On Sunday, Madison held its first ever "Ride the Drive" event. Co-sponsored by the city itself and Trek Bikes, a handful of downtown streets were shut down to all but bicycle, foot, and skater traffic for the duration of Sunday morning.
There were parades, food vendors, public art, live music, bike repairs and information all along the 6-mile route. And smiles, lots of smiles. I got out to enjoy the rare opportunity to bike freely down some major thoroughfares and saw lots of people out enjoying the heck out of the day (which, thankfully, turned out rather beautiful - especially compared to the week we'd been having).
I would have liked to seen more in the way of bike education - people talking about the various bike paths and routes we have in the city, urging people to be active in lobbying for better bike and pedestrian access, and more outreach to lower income areas about how to get a basic, cheap bike and get around that way. Overall, though, I thought it was a great first year and a remarkable event. It takes some time to get everything right, after all.
Of course, there were plenty of detractors: Mostly people who found their vehicle paths through the city blocked, as well as those who rely on the buses to get around. The latter I can forgive, but honestly, drivers, can't you handle one day without immediate access? There were other ways to get around the RtD traffic - maybe adding a few minutes to your commute, but that's small beans compared to what those who travel by foot or bike have to put up with on a daily basis. You'll pardon me if I have little sympathy.
Ultimately, though, the whole thing seemed to go over quite well, and I'm hopeful that Madison will make this sort of thing a tradition. I'm also hoping, and planning to work for, better non-vehicle access to all parts of the city in the future. We all need to work together--bikers, pedestrians, and drivers alike--to make this a more livable place for everyone.