Now I treat it like my seat beat and don my helmet without question. But I didn’t think about the photo featuring a biker with no helmet. I will say that the other biker who passed me while I was snapping photos DID have his helmet on.
      Good call, Jacqueline.

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