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Uppity Wisconsin - Progressive Webmasters

« WMC and Milwaukee - Opinion Piece Published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Main | Russ Fights For the Constitution »

December 17, 2007


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cyclist who likes Paul

I hope this post calms the tempest. We cyclists can get defensive sometimes. And you have to admit, the "taken out and shot" line was not a easily-understood reference.

For your enjoyment, here are some photos of Milwaukee's "Santa Cycle Rampage", in which people did ride in a (moderate) snowstorm on Saturday. All in good fun. As far as I know, no one was hurt (or shot at):

Lucy Mathiak

Interesting post, Paul. It resonates because that has been my experience since I first decided to run for public office. E.g., if I didn't openly agree with and pledge to fight to the death for (fill in the blank), I clearly was a right wing neocon who hates (fill in the blank).

Frustrating, but I can't help but wonder if it isn't some payback for the years of my life when I was so convinced of the clarity and moral rectitude of my positions that I didn't feel a need to engage with people who thought differently. With age, I have come to value the ideas of exchanging ideas, of sifting and winnowing, of learning from disagreement. Unfortunately, that approach is not terribly practical in local politics.

Thought you might enjoy the following observations by H.C. White:

"...truth in any age is hard to find, and
wisdom more difficult a compass than the
world's wealth. In the free give-and-take of
the University, students get a vision of what
a lifelong undertaking the pursuit of both is.
Indeed, I think that that is the most valuable
thing we give them on this campus..."
-- Helen C. White, Professor of English, 1957


Your clarification is appreciated--though i still disagree.

But more importantly, your nuance is a privilege of not being involved or affected. In the past week more drivers have given me the finger and sworn at me than in the five previous winters combined, for simply being on the road (i am a responsible, safe rider, though i admit sometimes i slow down traffic when i bike in car tire tracks). Other winter bikers have told me of a similar increase in road rage.

These drivers people may not be using handguns on us, but you sir have provided them with an license to be an an asshole.

nuance doesn't carry a handgun


Your clarification is appreciated--though i still disagree.

But more importantly, your nuance is a privilege of not being involved or affected. In the past week more drivers have given me the finger and sworn at me than in the five previous winters combined, for simply being on the road (i am a responsible, safe rider, though i admit sometimes i slow down traffic when i bike in car tire tracks). Other winter bikers have told me of a similar increase in road rage.

These drivers people may not be using handguns on us, but you sir have provided them with an license to be an an asshole.

those are easy issues that you speak on, they are predictable and I think you use them to keep some kind of interest from people who need to believe in someone instead of their own souls.

You say nothing on Doyle when he does the sell out, you say nothinog on Kathleen Falk

you are predictable and love the reaction

you died a long time ago, always riding the wave never being a self willing to take heat from your group think tank

and thename dropping is too much.

I know the homeless that's my pride, oh boy you got an e-mail from bill lueders let's all jump for joy

Mauricio Babilonia


Your liberal cred was never in doubt for those of us who know even a little bit about you, and that's part of what made your original post on this topic such a disappointment. I believe your claim in this post that you were not specifically criticizing winter cycling, but there are still several issues from that original post that are not addressed today:

1. The whole "should be shot" framing might just be where the whole "are you a conservative?" perception is coming from. Did you really think it would be perceived as nuanced humor?

2. There's been no acknowledgment that the day in question was not a snow day. Schools weren't closed and I don't think many people were dismissed from work early. So this brings us to the question of who, out in the very same snowstorm, gets to assess the risk assumed by other road users? Should this assessment be made from the seat of a car? From the saddle of a bicycle?

3. Further, leaving aside the whole veggie truck straw man, it must be noted that your original post did not put any onus on motor vehicle operators to "either stay put or find an alternative means of transportation." No, in spite of the fact that the statistical fraction of cyclists killed annually during the winter months in Wisconsin is extremely small, and despite the fact that the two roadway fatalities and numerous injuries in the Madison area on December 4 were limited (as far as I can tell) to motor vehicle crashes, it's still the folks who ride bicycles who must be the source of lethal risk to themselves and others in snowstorms. Am I reading your position correctly?

As for the Tempest itself, well, welcome to the strange and wonderful place we call the Internet. Everybody's got an opinion, everybody else's stinks and none of it functions like a normal human conversation or like other communications media. Venture here at your own risk... 8-)

Captain Morgan

Paul - what I and other informed readers of your blog were looking to see in your response to the biker you encountered that blustery night was for you to:

-marvel in his commitment to riding his bike, no matter what the weather
-realize that some people have no option besides this type of transportation
-call for more buses to more suburbs (those that don't border Madison directly, such as Oregon or Stoughton) ...
-NOT lay on your proverbial horn, which is essentially what you've done. You now have hundreds of people ringing their bells back at you.

Matt Logan


I think you should leave answering the question of "why did people respond the way they did to your post?" to the people who responded. I would also note that besides bicyclists, a number of irate motorists also took on the issue with their own perspective of what you said.

