Former mayor slams bicyclists

Some people just take things too darned seriously.

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin slammed some die-hard bicyclists for riding in a snowstorm… the second one of the year. An avid bicyclist himself (or so he claims), he approached it with a tongue-and-cheek style. But his overall message was not without merit: bicyclists need to use common sense when riding in conditions that put them in as much danger as the vehicles that they’re driving with.

With the recent dumping we’ve received lately, I’m surprised that people are even out riding during a storm. The city’s ability to clear streets has slowly improved since I moved here several years ago, but when getting dumped by tons of snow, I can’t imagine being able to maintain control (I keep to four wheels in this kind of weather, and I have a hard time maintaining control). Although the streets do eventually get cleared (from additional plowing, people displacing the snow by driving over it constantly, or the sun), the real danger occurs when the streets have fresh powder on them and drivers are varied in their ability to control their vehicles in it (whether they have front-wheel, rear-wheel, or all-wheel drive).

For those that do not drive, the city has a bus service that, although not entirely reliable all the time, is a much safer alternative to putting yourself in harm’s way (and if it doesn’t get you where you need to go, the buses are equipped with bicycle racks). You may think, “hey, I can handle myself on two wheels in the snow,” but what about that auto driver with the California plates driving in any amount of snow for the first time ever? And if you think the sidewalks are safe, perhaps you need to learn that snow does not serve as a substitute guardrail against a 2,000+ pound vehicle sliding out of control.

Recently, a friend told me that he saw someone riding a bicycle after yet another recent snow (it seems like it’s snowed every other day so far this month). The bicyclist had to ride in a tire rut left by a truck in the snow; had the person deviated much out of that rut, he’d have flattened out.

I’m not without my share of near-hits. As someone who started riding this past year, I find it scary at times when a driver is in such a hurry or is too busy yapping on his or her cell phone that their side mirror comes within an inch of your handle bars (sometimes right where my hand is!). Even those few that couldn’t safely drive past a bicyclist if there were no traffic and the lanes were 20 feet wide still haven’t deterred me from riding. Snow, ice, and out-of-control cars and trucks, however, are a different story.

I admire those that can actually ride in the cold, and I even applaud them. But I don’t agree that they should be riding when we’re getting deluged with another five inches of snow, visibility is down to 50 feet, and it’s easier to control a screaming two-year old than a car. However, I do not agree with Soglin’s comment about “shooting” bicyclists for riding in this weather. As satirical as he was trying to be, his language was a bit harsh. Had he been doing a stand-up routine or writing for a sitcom, the context might have been easier to digest. But overall, I think his message is close to the mark; choosing to ride in this weather requires common sense.

The Wisconsin Journal: Soglin feeling heat from bikers

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