Green Bay, Wisconsin is at the end of two rail-trails (Mountain Bay and Fox River) and probably a third soon, as a right-of-way is being negotiated for the train track from Green Bay to New London.
Consequently, Green Bay is trying to become a little more cyclable. They plan to add lanes to most major streets, over the next 20 years, at the time of normal street maintenance. After my ride to Green Bay, though, I decided to write a letter to the paper based on what I saw there.
I'm pleased that Green Bay is making the effort to be more bike-friendly. But it's going to take more than marking off bike lanes to make Green Bay a good place to cycle. Some serious public education is necessary, since it's clear that neither the cyclists or the motorists in Green Bay know the laws.
And where are they going to learn? I stopped at the Green Bay DMV/DOT this spring to ask about the city and state bike laws. They gave me a 'Bike Safety' coloring book and a pamphlet on wearing helmets. Can't we do better than this? As to the bike lanes which have already been created in Green Bay--there are cars parked over them whenever I see them. Perhaps the city could post some No Parking signs, or slip a friendly warning on some windshields? It's pointless to create bike lanes, only to have bikes weaving in and out of them to avoid parked cars.
For those who don't know, here's a really brief overview of the cycling rules. Bikes ride on the street (NOT the sidewalk!) and they follow the direction of traffic. Bikes must obey traffic signals. Cyclists should ride single file, as close to the right of the lane as is practical. (Note--too far to the right, and you could hit a pedal on the curb and lose control of the bike...similarly, stay out of right-turn lanes if you're going straight, and get in the middle of the lane before a left turn.) Cyclists should use hand signals--ten to one the motorist behind you won't remember what they mean, but they will at least realize that you're planning to do SOMETHING.
Cars are required to leave THREE FEET of clearance when passing a bike. (Another reason not to ride TOO far to the right--if cars have room to squeeze past you without leaving the lane, many will try.)
I'm looking forward to the day when Green Bay will be a safe and pleasant place to bike!
I don't know that anyone will read it, but it would be nice if it helped a little bit. I think Green Bay is going to have to learn the hard way, though. Maybe next time I'm in town I'll soap the words "Bike Lane!" on some windshields....