Rude Madison group ride hogs the road

As the person on the receiving end of the “” email address, I often get angry emails from people who have a bone to pick with bicycles. Most often these are just rants by someone who thinks people on bicycles are the only road users who break the laws. I typically respond by directing them to my archived post in which I pointed out that most studies show people on bicycles tend to be more law-abiding than people in motor vehicles.

Occasionally those angry emails are like the one below from people like Mary P who have a legitimate gripe:

After still yet another country road ride where the BICYCLISTS are going 2 – 4 wide and blocking traffic, and then have the guile to give me the F You, when I beep for them to move over, I have come to the conclusion that bicyclists think that the term SHARE THE ROAD, means that cars have to share the road but not bicycles.  I am so sick of having my country road rides become a perilous event for me — not knowing how to safely pass the bikers without ending up in the ditch — on the wrong side of the road, myself.

I think you need to start increasing your awareness with your members, that SHARE THE ROAD, goes both ways.  I am all for biking the country roads, I do it myself, but I am tired of driving those same roads (with my bike in the back of the car) and being treated like I don’t have a right to be there.   It is time for bikers to realize that the term SHARE THE ROAD applies just as much to them as it does to the car, and telling someone to F off — is hardly the image you want of bikers in anybodies mind.

The rule of the road is that bicyclists can be more than one wide on the road as long as they do not impede traffic.  I know the rules and I follow them, but the masses seem to think they don’t need to know the rules. These bicyclist are making a bad image for all bicyclist and only furthering the bad blood between bikers and cars.   So it might be wise to start an education campaign with members that SHARE THE ROAD goes both ways.

Thank you.

-Mary P

Just one of our yard signs directed at people on bicycles.

I replied to Mary by informing her that the Bike Fed’s Share & Be Aware education and encouragement campaign is dedicated to getting all road users to share the road. I directed Mary to our several yard signs that encourage people on bikes to stop for red lights, ride single file and use the roads responsibly. Much like the “Slow Down” yard signs many people purchase to put in their front yard, our signs are all available for purchase. We also offer them to ride organizers to put up along the route of one day charity rides.  Click here to see all our yard sign offerings. Anyone interested in purchasing or borrowing our signs should contact Matt Gissibl in our Milwaukee office. We also have a pamphlet with suggestions on etiquette for safe and legal group rides.

I also asked Mary where she had her most recent experience with a scofflaw bunch of people on bicycles hogging the road and flipping her off. Mary told me the last unsavory event occurred on Seminole Hwy between Lacy Road and Whalen Road. She also pointed out that the Badger Trail parallels the road for quite a while there and wondered why the group chose to ride on a narrow, high-speed highway rather than the dedicated trail. You can see the section from Google Maps below, which clearly shows a the Badger Trail parallel to the highway.  Coincidentally, Google  managed to capture a person riding a bike on Seminole when their Streetview car drove past.

While the lone person on a bike in this view is riding legally and has every right to be on the road, I do wonder why he would choose a busy old highway over the wide parallel trail with smooth, newish asphalt. I recently pedaled across Wisconsin from Potosi to Milwaukee using almost all trails, and that section of the Badger Trail was one of the best of the entire trip.  On my commute to work I sometimes see people riding on busy Canal Street rather than on the parallel Hank Aaron State Trail and also wonder why they prefer the road to a pretty empty parallel trail. Can any readers from Milwaukee or Madison share why they prefer to ride the highways rather than the trails?

I understand that fast group rides tend to prefer the roads over trails, which often have lots of slower trail users riding slowly side by side, walking dogs, etc. But if those groups do choose the road, they must obey the rules, which means riding no more than two abreast and single file if two-up would impede traffic. Having ridden in organized groups many times, I also understand that even when riding two-up, groups sometimes get wider as lead riders drop off the front and drift to the back.

On busy, narrow roads two-lane roads where cars have to cross the centerline to legally pass even a single bicycle, one could argue that riding two abreast is akin to taking the lane, which is also legal. I have also thought that on such two-lane roads with heavy on-coming traffic, it is easier for a motor vehicle to pass a tightly bunched group riding three or four across than it is to pass 25 people riding single file because it is easier to make a short trip across the centerline.

All those discussions are legitimate, thoughtful arguments for group ride behavior, but there is no socially acceptable excuse for patently rude behavior like flipping off other people who are just trying to share the road with us.  That goes for people riding bicycles and those in motor vehicles. I’m not talking about whipping the bird to someone who insults you first, or to a person who illegally endangers your life by passing too close, cutting you off, etc.  I’m talking about common courtesy, like holding the door for someone behind you or offering your seat on a crowded bus if a disabled person gets on. Those social graces are the foundations of community.

