Cyclists now have a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with Madison’s bicycle routes and safety rules.
“Get to Know Madison by Bike” is a free bicycle-touring program offered throughout October by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin in partnership with UW-Madison Transportation Services, the UW Police Department and University Health Services.
Dane County is sponsoring the funding for the bike tours, which are free. The tours will last about two hours, and are aimed at familiarizing Madison bike users with more convenient ways to get around town.
“Many people who come to Madison use a bike to get around, but a good number of those aren’t familiar with biking around in an urban environment,” said Robbie Webber, a program manager at the Bicycle Federation. “Some students find it intimidating — we want to make them feel comfortable.”
Each year there are a number of accidents involving bikes, pedestrians and cars, Webber said. She said this consistent occurrence of accidents is due to downtown being a very congested area with somewhat confusing roadways. These accidents are especially prevalent in the fall, when student bikers returning to Madison take to the streets.
“There is a surge of riders in August and September,” Webber said. “There is also a surge in crashes.”
While bicycling on main thoroughfares such as University Ave. and Dayton St. may seem intimidating at first, Webber said, it is actually much safer and easier than attempting to evade potholes on side streets or pedestrians and joggers on the sidewalks.
Ellen Pillsbury, Bicycle Registration Coordinator for the city of Madison, said a big contributor to accidents involving bicycles can be attributed to the neglect of traffic laws on the part of cyclists.
“People often disregard traffic rules when on a bike,” Pillsbury said. “They need to realize that bikes are legally vehicles of the road and that cyclists must follow the same traffic regulations as cars. They need to ride more predictably.”
Jeffrey Rose, sponsorship coordinator for the UW cycling team, agreed many bikers are unaware of the traffic laws that apply to them. However, Rose said, too much emphasis is being placed on inconsiderate and careless cyclists that should instead be placed on drivers.
“Funding for biker education might be better spent on educating drivers,” Rose said. “There are a lot of vulnerable bikers on the road. [Drivers] constantly need to be conscious of them.”
“Get to Know Madison by Bike” offers tours beginning at 4 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, starting at Memorial Union.
Webber said private tours can also be arranged with the tour group in advance if the designated times are not compatible or if the group would like to see a specific area.
Those interested in learning more about the bike tours offered on campus or setting up a privately arranged tour can contact the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin at 251-4456.