Mayor Soglin's Blog

I Rode the Drive

June 8, 2011 4:58 PM

Like so many Madisonians, I enjoyed it Sunday and found it to be a great family, fun event. With some work and a few tweaks here and there I am confident that we can make the event even better. I am committed to working with the Madison Parks and City Staff as well as downtown business leaders, downtown church leaders and residents as well.

When Ride the Drive was first established it was done, unlike comparable city programs, without city council approval which means it was not subject to the same reviews. In addition the city, by law requires that all programs that require an expenditure of $5,000 or more be approved by the city council and be in the city budget. It does not matter if there are off-setting revenues, this is the law. No matter how noble the cause I think you agree with me the rules were meant for everyone. The costs incurred for Ride the Drive are generally over $20,000 per event. Due to sponsorships, particularly from Trek, Metcalfe’s and many other local sponsors, the cost to the city is minimal. I am committed to maintaining the outside funding so this popular event can be continued.

A few changes will mean a lot and should not in any way damper the fun for the riders. For example we did make one change last Sunday, Butler Street usually blocked off, became a north-south crossing point of E. Washington Ave. thus opening up access to the southeast quadrant of the square. Additionally, we monitored the traffic lights and moved vehicle traffic through the isthmus more fluidly.

While some bikies tried to help the restaurants by stopping for lunch or a snack, there is no question that many of these locally owned businesses suffered as did other retailers. To me it simply does not make sense to lock in a ride that unnecessarily hurts our neighbors when the ride can be just as good if we are flexible. This especially applies to the businesses around Williamson Street during this year’s construction project. There are also seniors and others with limited mobility trying to access downtown churches – churches that work very hard to maintain a downtown presence and do a lot of community service.

I am committed to providing a positive message about Ride the Drive to the many people who deliberately avoid coming downtown on the days of the event. We can show them how to get to the parking ramps, no matter what their point of departure. We can remind them that there are plenty of seats at their favorite restaurants, space in the shops, and the enjoyment of watching the ride.

I did not like the idea of canceling the second ride this year and it is not necessary if we can work quickly to agree on some adjustments. Again these are adjustments that will have little negative impact on the quality of the ride but will do a lot to expand the access to downtown for non-riders.

Meetings are already being scheduled and work is underway. Feel free to contact me if you have any specific suggestions for changes.

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