As a guy who has been hit by cars, purposely run off the road, had my elbow bumped by mirrors, called every dirty name in the book, and even told by police officers to get on the sidewalk, I totally understand the many people riding bicycles have a short fuse when it comes to their interactions with people driving motor vehicles. While you have a perfect right to ride around with a chip on your shoulder, I don’t think it is healthy. When we let cars make us angry, we let them spoil our ride. I prefer to try to be Zen about it, like the parable of the priest confronted by a sword-wielding soldier who shouts.

“You fool, don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!”

“And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?”


I ride my bike for lots of reasons, but the primary reason is because I really enjoy it. There are lots of angry people out there on the road, and so I try to stay Zen about it and refuse to let them ruin my ride by getting me angry. I also ride my bike because I enjoy the interactions I have. When I am on my bicycle, I feel part of the world I am moving through.  I am exposed and able to wave, smile, and say hello to other road users. Riding a bicycle is transportation and recreation with a little community building thrown in on the side.

So in addition to thanking Mary for her email and telling her about the Bike Fed’s robust education and encouragement programs for people who ride bicycles, on the behalf of law-abiding people who ride bicycles, I apologized. I honestly feel bad that she has had some bad experiences with rude people on bicycles.

When we ride with smiles on our faces and obey the rules of the road we not only get exercise, get where we are going, save money and save gas, we actually make the world a better place. Like rolling ambassadors for health and happiness, we set an attractive example that might just encourage others to get out of their cars and try riding a bike.

Every time we ride our bikes we can be heroes, and we don't even need a cape - just wear a smile and follow the rules of the road.


About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

40 thoughts on “Rude Madison group ride hogs the road

  1. Dave: I would say that 90% of my rides go down that section of Seminole, and I rarely use the path. There are a variety of reasons for this:

    - When headed out of town, you have to cross Seminole to get on the path, only to have to cross Seminole again a mile later if you want to head west.

    - The path is often congested on the weekends. This is great – there are kids and folks who normally wouldn’t be riding out there filling the path, not to mention walkers, roller skiiers and others. Riding fast on the path is unsafe and inappropriate.

    - Seminole is a relatively lightly traveled road, particularly in the section parallel to the path. There are good sight lines to allow overtaking traffic to safely pass.

    As you know, I plan bike infrastructure for a living. I think DNR made a mistake paralleling the path with the road there. Road rage has definitely increased: my wife and I have both had confrontations with motorists while we were riding legally on the road with plenty of room to get around us. Additionally, Fitchburg is now backing away from providing bike lanes or shoulders there because the path is present.

    I use paths daily for my transportation needs. And I use them occasionally to get out of town on my road bike. However, I make sure when I do to keep my speed reasonable and give people wide births. There are too many yahoos blasting along the paths on their road bikes or in full Aero tucks. The paths are not safe or appropriate places for training or fast riding, and it would be wildly inappropriate for a group ride to use one. That said, people in the Wednesday night group rides and some of the Bombay rides are total jackasses, and behave just as your letter writer stated, which is totally unacceptable.


    • Thanks for the insightful comment Kevin. I agree with most of what you wrote, but I think I disagree that the Badger Trail was a mistake. From a bicycle planning perspective, If we want bicycling to become a more popular choice for transportation, I think we need to build more facilities that are attractive to a wider range of riders, the majority of whom are traffic intolerant and don’t like riding on roads, even with a paved shoulder.

      In this case, where there was an abandoned rail corridor, I think it was totally appropriate to build a parallel trail. I just rode from Potosi to Milwaukee and took trails 90% of the three day trip. That section of Badger Trail was one of the highlights of the entire trail network. That said, Seminole should also have paved shoulders. Even four foot wide paved shoulders would allow a group to ride without impeding motor vehicle traffic, and as you know, adding paved shoulders to two-lane highways reduces motor vehicle crash rates and extends road life.

      Where roads have high traffic volumes and are still very popular bicycle routes, it makes sense to add even wider shoulders, perhaps up to 10ft. These are small investments for the use they get. Heck, when I take the bus between Milwaukee and Madison, I typically don’t see any cars using the 150 or so miles of 10-12ft shoulder along I94. Even though very few cars break down and there would be a lane around any that did since I94 is four lanes, we still add the shoulders for safety and convenience of the other users. The same argument holds true for Seminole.

      • Dave:

        We are in agreement on nearly everything here. The Badger is a great trail – I used it to bike to a wedding in Freeport, IL, a couple years ago, and the new section was definitely the best part of it (especially on the way home, when we were pretty shot). That said, I would have liked to have seen DNR swap some land around a little bit with the local farmers to set the trail in a couple hundred feet from the road – at least far enough so that *sshole drivers don’t realize it is right there, buzz you and scream about getting on the f*cking path and out of their way! It is a great facility, it would just be slightly better if it were 100′ off to the side. And if it has some center stripes (ahem, DNR, I thought that was happening this summer…).


