Dear Editor: A few days ago we were returning from our usual 12-mile ride on the Southwest Commuter Path and the Cannonball Trail. On the stretch between Odana and Glenway, there was a family moving very slowly toward us. Three small children on one-speed, two-wheeled bicycles, the youngest one weaving in and out into our lane. That’s what little kids do.
We moved as far as we could to the right of our lane and slowed down but were still going 10 mph. As we were at the exact point of passing the children, a big young guy comes out of nowhere with no verbal warning and slams by, squeezing between us and the family. He must’ve been going 20 mph. He passed by us like we were barely moving.
He was on an electric bike — which of course are currently illegal on city paths, but many e-bike users are ignoring that law. It may soon be legal for e-bike users to ride on Madison city paths. And the state legislature is proposing a 28 mph capacity for electric bikes.
In my 19 years of almost daily year-round biking and walking the Southwest Path I have never seen a non-electric biker going 20 mph do that. Some really fast bikers can be annoying but they always give you a verbal signal and slow down — especially when small children are involved.
This almost accident is example of how electric bikes are more like a motorized vehicle than a true bicycle. They belong only on the streets and not on these very busy city paths. We have also seen clearly inexperienced riders on Trek rental bikes weaving around on the path, fairly oblivious of bicycle etiquette.
After 40 years of year-round bicycle commuting in Madison I’m totally supportive of vastly increased bicycle use. But not where pedestrian safety is compromised. And “education“ will not be the answer. Only enforcement would take care of e-bike speeders — and that is unlikely due to budgetary concerns.
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