Ozaukee Bike Routes

Bicycle Related News and Commentary

News Graphic Bicycle Opinion 5-19-16

 "What bothers me about cyclists riding abreast and blocking traffic isn't so much that it is illegal - it's that it is just plain inconsiderate".

The News Graphic for Ozaukee County on 5-19-2016*, page A7, published an opinion by Mr. Gary Wickert, a Cedarburg Supervisor, titled "Sharing the Road".  The Newspaper's featured quote, shown above, is from Mr. Wickert's essay.

According to the article, Mr. Wickert, a lawyer who lives in Cedarburg, bicycles around 1,500 miles a year - mostly in and nearby Ozaukee County.  He mentions the advantages that Ozaukee County roadways offer the cyclist and he describes some of his own incidents with abusive motorists.  The article discusses the legal context of using a bicycle on Wisconsin roads and cites Wisconsin Statutes pertaining to this use.  He's critical of cyclists riding two or more abreast or single riders using the middle of a roadway lane and talks about "an all-too familiar showdown between cyclists and automobiles".  Being a lawyer, no doubt his coverage of Wisconsin Statutes is accurate and no doubt his accusations of improper cyclist behavior can sometimes be seen on our roadways.

I don't like the tone of this very public opinion - especially coming from a Cedarburg City Supervisor.

In all fairness, perhaps Mr. Wickert envisioned a different headline quote - like where he wrote:

"Make no mistake about it, bicyclists have long been the victims of inconsiderate and inattentive vehicle operators.  Cars passing bicycles are required by law to exercise due care and clear them by a "safe distance."  In today's world of cell phones, texting and iPods, drivers must pay attention and watch out for cyclists, who are even less visible than motorcycles. The woman who hit me last summer was talking on a cell phone".

However, many in the readership of our Ozaukee County car culture enjoy vilifying bicyclists and many of Mr. Wickert's characterizations of cyclists simply feed ammunition to the people who routinely fight every public initiative for funding bicycling infrastructure to improve safety.  I assume Mr. Wickert had the best of intentions but the tone of the following quotes won't be endearing to cyclists - they will just be taken out of context for use by the anti-bicycle folks:

"As a lawyer, I intimately understand Wisconsin statutes as they pertain to the rights of cyclists. However, I'm not sure most people do.  All too often, vehicles encounter a slow-moving caravan of bicyclists riding three or more abreast in their lane of traffic, requiring them to slow down to a snail's pace as the cyclists painstakingly climb a hill, chattering amongst themselves. When you finally can accelerate past the lethargic group of bikers, they look at you as if you don't understand that bicycles are given the same rights to possess the roadway as automobiles under Wisconsin law. This is why your car has a horn. Let me explain. I understand and value the rights of cyclists and the need for drivers of motor vehicles to understand those rights so that both can enjoy the beautiful Wisconsin roadways and countryside. But it is the cyclists riding two or more abreast in the middle of the road who fail to fully understand both Wisconsin law and common courtesy."

"....there are legitimate conditions that allow cyclists to be in the middle of the road. Cyclists need to remember that very few of these conditions exist in rural Ozaukee County."

"What bothers me about cyclists riding abreast and blocking traffic isn't so much that it is illegal - it's that it is just plain inconsiderate. Many cyclists enjoy only a simplistic understanding of Wisconsin law. Hopefully they will read this article and realize that three-abreast is illegal and two abreast is illegal if they are impeding traffic for any reason, such as when the car behind them cannot get by due to oncoming traffic, poor visibility or a hill."

"I also don't want to inconvenience motorists by forcing them to slow down to 20 mph while waiting for me to make it up a big hill."

"Mutual respect, defensive driving and common courtesy are the keys to allowing thousands of cyclists to safely share the natural beauty of Ozaukee County's country roads during our gorgeous summer months. That respect is lost, however, when inconsiderate cyclists defiantly flaunt the law and show their inconsideration for others by riding two or three abreast, requiring cars to patiently putter along behind them until it is safe to pass."

Most of us who ride a bicycle thousands of miles a year on public roads are well aware of motorists who endanger our lives with inconsiderate and sometimes even hostile behavior. "Inconsiderate" behavior on the part of a cyclist might "inconvenience" a motorist. Inconsiderate behavior on the part of a motorist might kill a cyclist. And the reverse is rarely true. However, my point here is not to engage in a tit-for-tat about motorists versus cyclists - my point is to encourage fellow cyclists to choose their words carefully and to promote safety with constructive advice. There are well respected state and national organizations that have actual safety statistics versus antidotal observations and opinions. There are organizations that provide detailed advice and plans for both improving safety and improving relationships between motorists and cyclists - without denigrating either. Our website's "More Resources" page has links to many of these organizations (look for this link at the bottom of any page).

It can be argued that our current car culture is hardly the best way for people to move about the surface of our planet - for a wide variety of reasons. Ozaukee Bike Routes website harbors no illusions about this culture changing dramatically anytime soon.  However, for those of us who believe that both the planet and human health would benefit from less motor vehicle usage, we encourage one simple step:  when you engage in recreation and fitness activities, park your car and ride a bike - besides, it's fun!  And yes, obey the rules but also speak up for positive changes to make cycling safer and more accepted. Challenge public statements that generalize about "bad" bicyclist behavior while ignoring the broader environmental, health and safety issues.

And finally, let's keep in mind that promoting cycling in Ozaukee County is good for our local economy.  A few days ago, I met some cyclists from the Chicago area who were having lunch at the Dockside Deli. They came up here primarily to enjoy cycling and planned to return with more members of their cycling club. They were lodging for a few days in Mr. Wicker's city of Cedarburg. Perhaps we should offer a welcoming message for cyclists.

* Link to the original article: http://cedarburgnewsgraphic.wi.newsmemory.com/

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