Friday, September 9, 2011

Trying to Move Forward

Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.
                                                                                                 -Albert Einstein

The panel addressing about 300 citizens

About 30 folks were also in the hallway                  

This past Wednesday, downtown Madison was the site of a very exciting meeting.  There must have been more than 300 people packed inside a conference room waiting to hear what the mayor along with 8 other panelists had to say about the future of our biking community.

Not unlike most cities, Madison is currently facing an enormous debt.  Drastic cuts are being made in every area from education to TIF programs.  Amidst all of that, we're about to be hit with huge cuts to upcoming bicycle/pedestrian projects.

I have to question the reasoning behind our moronic governor, Scott Walker, when he decided to increase the spending greatly on highway projects and at the same time destroy our light rail train, proposed wind farms and force every community in Wisconsin to cut spending on bike/ped projects.  In a country where 30% of the population is obese (soon to be 50%), air pollution is a serious health hazard and oil supplies are dwindling quickly, you'd think there would be more movement in taking a proactive stance.

Currently there are cities in Europe making 50-60% of all trips by bike, many more are making 30%.  To put things in perspective, Madison, ranked as one of the best cycling cities in the U.S., only makes about 4% of trips by bike.  Think about that.  Only 4%.

About two years ago, former Madison mayor Dave Cieslevich (one of my personal heroes), made a trip to European cities with several city/county/state staff in hopes of learning a few things that we could apply here.  Since then, buffered bike lanes, bike boxes at busy intersections, sharrows and B Cycle (our bike sharing program) have now been implemented due to his hard work along with the bicycle federation and city engineers.  These all make bike commuting not only more enjoyable and time efficient but also much safer.

Now, with a new mayor and tough economic times, we are at a crucial tipping point.  It would be very easy to slip back and put the money into other areas but at what cost?  By getting more people to take even one trip a week by bike or by walking we could be on our way to reaching our 20% by 2020 goal.  At the same time we would cut down on health care costs due to obesity and stress, our air and waterways would be cleaner and I think people overall would be a lot happier.  I always say that biking to work in the morning is better than a cup of coffee.

Now is the time to bond together and keep thinking/moving forward.  Let's all make a pledge to walk or bike  more for errands, pleasure and exercise.  Let's write our local politicians and stress the importance of staying a bike friendly city/state.  Remember that baby steps lead to big changes and that every little thing you do DOES make a difference!  I remember when Kathleen Falk built the trail alongside HWY 12 and how much flack she got for it.  Now, it's flooded with cyclists, walkers, runners and skaters.  And to that I say, build it and they will come.

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