Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Horrifying hybrid

I was glad to see that the Cap Times has published an article on the abomination of a bike lane on Winnequah Road in Monona. I first encountered this lane-path hybrid (perhaps more frightening than the human-animal hybrids that W. Bush warned us of so many years ago) on the last day of the ACT Ride this year.

The experience was truly discombobulating. The bike lane was interrupted at regular intervals by several yards of sidewalk. Or you could say that the sidewalk was interrupted at regular intervals by several yards of bike lane. The woman I was with rode up and down the walks, but I said, "No way in hell am I riding that way." Anyone who has studied collision patterns knows that cyclists are far more likely to be involved in collisions when they are on sidewalks, and when they are entering a road from a sidewalk.

Sidewalk transitions are also a good place for cyclists to crash without hitting or being hit by another vehicle, especially in cold climes like Wisconsin. That's because water works itself into the cracks in the asphalt and, over the winter freeze-and-thaw cycles, causes concrete to heave. So, over a few years, you no longer have smooth curb cuts, but concrete jumps, fissures and potholes perfect for catching your wheels.

I used to commute on Winnequah frequently and am glad that Monona hadn't implemented this stupid idea back then. Yes, the road was riddled with potholes, but it was wide enough that you could avoid potholes and motor vehicles at the same time. I agree with the sentiment expressed in the article: If Monona wanted to slow down motor vehicle traffic and make the road safer for cyclists, why not just repave (to eliminate the potholes) and paint bicycle-only lanes?

And this threat by Monona authorities to ticket cyclists for not using the sidewalks is absurd. In other parts of Monona, they've posted signs saying "No bicyclists on sidewalks." ( I am generally not in favor of cyclists riding on sidewalks, either, but Monona has taken the extra step of prohibiting cycling on an uninterrupted sidewalk (it's next to a park, so there are no driveways to pose dangers to cyclists and no buildings where cyclists would pose a threat to exiting pedestrians) nest to a road where the average motor vehicle speed is 45 mph.

Now Monona wants to force cyclists onto sidewalks? Too bad for Monona; Wisconsin law says that cyclists may use any road that is not specifically prohibited to them by local authorities. If Monona wants to keep cyclists on the Winnequah sporadic sidewalks, it would have to prohibit cyclists from using the sporadic bike lane on Winnequah, too. Which would kind of defeat the purpose of the whole project. No to mention encouraging cyclists to pedal on people's lawns on the inter-sidewalk stretches.

Okay, so I had a lot to say about that. But often the things I read speak for themselves. I want to share them, but I don't have much to say about them. So I've added a new sidebar to the blog called "Things I've read lately." Enjoy.

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