Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

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flarosa
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Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby flarosa » Tue Jun 30, 2009 9:34 pm

As a longtime Madison bicycle commuter, I must express my outrage at the breakdown of common sense on the city's bicycle paths to which I am a daily witness. The Capital City Trail, east of the Yahara river, seems to be a particular hotbed for this activity.

Perhaps some people don't understand the idea of bicycle commuting. Allow me to explain. Just like you, we bicycle commuters travel to and from work every day -- except, of course, that we do it by bicycle. While you are riding high in your luxury SUV, drinking a cup of Starbucks, with music blasting from your 8-speaker stereo system, we're out there pedaling our bicycles through all kinds of weather just to get to our jobs. Whereas you might take the occasional bike ride on a Sunday afternoon if you're feeling up to it, we commuters aren't doing this for sport or pleasure. Some do it out of a selfless desire to keep one more car off the streets and one more tankful of carbon out of the atmosphere. Most of us just do it for transportation.

That's why I must object to the way some people behave on our bike paths. Of all the thousands of miles of streets and sidewalks in Madison, we bicyclists have only a few narrow paths which we can call our own. Yet every day, I pass dozens of non-bicyclists who take over these trails and treat them like their own personal playgrounds. They stroll two or three abreast, oblivious to the fact that they are blocking traffic from behind. They walk on the left side of the road, or suddenly lurch from the right lane to the left without a thought for what might be behind them. They walk dogs. They carry infants, push baby carriages, and let their young children roam unsupervised. It is at best a constant annoyance, and at worst a grave danger to everyone involved.

It may seem petty, but when you ride a bike every day to get to work, when it's 6:45 and all you want to do is have dinner and see your poor cat Simon who's been sitting alone all day waiting for you, under those conditions you're not in the mood to slow down every few minutes and exchange pleasantries with the neighbors. You can only shout out "Passing on the Left!" so many times before losing all semblance of cheerfulness. You just want to get home.

It wouldn't be hard to correct this situation. All it would take is a few simple rules. First, everyone on the bike path must travel single-file. If there is a person to your left or your right, if you can see another person's face without looking behind you, then you're not single-file. Get in line, and keep as far to the right as possible.

Don't walk your dog on the bike path. Don't bring young children on the bike path. You wouldn't walk a dog on train tracks or wheel a baby down the middle of East Washington. You shouldn't do it on the bike path either.

Bike paths may not be strictly for bikes, but they're for people who want to move. If you're jogging or inline skating, fine. If you're just walking or goofing around, please use the sidewalk instead. Nearly every street in Madison has sidewalks and those sidewalks are for pedestrians only. The cops would ticket me if I tried to ride my bike on your sidewalk. They ought to extend you the same courtesy for walking on my bike path.

A great way to crack down on bike path abuse might be to require that everyone on the bike path wear a helmet. No serious bicyclist would object to such a rule, and it would be enough of an inconvenience to the dog-walkers and baby-pushers that the sidewalk wouldn't seem so bad.

Of course, laws are no good without meaningful enforcement. I suggest we start with a $400 fine for first offenders, and go up from there. It may sound like a lot, but it's nothing compared to the bills I'll be paying when I run my bike into a ditch to avoid creaming little Johnny or Suzie.

Let's not put off taking action on this serious matter. We don't need fourteen community meetings, six years of debate, or a 250-page environmental impact report to enact a set of common-sense rules. Think of the hard-working bicycle commuters. Think of the children. Think of Simon, and act today!

Dairylander
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby Dairylander » Tue Jun 30, 2009 9:49 pm

Sounds like somebody skipped kindergarden and never learned how to share.
You are incorrect, the cops will NOT ticket you for riding your bike on the sidewalk:
benfury wrote:it is legal for bikes to ride on the sidewalk as long as a building isnt abutting the sidewalk. MGO 12.76
12.76 SPECIAL RULES APPLICABLE TO BICYCLES.
(1) No person shall ride a bicycle on the sidewalk where a building abuts the sidewalk. Bicycle riding
on sidewalks is permitted, except as prohibited in this subsection and otherwise regulated in this
chapter.


