Biking within city good but not good enough

“D” grade shows room for improvement on city streets

Story by Zack Katz, Currents Editor

Cyclists recognize there’s an art to waking up moments before class, then tearing by traffic or bombing the hill to be on time.

But despite Eau Claire’s bronze medal in bike friendliness, the structure of our roads should be repainted with those artists in mind.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal showed while Eau Claire received an “A” in the categories of encouragement and planning, we’re a “D” letter grade in enforcement and infrastructure.

An esteemed medal might seem like enough to appease riders, but for the cycling commuter, that D is a tough one to swallow. If D’s don’t make degrees, do we consider the same standard sufficient for our community’s biker safety?

We’re in the midst of a lot of idealist thinking and hopeful chatter with The Confluence Project, but a more bike-accessible street layout needs to be realized before Eau Claire is rider friendly.

Specifically, our city has done everything to ensure leisurely biking is available for the community, and while this is a considerable achievement, we shouldn’t be so comfortable in our joyriding potential that we forget bikes are also a form of commuter transportation.

Senior Ryan Hamilton is no stranger to these bike trails, and said while they’re nearly ideal, it doesn’t exactly fill out the rider’s spectrum.

“I’ve biked out to the Leinenkugel brewery for the tour and back and spent probably 80 percent of the ride on a path,” Hamilton said. “With that in mind though, being able to use a bike for serious transportation in Eau Claire ends up turning into winding through residential streets to avoid potential dangerous traffic on the main thoroughfares.”

Water Street, of course, has a bike lane fully utilized by students and the community when weather permits. Some of the other campus areas aren’t so biker oriented, though.

Jeremy Gragert, founder of the Chippewa Valley Transit Alliance, said the current double-gate format of the hill was made “purposefully more dangerous” in order to deter riders.

A bold claim considering the inherent risk we’ve all witnessed hill riders take, but I do agree the civil engineering aficionados who decided to mastermind the second gate are completely irresponsible, as well as responsible for hill-related accidents.

Gragert mapped out a hill design that opens two bike lanes (up and down) for riders, and a queued lane for drivers on the other half.

It’s an intuitive design, one that might bog university officials down with a sum of five minutes of thought to realize for themselves.

The Master Plan for the University promises Garfield Ave. will eventually be automobile free, but Gragert said we should hold those in charge of the plan accountable until it is seen through.

It doesn’t take any thought to see how traffic accidents could go the way of the dinosaurs after this effort. Put me in charge, folks. I’ll make it happen next week.

Beyond some quick fixes necessary on campus, we should be thankful for the initiative our city has taken so far, but also imitate the Transit

Alliance’s persistence in holding our city accountable for following through.

Our city’s success in encouragement and planning are only valuable if we translate them to infrastructure. Let’s get our grades up, Eau Claire.