Why are vehicles allowed on our sidewalks? They're a direct threat to the safety of pedestrians. Where are the signs that were once posted around the Capitol Square, directing people to Walk Your Bicycles on the sidewalks? Among our many pedestrians, there are children and people with disabilities who deserve to go about their business in relative safety. But that security is shattered by the presence of two-wheeled vehicles, zipping up and down our sidewalks.
Perhaps, all the media hype about Madison's becoming the "Biking Capital of the Universe" has, unwittingly, clouded our lawmakers' clear perspective on pedestrian rights and safety. Whatever the cause, it seems that some have forgotten that they are, in fact, sidewalks! Bicycles do not belong there.
I have checked the City of Madison's website for guidelines regarding both pedestrians and bicyclists. There's very little about pedestrian traffic, but here is some information for bicyclists:
- Cyclists are expected to observe the rules of the road, traffic laws, signs and signals, just like all other vehicle operators. And, though it's not mandatory, they should be wise enough to use safety equipment.
- By law, bicycles are permitted on sidewalks only during the stage of initial training for children.
- The operator of a vehicle shall not drive upon any sidewalk area except at a permanent or temporarily established driveway unless permitted to do so by the local authorities.
Throughout Wisconsin there are systems of bike trails. Alongside many of our roads there are special bike lanes. And in downtown Madison, there's a lane designated for cyclists all the way around the Square. Yet, cyclists, in increasing numbers, continue to stretch their boundaries, ignoring rules of common sense and courtesy. And it appears that law enforcement is either powerless or unwilling to enforce any safety standards.
In the summer of 2009, in downtown Madison, I witnessed an accident on the sidewalk. A lady in a wheelchair, peacefully traveling along, was rammed by a careless cyclist. A Madison police officer showed up, and I believe a citation was issued to the biker.
If bike riders wish to travel our sidewalks, they should do so as normal pedestrians and walk their bicycles. It's just that simple.