Bicycle Crashes Emphasize Need for Complete Streets

A tragic spate of crashes involving bikes and motor vehicles in the last week is underscoring the need to save Wisconsin’s complete streets law.

The Bike Fed believes that the deaths of two cyclists near Muskego on June 7th and serious crashes on Tuesday near Mount Horeb and on Wednesday in Madison point up the need for complete streets.

This is no time for Wisconsin to become the first state in the nation to actually repeal a complete streets law.

Each of the crashes indicates how a complete streets law could have improved the infrastructure and perhaps helped avoid the crash.

In the case of the deaths near Muskego rumble strips were installed in the center of a paved shoulder as opposed to more modern standards that call for the rumble strip to be on the left edge indicating earlier to a driver that he is crossing the line.

In the case of the Mount Horeb crash that section of Britt Valley Road near Highway JG does not have a paved shoulder.

And in the case of the crash on Raymond Road in Madison the crossing should be reviewed for the possible installation of treatments like flashing yellow lights or other strategies to alert drivers to the intersection with the bike path.

In the Muskego crash the driver may be charged criminally and in the case of the Mount Horeb crash the driver of the dump trunk was ticketed for unsafe passing.

Time will tell how much responsibility rests with the drivers in these cases, but certainly the roadways were not as safe as they could have been.

The complete streets law, passed in 2009, requires that bike and pedestrian facilities be considered when a road or street is built with state or federal funds. Governor Scott Walker’s budget would repeal the law, but Joint Finance Committee members are being asked to keep the law in place. The committee has scheduled votes on the transportation budget for Wednesday.

Please contact your legislators with a simple message: With so many tragic crashes just in the last week Wisconsin needs its complete streets law more than ever.

About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

8 thoughts on “Bicycle Crashes Emphasize Need for Complete Streets

  1. There was also a crash in the past week on Madison’s “wrong way” bike lane on University Avenue. A car turning left from University crossed into the path of a bicyclist traveling in that lane. The bicyclist was injured and the driver was cited. “Bike to Work Week” appears to have been changed to “Eliminate a Bicyclist Week” this year.

  2. The more important thing is for drivers to be seriously punished when they hurt someone. It seems to me most of these crashes would occur with or without Complete Streets. If Complete Streets gets more people riding, then there is a benefit in that the numbers would increase safety. The real problem is that drivers can run into pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers, and trees without penalty. Drivers should face stiff penalties when they put lives in danger (meaning they “get away” with running lights or going the wrong way on freeway ramps or jump curbs into trees and houses). Even those cases should face jail time. Then, when you kill someone, the jail time gets enhanced. As it is, drivers run into trees, houses ,you name it, and everyone – including the police – thinks it’s funny and cute.

    • Agreed. We will soon be reintroducing our “vulnerable users” law, which increases these penalties. Of the three crashes this week it looks like it may apply to the one near Mount Horeb where the driver was ticketed for a moving violation and probably should get a stiffer penalty for what he did.

      • I sympathize with your position on this but…
        1) Incarceration of careless individual drivers doesn’t do much to improve things but costs a great deal.
        2) The goal is to make things safer. Spending the same amount of money instead to install proven (or innovative) bicycle safety infrastructure and to promote cycling on the one hand and motorist awareness on the other.
        Two related opinions:
        Something you should always do while driving is put on your seat belt.
        Something you you NEVER do while cycling is wear ear buds.
        Why is this so hard to understand?
        Lighted intersections are far more dangerous for cars and bikes alike than roundabouts. Install roundabouts wherever possible. Who are the people that like to waste all that time sitting, polluting at lights?

        • Incarcerating or punishing drivers will not cost very much. Why? Because it will serve as such a severe deterrent. I am not assuming that all these careless drivers will continue to be careless if they know stiff penalties exist. Other countries do not have jails full of drivers, yet their fatalities are much, much lower, because they enforce traffic laws.
          People are careless on bikes (i.e. earbuds) because being careless on the road – whether in a car or on a bike – is perceived as a cool thing to do. You can run a red light or go 50MPH in a neighborhood and be a celebrity amongst your friends, or you can wear earbuds on a bike and be cool. It’s all part of a culture and law enforcement belief that tolerates and encourages bad behavior.

  3. At least in Madison, one thing that gets in the way of safe riding is drivers who try to be “nice” by stopping and insisting that cyclists run stop signs, yield signs and sometimes even red lights. I don’t know how many times I’ve been stopped at a stop sign (especially on the paths), only to have the driver I’m waiting for stop for me, even though he or she doesn’t have a stop sign, and refuse to budge until I ride in front of him. If I don’t, they’ll sometimes roll down their window and scream at me. Something like, “*%*& you, I’m just trying to be nice!” It seems like many confused people believe bikes are pedestrians with wheels, rather than vehicles.

    Which is all very well, except that it just helps convince cyclists that they always have the right of way, regardless of signage. Someone can blast through the stop signs 999 times with impunity. Unfortunately, it only takes one time to cause a crash.

    Every intersection shouldn’t have to be a guessing game. Of course motorists should be punished for causing injury and death, if there was any way at all they could have avoided it. But the fact remains that our intersections are lawless: cyclists ignore the rules, and motorists often encourage this behavior.

  4. Roundabouts are fine as long as the center is not built up that travelers cannot see traffic across the circle.

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