    • I want to echo Kevin’s remarks about the group rides. Fortunately I live where biking is wonderful on the border of Dane & Iowa Counties. So I rarely have to face the trail vs road choice.

      I always ride alone and I have to admit I adjust my riding especially on Wednesday evenings. I head further west rather than face the possibility of an encounter with a group ride in Vermont or Black Earth townships. No matter whether I approach them from behind or going the other way on the road they are a significant danger to me. Even if they are merely riding two abreast (often they are not) when there is a line up of several of these pairs it is very hard to pass them even when I yell quite loud that I’m passing on the left. Often I have to cross the center line because they are completely lost in conversation & paying very little attention to traffic. And coming from the opposite direction? That’s much worst. More than a few times I’ve encountered a frustrated car driver passing the group coming head on in my lane. While the driver is busy giving them the finger I’m heading for the ditch.

      I’ve never ridden in any of these groups so I have no idea what sort of rules or reminders the leaders or organizers have. But it baffles me that I see this every single time I encounter these groups either as a cyclist or a driver. I can’t help but conclude they don’t care about themselves, fellow cyclists, local drivers, or cycling in general. Anyone with any familiarity this particular area knows that the locals (my neighbors) are seriously worked up about this to the point that they want to control/limit cycling use. This rude behavior effects me every time I ride here.

      And don’t get me started about the guys who stand on the roadside in plain view to take a leak…

      • Hey John,

        As someone who used to race and has been on lots of group training rides, I can tell you that most of the riders are pretty decent people, not necessarily selfish, or rude. I think the problem is the group ride dynamic. It is sort of like mob mentality. Testosterone gets flowing, people get wound up, the strong riders are challenging each other, the slower riders will do anything to hang onto the wheel in front of them, etc. Before you know it riders are spread out across the road.

        The Bike Fed has a pretty decent brochure about group rides, but that sort of education gets dropped like a Cat 4 rider in a pro race. I have been on group rides where before the ride leaves, speeches are made about obeying the rules of the road, riding two-up or single file, etc. But when push comes to shove, unless the ride has a really strong leader or a regular team dynamic, the rules are forgotten.

        This sort of discussion is great, but if you notice, there are not a lot of comments from racers or team leaders. We have a bit of work to do to get those folks involved, but like I said, I don’t think racers are generally more likely to be scofflaws.

  2. I live less than a mile from that area on Seminole. When I am going for a weekend ride with my wife, we take the Badger state trail. When I go for a solo ride or ride with one of my “roadie” buddies, we take Seminole.
    Seminole is the major “corridor” out to the country roads in Verona/Peoli/Oregon.

    As a user of both, I am equally ticked off by people riding 2 abreast on the path that think it is a bike super highway. Put simply, It is not safe and/or fair to other users to ride 20+ MPH on a multi-use path. If I want to ride 20 mph, I ride the road. If I want a casual ride, I take the path.

    • Thanks for the thoughts Tim. See my reply to Kevin below for my ideas to improve conditions on Seminole. But as you mention, rude is rude no matter where you ride a bike or drive a car.

  3. In regards to why people would ride on the highway vs. the paved trails….I do not like the trails because the transition curb to roads you cross are usually not smooth. They are so rough that I injured my wrist and I’m always afraid of damaging a wheel. It would be nice if they could improve.

    • A.,

      Thanks for the comment. Given all the pot holes on many of the roads today, personally, I prefer the smooth pavement of trails, even if the curb ramps have a bit of a bump. At least I can prepare for those. In this area, the Badger Trail goes quite a long way without a curb ramp.

      That said, I think curb ramps could have a smoother transition that would benefit people on bicycles and those in wheel chairs with back problems.
      Ride on, Dave

  4. Kevin and Timothy covered many of the points I was going to make, but here’s the reply I sent to Dave, which he asked me to post:

    You asked, “Can any readers from Milwaukee or Madison share why they prefer to ride the highways rather than the trails?”

    The main reasons that bicyclists use Seminole Hwy instead of the Badger Trail, other than when in a group-ride situation, are:

    More likely reasons:

    1. They are already on Seminole Hwy coming from and/or going to a destination where the trail does NOT run parallel to the road. Once on a right of way, most people tend to stay on the same ROW instead of going off and back on again.

