I want to raise every voice -- at least I've got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher...Some son of a bitch would die
~ Bruce Cockburn, If I Had a Rocket Launcher
An Open Letter to Wisconsin Governor James Doyle, Jr.
Dear Governor Doyle,
Yesterday my family and I were riding our bicycles in your beautiful state on Highway 2. My wife rides one tandem with our daughter, 12, and I ride the other tandem with my son, 10. We are riding across the United States from Lincoln City, Oregon to Bar Harbor, Maine. In all the miles we have ridden so far (nearly 2000), we have encountered courteous drivers who gave us a lot of room when passing. Never did anyone try to run us off the road, yell at us while riding, or be purposefully mean. Until yesterday, that is. While riding east on Highway 2 from Ashland to the Michigan line we met with drivers who did the following:
- would not move over when passing us (we were on the shoulder the entire time), even when there was no oncoming traffic
- rode as close to us as possible; this had to be either through inattention or with malicious intent. Either way, these drivers put us and our children in danger.
- yelled at us and gave rude hand gestures while driving by.
- And the coup de grace, threw a package of lit fire crackers at us while passing.
Now, I am not naive enough to believe that you can, or are even interested, in doing something about this. And I hate to generalize about Wisconsin drivers (although all bike riders we have encountered in this part of Wisconsin have had similar experiences). I do think, however, that as the Governor you can urge local communities and counties to post "Share the Road" signs. You can also encourage efforts in driver education to include more about how to properly interact with bicyclists.
Part of our desire in taking this trip is to learn more about America. We update our blog (www.shut-up-and-pedal.blogspot.com) frequently. Unfortunately, I will not have much good to say about the drivers in Wisconsin and will urge bicyclists to find other routes.
Thank you for your time.
What a day yesterday was. Without a doubt it was the worst day of bicycling I have had in years. The drivers were rude and dangerous and stupid. Even if you believe that some of the drivers who passed us just weren't paying attention (which is bad enough), it does not account for the consistent disregard for us and other cyclists on the road. One or two is an anomaly; all day (hundreds of vehicles) is a cultural attitude. And I was so looking forward to being in Wisconsin. As a kid my family rarely took vacations. The two that we did go on, however, were to the Wisconsin Dells. I remember fondly the lakes, the summer sun, the kitschy Tommy Bartlett Water Show. Now, I realize that I can't generalize this experience to the entire state, but it sure does leave a bad taste in your mouth. What I really wanted was fresh bratwurst, cold beer, and a lakeside campsite. Now I can't wait to get back into Michigan. Michigan, do us proud with better drivers please!
Speaking of that, we did cross into Michigan for a few miles yesterday. We dropped back down into Wisconsin today and will re-enter Michigan in a couple of days.
I don't consider myself a violent person. But, as Bruce Cockburn said, if I had a rocket launcher (or a slingshot, or a rock for that matter) I certainly would have used it yesterday. My mantra for today: let it go and live to ride another day.