The All-purpose Bicyclist

Posted by Bruce Thompson, April 4th, 2012

Whenever a new facility is proposed for bicyclists, in Milwaukee at least one can expect some letters to the editor in adamant opposition. Some look at bicycling as a frivolous activity; others seem to have been traumatized by an encounter with a bicycle. But the most frustrating are those who claim to be bicyclists, state that they would not use the facility, and conclude that therefore no bicyclist in his right mind would use the facility.

For example, when a bicycle lane was proposed for Milwaukee’s Hoan bridge, there were a number of letters that insisted the bridge was too steep and too windy for bikes. Yet when the bridge was closed one morning last summer to allow the UPAF Ride for the Arts to cross, it proved very popular and much less steep than many of the hills that bicyclists often ride.

I have run into several other examples in the past month. A proposal to extend the Lake Parkway south with a parallel bike path resulted in several letters saying that the idea was folly since the letter writers would never use it. A proposal to add shoulders to a road reconstruction in Pewaukee also apparently prompted letters that insisted bicyclists did not want shoulders.

The notion that bicyclists can project from their own preferences to what all bicyclists want seems like a stretch to me (although I am also skeptical as to whether some of the letter writers are the avid bicyclists they claim to be). In my experience bicyclists vary widely in what they look for in a route. Some just want to get from one place to another as quickly as possible and have considerable faith that drivers will look out for them. Others put much greater weight on scenery and protection from traffic.

Filed under: Bike Commuting, Milwaukee