    2. There are other people going more slowly on the trail, and the rider wants to go faster than is appropriate for the trail. Maybe at that very moment there isn’t anyone else parallel, but the rider anticipates meetings individuals or groups that s/he would need to slow to pass. Wanting to ride as fast as is lawful and physically possible – either or exercise or commuting purposes – s/he uses the road, where higher bicycling speeds are safer.

    Less likely reasons on Seminole Hwy, but possible in other locations:

    3. The bicyclists is going somewhere or coming from somewhere ON Seminole Hwy, and the trail does not access that location.

    4. The pavement surface or other hazards (branches or other debris, driveways that cross the trail, etc) make riding at a relatively fast pace unsafe on the trail.

    By the way, the street view image you posted of the bicyclist on Seminole Hwy was taken before the Badger Trail was completed. It didn’t open until late summer 2010, and that image was dated July 2007.

    One other item of note: when Seminole Hwy was repaved awhile back, the City of Fitchburg – the municipality where Seminole runs from Lacy to Whalen – chose not to add paved shoulder, despite the fact that Seminole was and always has been a major bicycle route for both recreation and a bit less so for commuting. Why? To save money, and because at that time Fitchburg had not developed much south of Lacy Road.

    Now, of course, there is much more traffic of all kinds, as people use Seminole Hwy to commute both via motorized and non-motorized methods. Shortsighted planning, and this lack of shoulders has caused all sorts of conflicts that didn’t have to exist. The conflicts are much less north of Lacy Rd, where paved shoulders/bike lanes exist.

    • Thanks for all your thoughts Robbie. It is too bad they did not add the shoulders when they had the chance, but thanks to lots of truck traffic (and entropy in general), we know that road will need to get paved again in 10 years or so, and there is nothing stopping anyone from ponying up and retrofitting shoulders. As I mentioned in my comment to Kevin, there is never a shortage of funds to add paved shoulders to interstate highways, even though they are just for breakdowns; I almost never see anyone in them, and they typically have multiple travel lanes to go around breakdowns if there were no shoulders.

      It is a matter of priorities, and so far, as a society, we have put bikes and peds at the bottom of the list. Things are better lately, but we are still a long way from equality with motor vehicle traffic. Still, we can skip the sour grapes, enjoy our ride and try to be polite.

  5. First, let me comment on how good this discussion is. Unlike the rant section of the newspaper, the opinions expressed are rational, polite and informative. Keep it up.

    I have been riding on Seminole Highway to get out of Madison on rec rides for over 3 decades. I prefer the road to the trail, in part, because the modest rise in elevation (I wouldn’t really call it a hill) as you get past Lacy helps the warm up part of the ride. The trail is well used (good) but can get crowded especially on weekends. However, with the increase of traffic on Seminole, I have decided to get off the road and put up with modest nuisances of slow riders, etc. on the trail – after all, we are only talking about a mile or so before other road options become available. So this greying rider is happy to use a paved trail parallel to a fine road in order to minimize conflicts. There are plenty of car-free roads by the time I reach Whalen. (btw – a friend that I was riding with was hit by a car (brushed actually) about twenty years ago on Seminole. She loves the path. I have no concerns about the transition from path to road, uneven surfaces or anything like that – maybe I am too used to local road decay.

    Finally – I totally agree with the comment about bikers riding at 20 mph on the trail. There are weekend riders, families, kids, congestion and all of that. No one is impressed by a lycra rider weaving through the congestion at 20 mph. And no experienced rider should feel the need – or even have the impulse – to ride aggressively through a congested portion of the path. Save the energy for the hills!

    • Thanks for the thoughts Steve. I understand people hate to let their heart rates drop, but perhaps taking a short detour on the trail makes sense as you mentioned. Those who don’t want to get on the trail need only ride with some common courtesy. Long term, that section of road should get wider shoulders.

  6. Thanks for posting about this, Dave. I agree that we are all ambassadors out there, but sometimes this reaches a point of absurdity.
    Who does someone like Mary write to when she is cut off by a rude driver?
    Why are cyclists clumped into one group and labeled so much more than other road users?

    I am in favor of being a good example on the roads, but I also feel that I shouldn’t need to apologize for the behavior of other people who break the rules or don’t follow good etiquette. Imagine if you had to apologize for, defend yourself to other road users and feel judged as a pedestrian for every jaywalker or pedestrian who didn’t look both ways before crossing the street? This is an unjust way to be treated, and I don’t think that apologizing for the behavior of others really sets a good example. You can be sorry that Mary had the encounters that she has had, but as an individual who chooses to ride a bike, you do not owe her any apologies. Mary needs to understand that a particular encounter with a person or persons on a bicycle does not mean that other people riding bicycles are to blame. I think that people riding bikes are unfairly targeted and bullied out there on the road. We ought to receive the same amount of respect out there while we are on bikes as when we walk or drive a car.

