Madison, WI

Bike Infrastructure and Social Mobility


Bicycling Infrastructure is an important part to a well designed and efficient transportation network. Bicycling is an economical alternative to driving and is the ideal mode of transportation for short 1-5 mile trips. For this reason the choice to bike and bicycling infrastructure should be made available to all people. Yet, bicyling is primarily reserved to white, middle aged, working class males. Madison has made a concious effort to break this trend and normalize biking. This has oppended up opportunity for some neighborhoods, but others are still at a disadvantage. To break the cycle of poverty it is important to keep pushing access to cycling infrastructure for all citizens of Madison.

Infrastructure Overview

The map above is an overview of Madison's bicycle infrastructure. The map shows instances of bike paths and segregated lanes. Bike paths are bike ways that are completely seperate from a roadway. Segregated lanes are bikeways that are seperated from the roadway either with a physical barrier or painted lane. The map represent the more preferred bikeways of cyclists. The bikeways are particularily dense in the Central Business District and UW-Campus Area. These areas were the easiest to retro-fit at the time of the Long Range Bikeway Program's adoption in 1975. The city's parks are also well connected as this was a primary concern of the Long Rane Bikeway Program. The density decreases as the distance from the Downtown area increases. The outer areas of the city feature less development due to its windy suburban streets being dificult to retro-fit. Also, progress can sometimes be slow as the city can only develop as opportunities becomes available.


In order for Madison's bikeways to be beneficial it must connect people to things they need such as jobs. It is important to be conneceted to these places by bike rather than by automobile, because owning and parking a car is very expensive. Many people in these poorer neighborhoods simply cannot afford to own a vehicle. A bicycle on the other hand is rather cheap to own. Unfortunately in Madison, the racial construction of a neighborhood is a very good predictor of its affluency. One key to using the bicycle infrastructure to positively affect social mobility is to connect less affluent minority neighborhoods to more affluent neighborhoods and onward to the central buisness district.

In the 1990s the Southwest Commuter trail was expanded to the Allied neighborhood. The allied neighborhood is constricted from the rest of the city by large highways. The Beltline to the north and Verona Road to the west are both barriers that limit mobility in the neighborhood. The expansion connected the Allied neighborhood by building an overpass over the beltline and building a tunnel under Verona Road. This expansion has given the neighborhood access to jobs, education, and mobility via bicycle. saw expanshion along park street but is still underdeveloped

The Burr Oaks Neighborhood is another low income neighborhood in Madison. There are new trails planned for the neighborhood but they are not major connecting bikeways and mobility to other neighborhoods may still be limited.

Access to Goods and Services

As it is important to connect neighborhoods it is just as important to connect people to their needs. If bikeways are not built to where people want to go then the effort is as futile as building a bridge to nowhere. The following maps plot the bikeways over density maps of access to two important needs, education and food. These are trips that should be encouraged to be made by bicycle. The following maps evaluate the feasibility of these trips.

Education plays a critical role in upward social mobility for communities. The most striking result from the map above is that density of bike paths in the UW-Madison campus area. This reflects a strong influence that the university has had on the infrastructure and bicycle culture in Madison. Also, The southwest commuter path connects other education centers and local schools.

There are much more definite clusters for grocery stores than was the case with schools. Furthermore, outside of the downtown area these stores are not well connected by bikeways. This would suggest that many trips must be made by car.

Economic Benefits