You're getting very possessive about a public space.
If you're so offended by dogs and strollers, perhaps you should ride on the streets.

massimo
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby massimo » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:32 pm

I nominate you for daily cage duty. You're clearly not cut out for this bike commuting thing.

Anyway, I ride on the paths all the time, and I'm happy to share them with non-bikers. For one thing, I myself use them as a pedestrian/jogger and would fight everything you suggest in your post (mandatory helmets? please). Two, more people on the paths likely means more support for more paths in the future.

So if you're trolling, well played. If you're serious... huh.

Thusnelda
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby Thusnelda » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:33 pm

Once again... riding on sidewalks is okay as long as it's not abutting a building, which takes a bunch of the streets out of consideration (e.g., Regent, Monroe, Williamson, etc.).

At any rate, aside from a walk-left/bike-right rule (which would likely require a wider path to work in both direction), is there some reason bikers can't slow down just a teensy bit? It's called the tragedy of the commons: people assume that everyone else will take responsibility for keeping the shared resource pleasant and in good condition. So yeah, everyone could probably benefit from a little better behavior, but "Passing on the left!" is just too much effort?

Between that and the baaaarely concealed SUV whine, perhaps you ought to reexamine the way you interact with those Madison residents who don't happen to be cats.

madmatt77
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby madmatt77 » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:54 pm

I agree with everything said above.

1) As has been pointed out, you will not get a ticket for riding on the sidewalk, unless buildings are close enough to the sidewalk to impinge on drivers ability to see them. I myself use sidewalks on certain narrow streets without bike paths, and have never gotten ticketed.

2) Bicyclists, myself included, use the public spaces argument whenever people bitch about bicycles on roads. If you believe that bikers have an equal claim to the roads as cars, then you cannot deny pedestrians the right to bike trails.

3) Being self-righteous and whiny about your choice to commute by bicycle does not reflect kindly on the rest of us. I am happy to share OUR public trails with the rest of the people who helped pay for them.

If you want to be so selfish about your commute to work, perhaps an SUV would fit you better.

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Postby Kenneth Burns » Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:18 pm

Snippy TDPF threads about bicycling are one of my favorite summer rituals. How long can we make this one go?

flarosa
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby flarosa » Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:13 am

Sir,

When I ride my bicycle on the road, I follow the rules of the road, which include riding as far to the right as possible, staying out of the traffic lanes when I can, and obeying all the traffic signals. I do not careen my bicycle mindlessly into traffic with the expectation that the friendly drivers will slow down and give me a hearty "Passing on your left!" as they swerve to avoid hitting me.

Indeed, if I biked on the road the way most people walk on the bike path, I'd be dead.

I submit to you that it is an engineering flaw to build a path and expect it to accomodate both foot and bicycle traffic in the same lane. A bicycle travels at 5 times the speed of a pedestrian. This would be like driving your car at 60MPH down a one-lane highway, and every couple of miles, finding yourself behind some old Grandpa doing 12MPH in his Model-T. That's not just annoying, it's downright dangerous, as well as illegal. Yet we allow this on our bike paths - why? All it would have taken to avoid this problem would have been to make the path wide enough to accomodate an extra lane for pedestrians. In a world with endless miles of roadways, where tar flows like water and orange construction cones grow like dandelions, is this really too much to ask?

madmatt77 wrote:If you believe that bikers have an equal claim to the roads as cars, then you cannot deny pedestrians the right to bike trails.

Dairylander
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby Dairylander » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:11 am

Tell me flarosa, are you an only child?

bitcharista
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby bitcharista » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:24 am

If Doyle would stop taking the fed money Kohl and Baldwin secure for improving bike paths to cover gaps in the DOT budget, maybe we wouldn't need to keep having these frustrating bike threads.

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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby TAsunder » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:30 am

I gave up on this a while back and started using streets and sidewalks. My commute has vastly improved since. I often bike on sidewalks that are two inches in front of buildings for a block or so because it's the only route that makes sense. Never once been ticketed no matter how stupidly I ride my bicycle.