    • Hi India,

      I certainly see your point, and I get tired of people complaining about scofflaws on bicycles, while most people seem to just shrug their shoulders about speeding cars, cars that don’t stop for people trying to cross the street, or those who cut off bicycles. People even know they can drive 5-7mph over the posted speed limit right past patrol cars with radar out with little chance of getting pulled over. In today’s blog post I linked to my archived post “Scorchers and Scofflaws, Just the Facts Please,” which looks at a number of different traffic studies to debunk the notion that people on bikes are somehow more likely to break traffic laws. Turns out they are more law abiding.

      All that said, I personally honestly feel bad when anyone like Mary has a bad experience with rude people on bicycles. I actually feel bad if anyone has a bad experience with generally rude people anywhere. If someone tells me they had a bad experience in Milwaukee, as a resident, I would say “I’m sorry to hear that, I’d like to change your mind and help you have a good time in Milwaukee. What do you like to do? Perhaps I can direct you to something you will really like.” I feel even more strongly about being a bicycle ambassador, because I think people who ride bicycles have the opportunity to be a kind of community super hero. And like it or not, even though 50% of Wisconsin’s adult population ride bicycles, we are viewed as a minority from behind the wheel.

      At the Bike Fed, I am careful not to use terms that further divide us as road users. I say “people who ride bicycles, people driving motor vehicles and people walking rather than bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians. My hope is to help people see that while it is disappointing that many road users break the laws they can get away with, people are people. Our goal should be mutual respect for all. That is one reason why I never speed, stop for pedestrians, and even nag my friends when they drive over the speed limit.

      As for Mary P, I thought her email was thoughtful and she made the point to say she rides a bicycle too. I appreciate that since most of the emails I get complaining about people on bikes are not so considerate.

      Trust me when I say I follow the laws; I am not afraid to fight for my rights, that I demand respect on the road. I am no apologist for “bicyclists.” But since we can be heroes, and because we have seen the light, why not be an ambassador when we can and help others find the “path”? To mix a few metaphors, it is easier to attract bees with a smile than a middle finger, or even from a soap box ;)

  7. Dave, thanks for posting this. I won’t repeat everything I agree with from Kevin and Robbie. I use Seminole on a few road rides each month and when I’m on my own, I prefer using the road. When my riding group goes out, they sometimes use the trail instead. Although I like using the trail, when going over 15mph I don’t feel it’s safe–especially on weekends. When our group does hit the road, we have a strict rule of trying to ride single file when cars are around. I understand that we are “allowed” to ride two abreast, but out of courtesy, we “choose” to ride single file.

    I have been on several roads that lead out of Madison (Seminole, Old Sauk, Century etc.) where group rides take up the entire lane. It drives me crazy as a cyclist, not a driver. I am always concerned that a driver will get angry while trying to pass and then and take it out on another cyclist later on. This is what happens in Black Earth around the time of Horribly Hilly. Yes, we have every right to be on the road–even if there is a path next to it, however, we don’t need to be rude. When I point this out to cyclists riding three or four abreast, I am often times sworn at. We, as cyclsits, need to be ambassadors not kings and queens.

  8. “Can any readers from Milwaukee or Madison share why they prefer to ride the highways rather than the trails?”

    As someone who uses Seminole to start 95% of my rides (generally solo or with a friend or two) I would echo much of what has been said already. More specific details for me… When I am heading south on Seminole, I avoid crossing over the south and northbound lanes just to access the trail for ~1 mile only to have to then cross in front of the Seminole intersection when I head west on Whalen. On the way home (if my ride ends in that same area) I am often cooling down on the entire paved portion of the trail heading north until it crosses Seminole at which time I switch back to the road; a more direct route home and again avoiding crossing over two lanes of traffic.

  9. How is the BFW promoting the share and be aware program to get it out there.
    How is this getting to motorist and even law enforcement?
    Where has the training been done and how it working?

    • Brian,

      Boy, those three simple questions have very long answers. For people who are interested in what is going on, the very best way to stay informed about the gazillion things we do at the Bike Fed is to simply subscribe to this blog (upper right on this page). Once you do that you will get a single email each day with the headlines and link to our blog post. It won’t clutter up your inbox, it is easy to delete and we don’t give away your email to anyone.

      Other than that, the easiest way to learn about the basics of the Share & Be Aware campaign is to start by looking over our webpage about it here:

      Then read through all the blog posts that we have written about the billboards, yard signs, printed brochures, television and radio spots, the classes and the events our ambassadors attend around the state. You can do that by clicking on the Share & Be Aware category in the right navigation column of this blog. This link will also take you to that search:

      Be warned, we have written a lot about the program. If you have very specific questions about Share & Be Aware, you can contact Jessica Binder in our Milwaukee office. She manages the statewide program. If you have specific questions about the campaign in the Dane County area, call our Madison office and ask for Martha or Betsy.

