December 12, 2012

5 hours of political television not live-blogged last night.

The Madison Common Council debated and voted on a plan to light the Southwest Bike Path... which is actually called the Southwest Commuter Path, which should tip you off about which side won. The path will be lit. The faction that conceives of a grand plan for upping the percentage of commuters who travel by bike beat the property owners whose land abuts the path that was once a rail line.

The property owners did a fine job of marshaling arguments that would appeal to those who don't live right there. Maybe environmentalists will take their side if they call it "Owlpath" and stress nocturnal wildlife. Experts can explain how pools of light along a dark path make it harder to see and but easier to be seen. There you are lit up as if on stage to be sized up by the robber or rapist hiding in a dark spot.

Over the hours, many citizens spoke, and one phrase jumped out: "commuter corridor." You may think it's your backyard, but it's a commuter corridor. It's not a place to be but a place to move through, and there are so many more people moving through than staying in place. Of course, many more people drive to work, but even those who do are entranced by the fantasy of all those other people biking. Biking year round, despite the cold. It's during the cold times when the lights are most needed. Who knows why winter stops commuters from biking? Maybe it's the darkness.

And there should be gender equity. Why so many more men than women biking in the dark? If there were lights, people would feel safe, and feeling safe is so especially important to women. And making women feel safe is the central function of government, is it not? Making women feel safe coincided with spending tax money to buy a new amenity that will be noticed and will speak continually — to all who pass through the corridor — saying: Government has improved life for everyone. Experts and owls notwithstanding — those property owners are going to lose.

36 comments:

Pogo said...

"... those property owners are going to lose."

The Supreme Court motto .

MadisonMan said...

Unrelated, I'm sure, to our >5% property tax bill increase from the city.

Let us now watch crime increase where there was none.

Erika said...

If only there were some way to make the people who want to use it pay for it.

I wouldn't want to be a city planner or administrator with these kinds of pressures. You get all this pressure to spend money, to invest, to make your community more this or more that, and if you do it you get many people upset with you, and then half the time whatever people just had to have sits there idle after the fact.

Like the Navy base where I used to live had this fitness path with all these fancy stretching bars and so forth. Never saw one person on it in seven years, and I was a daily morning runner in the vicinity. But no property owners were harmed in the construction of the fitness path. Just your tax dollars.

John said...

I think you nailed it, Ann.

This and so many other things are all about making women "feel" safe.

Not necessarily actually make them safer but making them feel safer.

That way we can get more victims. Or as Tom Wolfe called them in Bonfire of the Vanities, "Chow" for the system.

John Henry

MayBee said...

This makes sense. After all, Montee Ball was beaten while he biked down an unlit bike path, was he not?

damikesc said...

Feeling safe trumps being safe for some women.

MayBee said...

If only there were some way to make the people who want to use it pay for it

Right?

The problem is (and we all know this) the people who want to want to use it. They don't want to actually use it, but they love the idea of a society where this is a very well-used corridor. That would be so verdant and lovely.

MayBee said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Consider that if people feel safe, even if they are wrong about the way lighting affects vision and so forth, if they use the path in greater numbers, those numbers will improve the safety.

Kit said...

Maybe it's the darkness.

Or not. For me, it's the drop in temps (and all that entails), along with the change in road surface. I'd preferred they use some of the money for PSA's on the importance of bike lights AND pedestrian lights (and though lights on bikes is woefully insufficient, pedestrians are at least as guilty).

Erika said...

I wonder about this facilities thing regularly. People are always arguing for more facilities to address issues or attract a certain element (We need midnight basketball! We need a skate park! We need bike paths! We need walkable neighborhoods! We need high-speed rail!) but whatever it is, there's never any guarantee that people will actually use it at all, let alone for the intended purpose.

The woman's safety thing doesn't pass the smell test to me. Obviously I haven't seen the site, but Althouse's description of the potential lighting is telling. I find it spookier to be lit up and put on display from a distance where people hiding the shadows can see. I'm not particularly nervous about such things though, so people who care about such things can make those decisions.

Erika said...

Althouse, about the numbers, I was thinking the same thing. Numbers affects my notion of safety far more than lighting does. Maybe to make it work the biking organizations need to make a concerted effort to populate the path to get it off the ground.

Tank said...

