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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Love for Jon Hunter: Broadsheet Bulk and Bikes

For the first time in months, I picked up a dead-tree edition of that Sioux Falls paper this afternoon. I was surprised how small it felt. The font also looked strangely large, the way text in Scientific American did several years ago when they started dumbing down.

I realized just how much that Sioux Falls paper has shrunk when I picked up our own hefty local tome, the mighty Madison Daily Leader:

Look at that lovely local rag. Six columns across that front page, a full column wider than the big-city corporate sheet. Font a good point smaller, maybe more. And, at least on the MDL editions before me, no ads on the front page.

But it's not just size that has me all a-gush over my local newspaper. Thursday's print MDL carries yet another remarkably clear and specific editorial from our man Jon Hunter. His latest cri de coeur: bike lanes for Highway 34 through Madison. Yes, lanes, plural, one on each side of the road.

Hunter's reasoning: the city's preferred plan, squeezing a center turn lane between the existing four lanes, will result in traffic flowing as if there were only one lane in each direction. Drivers will find the five lanes "uncomfortably narrow" and won't pass each other (exactly what my wife experienced in town today as she dared not try squeezing the Focus past a cattle truck rolling through town on our main snow-narrowed drag).

Hunter's plan:

...if this pattern is inevitable, let's consider this bold idea: restripe the road as three1 full lanes (one going in each direction and a center turning lane), then stripe a bicycle path near the curb in both directions.

Currently it is very dangerous to ride a bicycle on this section of SD-34, but it could be made much safer under this scenario. We wouldn't expect bicyclists to use it in the winter2, but in summer months it may be well used, especially with the opening of the new waterpark this May on the west end of that stretch.

When empty, the bike path lane could be used as a right-turn lane, with passing traffic shifting slightly into the middle-turn lane to pass the right-turning car.

We ask the city commission and the state DOT to consider this idea as an equally-safe alternative which can also provide an additional service of helping bicycle traffic [Jon Hunter, "If SD-34 Will Be Restriped, Let's Try Something Bolder," Madison Daily Leader, 2009.01.08, p. 3].

Bolder indeed! A clear critique of city action, a specific alternative plan, and an unequivocal call to action—our man Hunter must be reading blogs! Now if we could just strike that editorial we....

It warms my heart to hear such an endorsement of two-wheeled travel from the Madison Daily Leader. I also take great pride in a bulky local broadsheet that will cover more of the floor when I work on my bike than a flimsy sheet of that shrinking Sioux Falls paper.

Two bike lanes for Highway 34—heck of an idea! I was going to rib Hunter over his ironic editorial on letters to the editor, but his bike land editorial is so gosh darn good, I'm giving the good publisher a pass. Happy weekend, Jon... and let's see some bike lanes!

1Yes, those are Jon's italics. Such typographic flair!
2I am the Unexpected™. Biking Brady might visit, too!


  1. Hooray for Jon and you, Corey. The bike lanes idea is a good one. If people are just pounding through Madison, they've got another route available anyway--take the bypass!

    As far as the page size goes, I'm sure it's one of those cost-saving measures that publishers are doing as they feel the squeeze of dropping revenues from print versions, the result of fewer people choosing to tuck that newsprint proudly under their arm, bike home, and fluff that news out in front of themselves in an audible crackle that tells the world they pay attention to the world.

    Otherwise, they have to comment on blog postings! Or, I guess, keep a blog of their own.

  2. What if the DOT in their infinite wisdom just left Madison alone. If you want safety, drop the speed limit to 20.

  3. Nice to read about bike stuff from other town. I can see a group ride happening from SF once the lanes are in place. I hope it happens.

  4. Paper is paid for by weight not width. The more the printers can shink the width of the roll, the more the savings. DOn't be surprised to see a narrower Madison daily leader in the future.

  5. Drop the speed limit to 20 mph??? Are you NUTS? Every day I drive through Madison it is like a funeral procession with these 20 mph streets. The bikes will be passing the cars if we reduce the speed any lower in Madison. Let's talk about 30mph on Egan, Washington, Division, 9th Street, Prairie and other major thoroughfares. Let's give this town a shot with the paddles!

  6. Start sooner, drive slower. 30 mph on Egan, Washington, Division, 9th Street, Prairie, are you NUTS! People are already driving 30 on those roads. Make it 30 and then they will go 40. Why are you in a hurry to go nowhere?

  7. I'm not convinced bike paths on the 4 lane highways are the safest, especially for children. We have huge trucks coming through town. Wonder why they don't they take the bypass? Can't the bikes be directed to the side streets? As far as the size of the newspaper, the more narrow paper is easier to handle.

  8. Hey, Chamber of Commerce -- did you catch that line from SD_pedalpower? Bike lanes mean visitors... and more sales tax revenue! (Remember, bicyclists eat... a lot!)

  9. Some of those trucks are mandated to stay on the state roads, especially trucks that hauling permit loads.

    Since the bypass is a county road, those trucks are not allowed on them, as that means massive fines for the driver as well as the company.


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