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Cyclists ride for safety upgrades

The Wausau Daily Herald: Cyclists ride for safety upgrades

Student hit by vehicle in 2008 thrilled by turnout

BY MEGAN LOISELLE • WAUSAU DAILY HERALD • JANUARY 22, 2010

Traffic stopped in both directions on Thomas Street near Grand Avenue for a moment Thursday night as more than 40 bicyclists set off from Cafe Le Grand for Wausau’s first Critical Mass bike ride.

 

Caitlyn Schoenfeld, 21, of Wausau organized the ride, which traveled west on Thomas Street, north on 17th Avenue and back to City Hall along Stewart Avenue, to raise awareness of bike safety in general and the dangers of the Grand Avenue-Thomas Street intersection in particular.

Schoenfeld, a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student, was injured July 25, 2008, when a car hit her as she was riding her bicycle across the crosswalk at that intersection.

After Thursday’s ride, the bicyclists flooded a city Parking and Traffic Committee’s meeting to discuss how to make the intersection safer.

Several spoke about their concerns about motorists’ attitudes toward cyclists and the need for painted bicycle paths along Grand Avenue. Most raised their hands when asked by committee member Gary Klingbeil whether they biked through the intersection on a daily or weekly basis.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has control over any infrastructure changes to the section of Grand Avenue around the intersection, which has not been identified as needing improvement, said Brad Marquardt, the city’s public works director. The DOT is not scheduled to review the intersection for seven years.

The committee voted to request a traffic study on the intersection and asked Marquardt to speak with the DOT about speeding up the study.

As people rode up to the coffee house before the bike ride, Schoenfeld said she was overwhelmed by the turnout.

"This is incredible," Schoenfeld said.

Although many of the bicyclists did not know Schoenfeld, they understood her pain.

Luke Rudolph, 19, of Wausau said he once was hit by a car while biking.

"The city has a problem with its bike infrastructure," Rudolph said.

Rudolph said the city’s ordinance that requires cyclists to stay on the sidewalk along Grand Avenue is more dangerous than biking on the street because drivers aren’t aware that cyclists are there when they approach an intersection.

Schoenfeld’s parents also were biking alongside the group Thursday night.

"It’s not about Caitlyn or the accident," said her mother Maggie Schoenfeld of Wausau. "It’s a question of bike friendliness."

Maggie Schoenfeld said a large number of people participating in the ride frequently use bikes as their main mode of transportation to work or the store throughout the year.