This coming Sunday (June 5), the parts of downtown Madison will become car-free for part of a day, so that you can Ride the Drive (or walk, or skateboard, or in-line skate, or whatever) with about 20,000 of your friends and neighbors. Unless the weather is terrible, we’ll take a lap or two around the course–mostly for the people- and bike-watching opportunities.
What’s more, we won’t have another chance this year. Last year there were two editions of Ride the Drive, one in June in conjunction with Bike to Work week and one in August. Both were successful and very well-attended (though a visit from a certain seven-time Tour de France winner might have helped boost numbers for the August event). This year, the second ride was scheduled for September 25, which turns out also to be a home game weekend for the Badger football team.
This year, Madison’s new (and old, and older) mayor, Paul Soglin has canceled the second event because he’s concerned about businesses on State Street and the Capitol Square. Apparently, it’s ok for thousands of car-driving football fans to clog up downtown Madison on Saturday but not cyclists and other non-motorized traffic on Sunday. I couldn’t care less about football, but it seems to me that both are good for tourism and the local economy. I know that we always stop for food and drink somewhere on the route–and a great many other people do the same. I also know that a great many people drive into town from the suburbs and further afield just to unload their bikes and ride around downtown Madison.
Why do I think Soglin is doing this? He’s doing it because he can–and because Ride the Drive was one of the legacies left by the former mayor, Dave Cieslewicz. He’s wrong about the benefits of Ride the Drive for downtown businesses.
Perhaps it’s time to ride to work with him and tell him so–though perhaps it’s best that I don’t since I might also tell him what I really think of him.
Update: Ride the Drive was also the subject of Mayor Soglin’s first blog post while in office. This does nothing to change my opinion of him and his policies.