Who knows why winter stops commuters from biking? Maybe it's the darkness.


OK, that was funny.

MadisonMan said...

I love to bike, but I walk in winter. It's not the darkness that stops me. It's the cold, the grit, the salt, the ice. Riding with bulky clothes just isn't fun. Pushing your way through air that is 10% more dense than in summer is no fun, and the wind is always blowing.

Now, if they covered the path, and heated it, then I'd use it.

carrie said...

We used to live in a house that abutted the path when it was still a railroad. The houses were built after the railroad tracks were put in. The path was a transportation corridor then and as it is now and I would say that its use as a bike path is a big improvement for the neightbors over what it was when the trains still ran on it--it's been cleaned up, I would argue that it is now more secure and you don't have a train going through your backyard at 3:00 am every day.

Broomhandle said...

Be it gay marriage or lit bike paths, middle-class white men still usually get what they want.

Meade said...

If you want to feel safe while traveling through a "transportation corridor" - especially at night - I suggest providing your own lights, wearing a safety yellow vest, and carrying concealed.

Ann Althouse said...

Why not open carry?

(It will scare the ladies. But maybe ladies should open carry.)

Pogo said...

Just post a SWAT guy carrying an AR15 every 100 yards. It would only cost 5 gazillion bucks.

But it's for the ladies.

And it's jobs. Jobs!!

Ann Althouse said...

"I love to bike, but I walk in winter. It's not the darkness that stops me. It's the cold, the grit, the salt, the ice. Riding with bulky clothes just isn't fun. Pushing your way through air that is 10% more dense than in summer is no fun, and the wind is always blowing."

10% more dense... love the science. Thanks, Madison Man.

I biked to work when I first came to Madison in 1984, but the first day there was ice, the first time I braked, I fell instantly. I took my bike back to the apartment, and I never biked when there was ice ever again.

CWJ said...

AA, you can draw a straight line from your $15,000 tax bill to lighting the bike path, building the first bicycle rest area, and paying the salary of Art Ross, Madison's Pedestrian-Bicycle Coordinator.

Yes, I realize probably most of that money goes to the schools, but multiply the above examples by perhaps five to pay for bike initiatives alone; and then multiply that by who knows what to pay for Madison's other feel-good items, and you're well on your way to that $15K bill.

chickelit said...

I biked the old transportation corridor known as Old Middleton Road back in the late 70's and early 80's. Certain stretches were mostly unlit at the time when Madison and Middleton had unclear boundaries and thus responsibilities. I did this with the small bike light and never had a problem. In the winter when there was snow, I cross country skied between the train tracks to classes at UW. 7 & 1/2 miles one way. This was back when boys were boys and men were men.

Peter said...

"I love to bike, but I walk in winter."

Those who have tried it have memories of how quickly a bicycle wheel can lose traction on ice, and how quickly that results in an upset.

Although I am surprised that no one's crying about the carbon footprint of all that lighting (perhaps it doesn't matter so long as it makes women feel safe.

MadisonMan said...

Of the $15K tax bill (or my more modest one -- I'm still in 4 digits), 12% goes to Dane County, 1% to Wisconsin, 38% goes to the city, 42% goes to public schools, and the rest (7%) goes to the local technical college.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't ride a bike in the dark, but if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd have a headlight.

Seeing Red said...

All that light pollution. Will the lamps be solar?

CWJ said...

Thanks, Madman. That actually helps make my point. 38% municipal take is proportionally over three time the municipal bite of my tax bill (12%).

I know there are a lot of caveats to that comparison, but that is still quite a differential.

CWJ said...
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Edwin den Boer said...

Why would lighting a bike path be a problem for local homeowners? Are curtains or shades not available in Wisconsin?

Bryan C said...

Do they not have flashlights in Madison?

Joe Schmoe said...

Hey, even vandals and graffitti artists are entitled to proper lighting in which to conduct their craft.

Sam L. said...

And, of course, you MUST HAVE art (ART!) in that corridor. Or else the terrorists have won.

CWJ said...

Edwin the Bore. There, FIFY. As someone who has suffered through his own homeowners association lighting fiasco, I couldn't resist.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

MadisonMan: The 7% for the local tech college surprises me the most. Isn't that a lot?

Original Mike said...

Dark skies always lose.

Original Mike said...
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