Madison, WI, Is Making Streets More Friendly

The city council of Madison, WI recently approved its “Complete Green Streets” policy.  The policy was created to help guide the city’s approach to street design, with the goal of making streets friendlier for bikers and pedestrians. As the safety of all roadway users is prioritized, the new policy supports Madison’s Vision Zero Action Plan which aims to eliminate serious and fatal traffic crashes.

“Complete Green Streets is (a way) to make complete streets that accommodate all modes, which means they accommodate not just motor vehicles, but also bikes and pedestrians in a way that’s safe,” city transportation director Tom Lynch said. “But then green means that we understand how important our tree canopy is, as well as green infrastructure such as rain gardens, and that those also need to be accommodated in the street right of way.” 

One important issue addressed by the plan is the city’s tree canopy. A study performed in 2019  found that a little less than a quarter of the city was shaded by tree canopy, prompting the city to set a new goal of 40% tree canopy coverage. Tree canopies are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also lower air temperatures. 

The city has published a guide which provides a background of the Complete Green Streets policy, how equity will be taken into consideration, and explains the plan’s priorities, zoning and design parameters, and how it will be implemented.

In a statement, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway wrote: “Many of the elements in the program, such as pedestrian and bicycle safety, promotion of mass transit, protecting and improving our urban tree canopy and making our streets and neighborhoods safer, more livable and equitable, have been important parts of street design in the City. However, now these concepts are codified and organized into a Guide to assist staff in implementing projects and provide more information for our residents. This Guide is a flexible tool that can evolve as the City evolves.”