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OPINION - Wasting money to become bicycle friendly

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I have no idea if there are more people riding bicycles these days. But I'm certain that making cities more 'bike friendly' is trending upward. And it's a waste of money.

Marathon County installed bike route signage last year. The county and Wausau created a bike-route map. It's impossible to measure the usage of these items. In recent months Wausau has installed new bike racks and a street side bicycle repair station. About a year earlier, MetroRide installed bike racks on the front of their city buses. (Most of these items are funded by state or federal grants.) The usage of these items can be measured. How much are they used? Almost never.

I walk past three of the city's new bike racks on my way home from work. Never once - ever - have I seen them used. I also walk past the city's bicycle repair station (on 3rd street, just south of the Woodson YMCA), and I have never seen it used. Wausau's bus station is across from my office. I have never seen a bike rack on a city bus used.

And Wausau has taken only baby steps on the path to becoming more "bike friendly". Stevens Point shuts down entire streets on selected weekend - no cars, only walkers and cyclists. And Appleton has an aggressive proposal to put bike lanes on many crowded downtown streets that would take away scarce curbside parking.

None of these things make a city bike friendly. If I want to ride my bicycle, I don't need signs, maps, and racks. The things that make a city bike friendly are more mundane: flat terrain, streets with wide shoulders, and courteous drivers. In the meantime, in the name of a misguided "bikes good/cars bad" mentality, tax dollars are being spent on things no one uses.

Chris Conley
6.26.14