I do often wonder whether it is legal to bike on the sidwalk that runs in front of the capitol. It's not directly in front of the capitol (there's plenty of lawn) but somehow it still FEELS wrong to me. I still do it rather than be the obnoxious douchebag who rides down the bike lane of a one way road going the wrong way.

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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby gargantua » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:57 am

Rereading this, I think flarosa was really complaining more about thoughtless behavior than having to share. If only thoughtless behavior was limited to bike paths!

DCB
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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby DCB » Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:23 am

flarosa wrote:
I submit to you that it is an engineering flaw to build a path and expect it to accomodate both foot and bicycle traffic in the same lane. A bicycle travels at 5 times the speed of a pedestrian. This would be like driving your car at 60MPH down a one-lane highway, and every couple of miles, finding yourself behind some old Grandpa doing 12MPH in his Model-T. That's not just annoying, it's downright dangerous, as well as illegal....


You've got one legitimate point, pedestrians shouldn't be all over the place. And its completely lost in all your stereotypy whining. And then you switch from 'lets share the road' to 'get out of my way'.

Pedestrians travel at, what, 3-4 mph? The average cyclist goes about 12 mph. So you're exaggerating a bit.

The bike path is a convenience for comfort and safety. Its not a freeway. If you're really uptight about being stuck in the slow lane, go take the big roads.

I do get annoyed at some pedestrians who are walk down the middle of the path, and then act affronted when someone just tries to get past them. Or the people that let their dog wander all over.

But I have no problem sharing the path the everyone else.

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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby mifflander » Wed Jul 01, 2009 10:57 am

flarosa wrote:It may seem petty


Gee, ya think? :roll:

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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby narcoleptish » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:39 am

flarosa wrote: You wouldn't walk a dog on train tracks


I do this all the time? The big loud train comes, you get out of the way.

flarosa wrote: A bicycle travels at 5 times the speed of a pedestrian.


Not half the bikes I get behind. I often wonder why they bothered to spend the money on a bike because they aren't moving any faster.

I mostly stick to the streets unless I'm going around the lake. You want to fly through the eastside, get on E wash. Big wide bike lane, few other cyclists, go as fast as you want, it's perfect.

And when I walk my dogs down the bike path, I walk on the side in the grass, and constantly look around for bikes. You're welcome.

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Re: Let's put a stop to the Bike Path Madness

Postby boston_jeff » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:55 am

I agree with much of what you have to say, but its probably not going to change anything. 2-3 abreast walkers and cyclists are a common occurrence when I commute on the bike-paths. Walking in the middle of the path as well. Some walkers walk right, some left. Some strollers and pets all over the place as well. Tourists from the Monona Terrace standing in the middle of the bike path (when there is a separate walking path right in front of them).

I always try to bike as far to the right as possible and it would seem that walking the same way would facilitate traffic and safety. Some feel that walking left is safer although this is incorrect and contrary to posted rules. Whenever passing I try to be respectful and wait until a safe spot and say "passing on your left" if someone seems clueless.

Part of the problem is some peds and cyclists do not pay any attention to others around them. Riding/walking with headphones is a pet peeve of mine (you're taking away your entire sense of hearing), as is wandering all over the path or quick stopping in the path. If everyone just pays a little more attention and tries to ped/cycle in a single file as much as possible that would probably help.

http://www.cityofmadison.com/trafficEng ... keTips.pdf

Share the Path
There are over 35 miles of bicycle paths in Madison. These paths are used by a variety of users, including bicycle commuters, recreational bicyclists, families, pedestrians and skaters. By
following a few basic rules, these paths can be shared safely by all users.
-All users should keep to the right side of the path.
-When traveling side-by-side, stay on the right half of the path.
-Faster users should yield to slower users.
-Always travel at a safe speed, with due regard for others. Faster users may want to consider alternate routes to ensure the safety of all users.
-Pass others on the left. Slow down, give an audible warning such as ringing a bell or calling out “excuse me, passing left”, and wait for a reaction before passing.
-Move off the pathway when stopping.
-Be careful when crossing streets and driveways. Watch for traffic and make sure other drivers are aware of the path and your presence.


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