  10. “On my commute to work I sometimes see people riding on busy Canal Street rather than on the parallel Hank Aaron State Trail and also wonder why they prefer the road to a pretty empty parallel trail.”

    This one I can answer, as I prefer to ride on Canal St rather than on the parallel trail. To be frank, I think the location of that trail is probably one of the worst decisions that could have been made. I have been in several close calls with cars on that trail, especially when traveling eastbound. The problem is that the majority of that trail is essentially like a large sidewalk.

    When you travel eastbound on that trail, and a car is coming on a cross street heading south, drivers almost always look left first, and then right. But they do so as they are pulling across the sidewalk. Drivers rarely think about pedestrians… and having a bicycle where pedestrians are normally expected is even worse because they are going at higher speeds.

    So when that car begins to cross the trail, you are coming from their right, and the driver is first looking left, as most drivers do because that’s the direction that cross traffic cars first come from. Drivers almost never stop before crossing the trail…

    The whole thing is a recipe for disaster. I’d much rather be on the rode in that situation, so that while I’m biking, I’m traveling in the direction that a faster vehicle is expected to be traveling in, and on the side of the road where they’d be looking for me.

    Besides, Canal is nice and wide, and in good condition mostly, and so the road is perfectly nice to ride on.

    • Nick,

      Thanks for the insight as to why I see people on Canal rather than the trail. I guess this is why we have both options. Personally, I have been riding the trail to and from work every day since it opened. I love it, and go out of my way to use it when I am traveling to the east side to go out at night. I love riding through all prairie and wild flowers. I can even see the salmon, trout, people fly fishing, herons, rabbits and even coyotes on a regular basis.

      I do understand your concern about side paths in general. The HAST is pretty heavily used by bicycles (thousands per week), and although there probably remains a slightly higher risk of a crash at one of the driveways or intersections, I think it is slight. Most are marked with extra-noticable crosswalks to remind drivers to stop. They city DPW lot even has round mirrors to help them see people on the trail. At the other driveways and intersections I have noticed most people have learned to look out for bicycles. Perhaps because most of them work at the businesses. I have not had a problem at the intersections for many years now, though I remain cautious and assertive.

      These things are personal choices, perhaps similar to why some people take the freeway and others prefer streets. Thank goodness bicycles are legal and intended vehicles on all our roads, so you can go your way and I can go mine :)

      • Honestly, most of my bad experiences were soon after the trail opened up. But I still have bad experiences from time to time, especially at 32nd St, and sometimes at Ember… likely because of the angle. No accidents mind you… just closer calls than I am comfortable with. That’s why I stick to that road. I do like that trail section closer to Miller Park though… it is a beautiful stretch there.

  11. The main reason I avoid bike paths when I can is that their presence and use encourages drivers to view cyclists as recreationists, akin to children on their bicycles, rather than legitimate travelers who have a right to the road. I predicted when the Badger trail was paved alonside Seminole that drivers would start outwardly resenting the presence of cyclists on that road, despite the fact that we’ve been using it for decades. It didn’t take long for that to happen. Several times this year I’ve had drivers pull up alongside me, slow to my speed, and start swearing at me to “get on the God-d**n bike path you *sshole.” Preferring the Zen approach as well, I wave and continue on my way. But I have no confidence that one of these days my strategy for avoiding a dangerous confrontation will fail and I’ll find myself being forced off the road. Cyclists are safest when drivers respect our rights. Bike paths just encourage them to view us as second-class citizens.

    • Richard,

      I understand that theory, and you have every right to ride on the road rather than parallel trails, but must say I we need to have trails and other segregated facilities if we are going to get more than a few percent of people riding for transportation. The trick is to build a well connected network of bicycle facilities that are attractive to the widest range of traffic intolerance we can. Building facilities for people 8 years old to 80 is one way of saying it. While a small percentage of people out there like you and I will ride in almost any traffic conditions, the vast majority of people who like riding bicycles, and are interested in riding for transportation, don’t because they don’t enjoy riding in traffic.

      Anyplace you look to find lots of people riding bicycles, they have lots of segregated facilities. From European bicycle meccas like Amsterdam and Copenhagen to Portland, Madison and now even places like Manhattan. Bike lanes are OK, but trails, protected bike lanes/cycletracks and bicycle boulevards get
      way more people riding. Once you have lots more people riding, things also get safer for everyone. I completely understand that we also need WAY better education, enforcement, encouragement and need to stop subsidizing single occupancy trips in motor vehicles. That said, time and time again, it has been proven that if you build separated bicycle facilities, more people ride bikes.

