UW-Madison students recommend strategies to make Monona a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community

Urban & Regional Planning course performs multiple audits on Monona facilities and programs to identify ways to increase resident bicycling education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering, and evaluation.


Devin R. Larsen


Shelly Strom, Marshall Curry


City of Monona, WI, United States
Community Size
8,045 (2018 Census Estimation)
University of Wisconsin - Madison
UniverCity Year
Case Type
Project Stories
EPA Region 5, USA

The City of Monona, Wisconsin, is devoted to continually enhancing the quality of life for its 8,000 residents. One area they regularly aim to improve is the connectivity, efficiency, and safety of the city’s transportation system. In recent years, Monona began providing more support to its biking infrastructure, whether due to an increase in biking leading to decreased greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints or for regular bicycling being correlated to better physical and mental health outcomes. 

Monona has assessed their city’s biking improvements off of the League of American Bicyclists’ (LAB) Bicycle Friendly Community guidelines and designations. Founded in 1880, the LAB has created a trusted framework which advocates for communities to improve their local bicycling environment. The tiered designations for Bicycle Friendly Communities—bronze, silver, gold, and platinum—are determined by the LAB by criteria known as the “Five E’s”: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation. To advance in tier, more rigorous programs supporting the “Five E’s” must be implemented in a city. The City of Monona, a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community, wished to achieve a silver status. 

The UniverCity Year program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an EPIC-Network member, was created to help local government and community partners with identified sustainability and livability projects. Participating University faculty would incorporate community-identified projects into classes, providing students with on-the-ground experience which would work towards the production of a more sustainable and livable future for the partnered community. 

During the 2016 to 2017 academic year, the City of Monona was chosen to partner with the UniverCity Year program due to its proximity to the university and for strong support from Mayor Bob Miller. 

Students work to get Monona to silver level 

The UniverCity Year program partnered UW-Madison’s Urban & Regional Planning 590: Bicycles, Pedestrians, and the City course with the City of Monona to bring the city up to a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community. With the collaborative guidance of Professor Dave Cieslewicz and Brad Bruun, project coordinator and geographic information systems specialist (GIS) in Monona’s Department of Public Works, the class split into teams of two to audit Monona intersections of interest on items including:

  • Areas of land use environment
  • Transportation environment
  • Walking environment
  • Bicycling environment
  • Facilities and aesthetic
  • Behavior of bikers and cyclists seen interacting with intersections 

A lack of bicycle etiquette and knowledge 

After auditing around 30 intersections, students compiled a list of findings, which included notes stating that residents … 

  • Often used bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and street lanes incorrectly
  • Did not always wear a helmet while biking
  • Did not always know how to cross difficult intersections

Recommendations to increase bicyclist safety and awareness 

With these results and other collected information on hand, students created numerous recommendations for improvements that could be made to increase resident bicycling education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering, and evaluation. 

Recommendations included:

  • Utilizing UW-Madison’s Bicycle Resource Center, which provides “space, tools, and advice for students to do their own bike maintenance”
  • Monona should host a bike rodeo—an event that teaches bicyclists skills and practices to become safer cyclists—so adults have the ability to strengthen their awareness and handling of a bike
  • Creating a ticketing program which encourages positive behaviors by motor vehicle and bicycle operators while discouraging behaviors that negatively affect safety

While having received the achievement of becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community, the City of Monona could do more to increase their tier-status, improving their bicycling program to improve transportation safety, attract more people to Monona, and enhance the quality of life for all residents. Strand and Associates—Madison, WI, engineering consultant—has since started preparing a bike and pedestrian plan informed by UniverCity Year projects guided by Brad Bruun. With an implemented plan, Monona can move towards receiving the silver Bicycle Friendly community designation, making it an “even better place to live, work, and play” (UniverCity Year project final report).

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

“The policy, infrastructure, and program changes recommended in this report will move Monona towards the silver Bicycle Friendly Community designation and make it an even better place to live, work, and play.”

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