The bedroom community of Hull, Wisconsin considers ways to draft an ordinance that could close and otherwise restrict town roads to biking and walking.
Town of Hull Chairman John Holdridge presented a draft ordinance to the town Public Safety Task Force “to promote safe use of Hull roads by bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles … through reasonable separation and usage regulations.” Then, in classic doublespeak fashion, Holdridge proposes to promote safe bicycle use by banning them! The proposed statute says, “bicycles may be prohibited from using Hull roads after holding a public hearing.”
I don’t know Wisconsin law so I can’t comment on the legality of a local ordinance like that, but Hull wades into freedom to travel rights with a proposed permit requirement for “Groups.” On top of the bike prohibition statute, Chairman Holdridge proposes:
A formal notification system is established which provides contact with known groups who walk, run or bike in the Town of Hull. Groups will be informed of the state law and the Hull ordinance to control their operation on Hull roads. Groups operating on Hull roads shall be required to have a permit based on an application which details travel plans (time, date, roads used, and numbers) prior to operating on Hull roads. They will need to certify to following all applicable laws and ordinances.
The way I see this working is, we’ve got the names of the athletic directors and we’ve got the names of the cross country track coaches so once we get this, maybe even before we can approve that particular provision, the Town will invite them in and have a discussion.
Hull’s Public Safety Task Force has been mulling ways to keep cyclists, joggers, and dog walkers off of their city streets for a couple of months now. The town council receives complaints regarding groups cycling, walking, and jogging on public roads, and, according to the Public Safety Committee, those people primarily come from the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point three miles south of Hull, along with cross country runners from high schools in Stevens Point. The ROTC battalion at UW-Stevens Point “has caused problems” for the town as well. Discussion in the September 15 public safety meeting then devolved into gripes about people riding without lights, people taking up the whole lane while biking and walking, and dog walkers blocking traffic and leaving their pet excrement on the street.
The Public Safety Committee doesn’t appear to address any actual public safety issues with the bike / jog / walk ban. Drivers in this city of 5,000 seem to be annoyed by the momentary delays posed by walkers, joggers, and cyclists. There are no sidewalks on the 80 miles of road in Hull and, according to Public Safety Committee meeting notes, the lanes within town limits are no more than 12 feet wide.
The irony: the Public Safety meeting that proposed this bike ban begins with discussion about speeding motorists who drive too fast through town, about how bad the speeding is on parts of Jordan Road and North Second Street and other roads by I-39 on the western edge of Hull and what can they do to reduce the speed limits and oh-by-the-way can we call the Sheriff and ask him to step up enforcement. Finally, at the end of their September meeting, the Public Safety Committee had a traffic engineer come in and talk to them about ways they could implement traffic calming measures.
It sounds to me like the town council in Hull probably need some education. I hope cyclists in Portage County and with the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin are able to reach out to these officials in a mutually constructive way.