      As I mentioned in another comment, I have had police pull up next to me in downtown Milwaukee and yell at me to get on the sidewalk and “out of traffic.” There was no trail next to me. i have also had people yell at me to just simply get off the road, even when the only place to go was a ditch. I have also had people honk and yell at me when I am crossing the street in a marked crosswalk. Adding a parallel trail might give a few more people the idea that bikes don’t belong on the road, but until we have better education about the rules of the road, it really doesn’t matter.

      To that end, the Bike Fed has been working with the state drivers education teachers and is going to try to get mandatory bicycle question included on the state driver’s test. Like I said, you are clearly within your right to ride on the road, but I don’t think we can blame trails for people’s poor education. We need to focus on all the Es: Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement and Evaluation.

  12. Speaking of Madison… I was just reminded of my absolutely horrible experience in Downtown Madison this last Friday night. Of course, you have the normal issues with college students walking every which way while you’re trying to drive and find parking. What was really bad were the cyclists. They were criss-crossing everywhere, going down the wrong side of the road… it was scary.

    At one point I was trying to parallel park on a street where there was no ability for a car to pass me as I completed the maneuver. As I’m backing into the space (at night), a cyclists with no headlight came swerving between me backing up and the car behind me waiting. All of a sudden there was this flash of biker zooming through.

    Madison college student cyclists are really just *ssholes.

    • I do understand your frustration with college students in Madison. I was one a very long time ago. I think you are sorta joking but now you are falling into the trap of generalizing about people who ride bikes, you are just narrowing the demographic to college students in Madison. Stereotypes are a slippery slope but do make easy jokes. I have a friend in an Austin band who has a really funny song with the lyric “teenagers are stupid.” My 16-year-old daughter does not see the humor in it.

  13. To compare using Seminole to the bike path is like asking drivers in Madison why they prefer using the Beltline instead of East Broadway on the east side or even Mineral Point Road (or even Hammersley) on the west. Or, in Milwaukee’s case why do people use I94 instead of National/Greenfield avenues. Chances are people prefer to avoid stop and go situations. There are lots of parallel county trunk roads to state and interstate highways and the same argument can be made for motorized traffic.
    I went on a couple of rides two weeks ago that began in Lake Mills. One was the much larger Tyranena Ride with 1500 or so riders using county trunk roads. That ride was restricted to paved public roads. For the most part and the majority of riders observed single file when traffic was present. There were few that were slow to yield to traffic but it wasn’t the norm. The other the day after was a small group of 15 cyclists riding vintage bikes used the Glacial Drumlin trail, county roads, and park paths. When on the roads we were single file when traffic required but were two-abreast on the paths and smaller roads. The reason, I suspect, is that being social creatures we tend to chat and visit while riding. I observed in the large ride is that riders ride two abreast for some distance to do the same. People would like to finish their thought before they yield to interruptions.
    Cars, on the other hand, have riding two abreast built in to the vehicles, even though that option is not used most of the time. When drivers come upon a group of cyclists they don’t like having their agenda, or train of thought, interrupted by having to pay attention to their driving skills and rules of the road.
    Just a couple of observations of human behavior of where and how we travel. With that in mind we can be aware of our own behavior so that we can adjust appropriately in traffic.

  14. In the case of Seminole Highway versus the Badger Trail, the issue could be a simple as not having a trail pass. Yes, legally speaking, a Wisconsin State Trail Pass is required to bicycle or skate on that trail.

  15. I use Willy St in Madison if its after 5:30pm versus the parallel Cap City Trail. The reason is the Street has the right of way and only a few lights while the path does not have the right of way and you have to slow down and look at each intersection. Also Willy St was just recently repaved and is the smoothest ride in town. I also use E. Washington from the Yahara River to Paterson St instead of the parallel Mifflin St bike boulevard also because Wash has the least stops compared to Mifflin. So I think like cars cyclists have their preferred route and who is anybody else to tell them that that route is not where they should be.

  16. One exception to the bicyclist’s right to us the road when there is a bike path available is in the Madison suburb of Verona. It is one of the few municipalities in Wisconsin that has a mandatory side path law where if a bike path parallels a road, the cyclists must use the bike path and not the road.

  17. Good discussion.

    A point I’d like to add is that following the law is not the same as being courteous and is not the same as being safe. We live in a country that puts a lot of stock in the rule of law and I think there’s often too much faith placed in it. Laws are valuable and can help keep us safe, but there’s also clumsy and miss the mark. I especially feel that way when it comes to rules of the road and how they apply to cyclists and motorists. Keeping traffic of all kinds safe and moving efficiently isn’t solved through laws that tell us how to behave on our roadways. Attentative drivers (of the motored and velo varieties) and well designed and accomodating roadway design is much more important.

