Shutting It Down to Open It Up
May 15, 2009 10:32 AM
One morning late last summer, Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association President Pat McDonnell invited me to walk down Gorham Street just before it was reopened for traffic after a summer of reconstruction. I walked down the center of the quiet street and got a whole new perspective on the neighborhood. I noticed details on the old houses that I had never seen before. You could hear screen doors slam and neighbors talk with one another. It felt like a completely different place.
Well, we're going to try to give lots of Madisonians and others that same kind of experience in a few months. On Sunday, August 30th from 8:00a.m. to 2:00p.m., we're going to shut down John Nolen Drive, some of East Washington Avenue, the Capitol Square, State Street and a few other streets to vehicle traffic. It's called "Ride the Drive," and the idea is to shut these streets to cars and open them up to pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, skateboarders, strollers, street musicians, kids with chalk, artists with chalk (must be able to wash off) and who knows who else might show up.
I wish I could say this was my idea or even a first in America, but it's not either of those things. New York, Chicago and San Francisco as well as many other American cities already do this, and Bogotá, Columbia shuts down their city every Sunday. And the idea to do it in Madison came from the Platinum Biking Committee, while Trek President John Burke took it from the original John Nolen Drive only concept to a much larger six mile loop. Trek is the primary sponsor and they're joined by AT&T, the Madison Parks Department, the Bike Federation of Wisconsin, Waldbillig & Besteman, DMI, Saris, Isthmus, GHC, Triple M and, we hope, others. No public dollars will be used for the event.
It's a first for Madison and if the early enthusiasm is any indication, people are going to love it. It's another free, family friendly event for a summer that is likely to see a lot of us stay close to home.