Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bikers appeal to Dane Co. Board for safer roads

Madison has had, for quite some time now, a positive association as being a great city for biking. Dane County officials and concerned citizens are hoping to expand that association past Madison city limits and into more rural areas.

At a Dane County meeting on Tuesday night, County Executive Kathleen Falk echoed the calls of those seeking to make the county a better place for bicycle enthusiasts.

“I don’t need to tell anybody in this room how important biking is to us,” she said.

The county has several plans to expand biking throughout suburban and rural areas outside of Madison. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the county is currently working on expanding the Ice Age Junction trail near Verona, the Cam-Rock trail between Cambridge and Rockdale, and the Lower Yahara River trail that goes from Lake Farm Park to the McFarland-Stoughton areas.

Safety concerns are mounting for bikers, with some pointing blame at motorists who ignore bicyclists’ rights.

“I feel like the drivers don’t watch out [for bikers] very well,” Hans Noeldner, a bike advocate who resides in Oregon, told the State Journal.

So the county is taking the role of implementing safer bike trails alongside rural highways as well as busy suburban roads. Wider shoulders are being put in place, giving a larger buffer for bikers and drivers, ensuring a safer ride for both on what would ordinarily be hazardous streets.

What needs to change most of all, however, is the attitude of motorists. Too often bikers see cars whiz by them, disregarding their presence on roads that are meant to be shared by both motorists and bicyclists alike. Yes, bikers do have the responsibility of knowing their surroundings, of understanding the risk involved in biking near heavy-traffic or hazardous areas. But motorists, too, have a responsibility – of driving in a manner suitable to the situation they find themselves in, whether near bikers or not.

This goes beyond biking – too often on our daily commutes, we see belligerent drivers disregarding the other vehicles within their immediate vicinity, merging into traffic with little care. Imagine the traffic you experience on the Beltline, put that on rural roads, and you start to understand why bikers have concern for their safety.

We should applaud the Dane County Board for trying to make biking not just a Madison thing but a county-wide movement as well. Before bikers take to the streets, however, they need to make sure they’re going to be safe biking. Their ordinary routine of checking their brakes and fastening their helmets is not always enough – they shouldn’t have to worry about the motorists they’re sharing the road with being obnoxious jerks who abuse the privilege of driving.

Everyone needs to be responsible when they take to the streets. Neither cars nor bikes “own” the road, but with common sense, both can utilize it in a positive way.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. Dane County leaders should be applauded for this stand.