    As much as I dislike rude cyclists and rude MV operators (and rude pedestrians), I do wonder a little about Mary’s original letter. I don’t doubt that these cyclists were inattentive or uncaring in their approach, but I think it is interesting to hear the expectation of a MV operator that cyclists don’t ‘impede’ them. It sounds a lot to me like cyclyists shouldn’t slow motorists down or get in their way or inconvenience them. In fact, the law says that cyclists do have a right to ride 2 abreast as long as that action doesn’t ‘impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” I’m not aware of any court decisions that have helped clarify or interpret that language, but in my mind it is much different than the act of impeding a car. Is one car on a country road traffic? Can that car not pass on the other side of the road when clear? How does that car get around a tractor moving at 15 mph on that same road? My point is that even as a cycling community it often still feels like we’re trying to make sure we don’t get in the way of other road users. We don’t want to be seen as obstacles or obstructions and so we want to minimize our impact on cars and the people inside those cars.

    Too much focus on the rules of the road can make us lose focus of what’s even more important: 1) be safe and 2) don’t be a hoser. It doesn’t take a lawyer to figure that out and it doesn’t require MV operators or cyclists to learn the laws better. It just takes attention and common sense and a desire to be a good neighbor. Oh, and continued improvements in our infrastructure to relieve the conflict points in the first place.

    • Grant,

      I have emailed back and forth with Mary, and if it was not clear to you, what really bothered her is that she was blocked because people were riding four across and when she tooted her horn signaling she would like to pass them, they flipped her off and swore at her. Also remember, she had a bicycle on her roof rack at the time. So I think in this specific case, we are dealing with some “hosers” as you warned against.

      That said, you do bring up a point I have thought about, that is perhaps once in a while, people in motor vehicles will be delayed while they wait patiently to safely pass a group of people riding bicycles. After all, even if you don’t drive a car (though the vast majority of us do), you have to pay for wars for oil, breath pollution, subsidize freeways, etc. In our society, we very often spread the cost of different things among people who do not use or benefit from them. So what’s the big deal, stuck behind a group of riders for a few seconds? Wait it out.

      I’m not saying people should not obey the law, and more importantly, ride with courtesy to other road users. I am a strong believer in trying to be pleasant and sharing the road, but on the other hand, I’m not an apologist for people out doing a healthy activity. I guess I’m just suggesting that perhaps road users should come to expect that sometimes we don’t get free flowing travel because our roads are shared by other users and because our roads go through communities with other priorities beyond moving cars.

  18. @ Greg
    Do you have a example of a road in Verona where this would apply? I am not too familiar with cycling there. Without having an example I can say from other experiences that these side paths often look like sidewalks and are definitely treated as such with people walking dogs, running and the like. My example of this would be in McFarland where a path is parallel to Elvehjem Rd. Unless the road is exceptionally busy I will take it over this path.

  19. A similar situation to the trail/road parallel path happens downtown and drives me crazy – bicyclists headed from the near east side to the near west side/campus area have two legal options for riding: the bike lane on Gorham Street and the recently renovated bike thoroughfare on Mifflin Street. However, most likely due to the uphill/downhill nature of those two routes, many bicyclists choose to instead ride the wrong way down Johnson Street, both on the sidewalk and in the bike line. This is very unsafe (as vehicles crossing Johnson street aren’t looking for traffic moving at bike speeds coming the wrong way), and when they ride in the bike line offensive to other cyclists trying to use that lane to go the correct direction – and being forced into traffic to avoid cyclists going the wrong way.

    • Nick,

      While I agree it is generally not safe to ride on the sidewalk, isn’t it still legal to ride on that sidewalk in Madison? Bicycling is permitted on sidewalks in Madison, except in areas where buildings abut the sidewalks. I don’t know that area well enough to say if there are buildings abutting the sidewalk.

      As for people riding the wrong way in bike lanes, we know it is about the most dangerous thing a person can do riding in the city, but sometimes they were taught that or feel safer. More education might help. When I encounter someone riding the wrong way in a bike lane, unless it is a child, I ride very close to the curb or parked cars so that person has to move out into the traffic lane rather than me. Sometimes I make a quick comment, trying not to scold, like “super dangerous to ride the wrong way dude.” But those sorts of comments don’t have much effect. I rare occasion I will try to stop and talk to the person, tell the person I am a trained bicycle safety instructor, and that riding the wrong way is not only illegal, but dangerous. That has worked well when I encounter moms with kids, but has not worked well with most men I encounter, whether they are alone or with kids.

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