Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Seminole Hwy vs. Badger Trail: Why not use the path?

Recently, the Wisconsin State Journal ran a letter asking why bicyclists aren't using the Badger State Trail, which in some areas runs next to Seminole Hwy, instead of the road. This seems to be a common question, "There's a path right there. How come the bicyclist isn't using it? Why are they on the road? Isn't it safer on the path?"

Here is my answer:
Many of the riders you see on Seminole Hwy are going too fast for the path. Paths are not just for bicyclists, but also walkers, joggers, kids on bikes, dog walkers, and slower recreational cyclists. So if you want to go fast, either because you are in a hurry - like so many motorists - or because you are trying to get your heart rate up, the road is the proper place to bike. In the same way motorists cannot drive 55 on many narrow roads with poor sight lines or other, slower users, bicyclists should not be going 20-25 mph on the path, even when there is no one on it.
The bicyclists on the road also may not be coming or going to a location that makes the path a logical choice. Leaving the Arboretum, you use Seminole Hwy to cross the Beltline and get to many places in Fitchburg. The path crosses in a different location. Much as a bicyclist might ask, "Why is the motorist not on Verona Rd?"
The road is only unsafe if the motorists do not wait until it is safe to pass the bicyclist. I have been riding on Seminole Hwy for 20 years, and the only problems I have are when drivers are in too much of a hurry, and cannot slow down until there is a gap to pass.
All these perceived conflicts could have been avoided if Fitchburg had added bike lanes all the way down to Whalen Rd a number of years ago. But they said, "There isn't that much traffic. Bicyclists and motorists can share the lane easily." So now we have bicyclists doing exactly what the planners suggested, and the motorists being upset by that action. 


  1. The Badger State Trail requires a trail pass too. So it's a toll road, and it is pretty normal for people to avoid toll roads whenever possible, even when it costs considerable travel time.

  2. What an elitist answer. You think you ride too fast for the bike path? Hogwash.

  3. Scott - I'm confused. Who are you addressing? I gave all sorts of reasons why someone (not necessarily me personally, but possibly) might use the road and not the path. Emily gave another one.

    There ARE bicyclists that regularly travel at 25+ mph, which is clearly too fast for the trail under any conditions. Even if I am traveling at 15 mph - a quite moderate pace by bicyclist standards, that is too fast if the trail has many slower users.

  4. Gee Scott! I hate it when people get into these name-calling games. It just seems that there are so many better ways to discuss ideas, like, because one cannot defend certain ideas we have to resort to name-calling spats? No. I'm in favor of approaching things differently. I suggest that maybe you lack experience on a bike. You should seriously consider getting on a bike Scott. You'd learn a lot in a very short time and your lack of knowledge would be cured with practical knowledge. I'm betting that your opinion would change.

    I'm an old(er) guy now so I don't ride like I used to, but still easily hit 25-30 mph. And when I'm doing that ride I'm probably not on a little pleasure ride. Some of you folks think that bikes are what we use for fun, recreation, exercise. Well Scott, that isn't so true. We're often trying to get some place and don't believe that there should be asphalt-aristocrats who have sole use of a public thoroughfare (we're kinda into democratic principles that way). I'm probably going shopping or maybe even headed out of the city, or could be to work.

    My advice, Scott, is to get a bike and check it out. You'll have a much better perspective of the issue.