Wednesday, April 23, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 34.0° F  
CITIZEN DAVE: Thoughts and ideas about city building from Madison's former mayor

CITIZEN DAVE

Citizen Dave: Madison needs to light the Southwest bike path

The real payoff is that these lights are likely to get more people to bike to work and for errands and to bike year round.
The real payoff is that these lights are likely to get more people to bike to work and for errands and to bike year round.
Credit:City of Madison
Article Tools:Read moreRead more Citizen Dave items
Email this articleEmail this article
Print this articlePrint This Article
Email the authorEmail the author

It's not just about me. If it were, I'd be against lighting the Southwest Commuter Path, a major bicycle route that runs from Allied Drive into the heart of downtown Madison.

I use that path all the time and I like it the way it is, without lights. I walk my dog on the path at night and I like the dark night sky. Safety hasn't been a problem since I got a blinking red light that I put on Calvin's collar.

In the winter, I bike that path in the dark on my way home from campus. I have a high-powered light that illuminates the ground in front of me, and makes the ride feel like a smooth drive down a town road.

So, for me, it's good as is.

But I'm convinced by the arguments from the Wisconsin Bike Fed.

There are basically two objections to the city of Madison's proposal to light the path. The first is that it costs too much at about $200,000. But this is primarily a commuter path, serving 3,000 bikes a day. This route is to bikes what East Washington Avenue is to cars. Would we ever consider not lighting East Wash?

The second objection comes from neighbors and from users like me who like the darkness. But the resourceful city engineering department has come up with a design that directs light down onto the path, which should be minimally intrusive for neighbors.

The real payoff is that these lights are likely to get more people to bike to work and for errands and to bike year round. There are no downsides to getting more people to bike in the city. It means less traffic congestion, less demand for expensive parking spots, less dependence on fossil fuels, less combustion of greenhouse gasses, less wear and tear on the roads, and better public health. The bike is just about the single most perfect human invention, and one that has special benefits to urban places.

So, what convinces me to support lights on the trail is its potential to help us achieve our city goal of 20% of commuter trips on bikes by 2020.

For those neighbors who fear the light -- hey, I share your pain. But the long-term benefits of more biking to the whole community far outweigh our parochial concerns.

Add to DiggShare this item
Show 9 Comments

Log in or register to comment

Promotions Contact us Privacy Policy Jobs Newsletters RSS
Collapse Photo Bar