In fact Vicki McKenna chimed into the issue during the first hour of her December 7th diatribe and went so far as to suggest that bicycling be banned on snow covered roads, and that bicyclist responses were motivated by arrogance due to elitism of the bicycle mentality which says "I am better than you because I am riding my bike." McKenna then solicited angry motorist stories seemingly meant to prove her point, though given her habit of heavily filtering callers, I am sure what got on the air was a small fraction of the real story.

But that isn't the end, headneuron at also posted a diatribe (deleted days later, but still in google?s cache as of this afternoon) on December 9th, which included this gem:

"And by the way, get your f*cking bicycle off the road. Got that? Until you pay a registration fee which helps to support our roads, you have no f*cking say on how the roads - meant for cars - are used."

[As you are probably aware, bicyclists DO pay their fair share of the 68% of local road costs borne by property taxpayers]

A similar opinion piece in last weeks Wisconsin State Journal carried a similar message of motorist supremacy and bicyclists arrogance.

And all this because of a storm (which I rode my bike in), that actually made the roads SAFER that night for bicycling. You see, the light snow acted like sand on the ice layer below. I found it much easier to navigate from work on Tuesday evening than it was to get to work on Tuesday morning. In short, the snowstorm was not a problem, and your blog, even if worded better , would have been a waste of time because of your poor judgment on the quality of the roads at that point.

However, I am afraid of the long-term consequences of all the secondary commentary I discussed above. Why? Because the last thing any bicyclist needs is bloggers getting motorists more irritated at us and pushing more motorists closer and closer to permanent road rage. Paul, I already have problems when I am getting in the left lane to make a legal turn, and motorists yelling at me to get onto the sidewalk (which is generally illegal in Wisconsin, though specifically allowed in Madison). Paul, I already have problems with people throwing things at me out their car window as they zing by at 40mph (which the police will do nothing about). Paul, I already have problems with clueless motorists, during broad daylight, waiting in back of me at a stop light and yelling that I should be wearing a red flag or something because they can?t see me. Paul, there are way, way, way too many clueless motorists out there eager to be given another dose of hate to direct against me at some later date. The last thing I want those motorists to have is an image of me being shot because of my supposed transgressions (of which there are damn few compared to most road users).

I suggest that at some level, most of the bicyclists out there have experienced every issue I raise in this comment, and that is why the anger is easy to find: Your blog babble has reduced our sense of safety.


I just had my first motorist say "You should be taken out and shot like Soglin
says." when I was riding to work this morning.

See what you started? Thanks, your honor.


Oh, I forgot to ask: Were YOU driving a car during the snow storm when you observed the bicyclists who prompted your original
rant? Is it not also more dangerous to drive a car on the road during a snow storm? What were you doing on the road, then? Why
was it not 'stupid' for you to be driving? Why don't you deserve to be shot for being on the same road that I am on when
I have to get home from work on a snowy day? Why do you think you have more right use a city street than I do, under
any circumstances?

The biggest hazard to bicyclists on the road is the attitude of motorists who think we have less right to be there,
and you just contributed to that. Thanks again.


Mitch: Your assumption is badly flawed. I do not believe that any motor vehicle has exclusive right to a roadway that is to be shared by others including bicyclists.

However, because one is entitled to that roadway does not mean one has to use it when conditions are dangerous.

By the way, we did cancel plans to go to a movie last night because of the road conditions; I believe those conditions were far more dangerous for a bicycle than my motor vehicle.

All vehicle operators have that option: they can find alternative modes of transportation or they can stay put.

The only conclusion I can draw from your rant is that when the weather is bad, all motor vehciles should stay off the roads so you are safe. If that is what you think, say it.


I've also chosen not to go places due to weather. Sometimes, however, I have to work,
and the last time I tried to take a bus during a snow storm I had to wait in the cold
for 45 minutes because the bus was late.

You didn't answer my question: Were you on the road when you saw the bicyclists who you
said were stupid for being on the road? Why was it not stupid for you to be driving your
car under those same conditions? You didn't say that any of the motorists on the road
with you were stupid, as you said about the bicyclists. Why not?


The first big snowfall of the year always reminds me of your comments about people who ride bicycles in the snow needing to be taken out and shot. You never apologized for saying that. Oh, sure, you restated your position and tried to spin your annoyance at us getting in your way and slowing down traffic into some condescending kind of concern for our safety, but that's not really the same as an apology.

Lance Armstrong

Apologize for what? Looking out for the health and safety of people who bicycle on a day like today when even the most cautious drivers are fearful that a bicyclist might skid in front of them no matter how much clearance they provide?

It reminds me of motorcyclists who ride without a helmet. They claim the only one who might be hurt is the rider. Wrong. The rest of us often have to pay for the long, sometimes, lifelong, hospitalizations that result from the head injuries.And that does not address the emotional trauma to others involved in the accident, even if the motorcyclists were at fault.

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