Madison Moving Very Slowly Towards Trail Diversity

This is my response to an incident that took place on October 21st during the Tour of the Latino Family ride; where some of our riders were verbally harassed by two white middle-aged individuals while we were riding on the Capital City Trail (parallel with John Nolen Dr.),  with the excuse that our group of 35+ riders was too large and/or too slow.

What happened during our Tour of the Latino Family is a reminder that Madison trails are not yet safe or inclusive, where everybody can walk or ride freely without the fear of being verbally harassed just because people are going too slow. Last week, I met with an 82-year old man who does not longer ride his bike because he does not want to be a bother to other bikers and is afraid of using the trails.

Since when the Madison trails became property of the fast biker or the fast walker/runner? If they have a trail-title that makes them the owners of these shared spaces, I want to see it.  The last time I checked, trails belong to everybody. Trails are shared spaces for everybody in our community: kids, youth, parents, grandparents, seniors, whites, people of color, poor, rich, Ironmen, crossfitters, etc. Everybody. People can go as slow as they need to and want to on the trails. We, the Madison community, have the obligation to stand against those individuals who are out there harassing people. We need to make sure that no member of our community stops using the trails out of fear.

I wish my statement ended here, but unfortunately what happened during this ride has triggered other concerns. The Tour of the Latino Family was an organized ride with the purpose of introducing members of the Latino community to the beautiful Madison trail system.

I wish I was certain that these verbal assaults were not racially motivated. A group of over 30 riders mostly brown stands out anywhere in Madison, but in particular in our bike trails. We looked very different from the groups of riders that usually ride the Madison trail system. I wonder if these individuals would have done the same to a group of white middle class riders? I believe that looking different made us an easier target. I am very certain they thought we were not going to understand when they called one of our female riders a b@#&h. What privilege these two individuals felt they had to freely harass our riders? This is outrageous and has to stop.

What happened during the ride is a reminder that our Latino community is still very vulnerable in this city, and an easy target. It is a reminder that some segments of Madison believe that we do not belong here, that we do not belong in the Madison trails. This is a reminder that some in the Madison community have become accepting of us, as long as we stay in the Mexican restaurants making delicious tacos for Taco Tuesday celebrations. We are breaking the norm and will continue breaking it. We will continue riding, so be prepared to see more of us on the trails. We are putting the color on the Madison trails, which they so desperately need.

As a Latino and one of the organizers of this ride, I can assure you that we are not going to take this type of verbal assault against any members of our communities. I denounce this type of behavior and demand respect for every type of rider and walker.

We invite you to stand against this type of verbal harassment and support our community of riders. This is not going to stop the Tour of the Latino Family rides. We will continue riding. We invite you to join our rides.  No matter what type of rider you are. No matter if you are old, young, fast, slow, brown, black, white. We will make sure you have a place in our VERY SLOW ride.

If you are ready to stand against this type of verbal harassment towards our communities, join us on Saturday November 18 at 10 am (in the Olin Park parking lot in Madison, WI) for the third Slow Tour of the Latino Family – We Are Not Afraid of Riding Ride. With this ride, we will show the Madison community that we are not afraid of riding. With this ride, we look to make a statement to the Madison community that we do belong here and that trails are for everybody: kids, youth, parents, grandparents, seniors, whites, people of color, poor, rich, Ironmen, crossfitters, etc. Everybody.

5 thoughts on “Madison Moving Very Slowly Towards Trail Diversity

  1. I will be there in spirit. Who should not be on trails? It has nothing to do with color or speed and everything to do with civility and heart. I hope you encounter the harassers again so you can encourage them to become more human.

  2. There have been times where I’ve come upon group rides on trails and the group wasn’t following etiquette as far as letting people pass because they were riding 3 or 4 across and talking and riding slow. Courtesy is if someone is coming up and says something like, “On your left'” people should move over and let them pass. This is often not the case, or at least not quick enough or with an attitude like it’s such a bother. If we all follow etiquette people won’t feel the need to be upset by slower riders. One slow rider isn’t an issue… but I’ve found that people who ride slow are usually in groups and riding side by side by side.

  3. Gee, Balthazar! I am very sorry to hear that you were treated so poorly by these ‘fast’ riders.
    It may not make you feel any better, but I can report from only my perspective as a 60 year old white woman and inexpert but frequent bike rider, that when I’ve taken my kids or grandkids on the bike paths anywhere in Madison, there is usually at least one person in a fancy tight spandex bike suit with the logos and special waterbottle holder, on an expensive bike with the ‘clip-in’ foot pedals to make you go faster, who seems terribly impatient that we amateurs are clogging up what they seem to consider their private pathway. Sometimes they give me a dirty look for ‘holding up traffic’ or riding two across, or they holler ‘On your left’ in a loud arrogant tone or some impatient comment or curse as they whizz by, scaring us to death.
    If these folks are the outliers, then we might be able to shine it on that there are a few a@holes in every sport, but if it seems to happen every time you are passed, something is really out of whack and may be racially motivated.
    What does the Bike Fed have to say about this type of cyclist? Have they done any outreach to biking clubs to educate them that they need to be patient with slower cyclists in town, and if they want to go really fast, they should stick to the trails far away from the city or even the back roads out in the county that have few cars? Of course, they report in the papers that they are cursed out by cars when they do that, or feel in danger of getting run off the road. It feels like civility is harder to come by everywhere these days.
    If it’s not too cold, I will come join you Nov. 18 and help you yell back at these people that think your group is too large and slow that they are out of line!

  4. I will say loud and clear that these trails are for ALL people. All uses, walkers, joggers, bikers, fast, slow. All! What is difficult is to manage a volume of people in a tight space safely. As my experience with bicycling grows, I’ve gone from casual rider, to commuter, from heavy, slow bicycle to fast carbon fiber. Yes, I also have changed my clothing from jeans to padded spandex. I clip into my pedals now, but didn’t always, certainly. The question I pose to all who will consider it. How do we best share the trail with courtesy and respect and understanding trail etiquette – for the sake of safety. I made plenty of mistakes along the way in this regard. Thankfully, with no crashes. When I was a slower rider, I’d WANT to chat with those riding with me, side by side. Going so slow, faster riders would catch me off guard… I was blocking traffic! I certainly didn’t mean to, but fast riders come up fast! Now, I do the same thing to others as a fast rider. How could I possibly avoid it? I strive for safety and respect for others, but coming up upon someone going much slower on the trail is truly dicey, particularly if I realize they don’t know I’m there. I commute to work as often as the weather permits. I know my route and how long it takes me. I’m going fast because it’s a thrill! While it often is on roads these days (and I’m fighting the bus down East Washington), I’m sometimes forced onto trails (or would like to increase safety by riding them). I adjust my speed slightly, and increase my caution, of course. But it can be quite awkward to announce “on your left” when going at speed time and time and time again. I have a pleasant bell with a tone carries quite a distance, but feel awkward ringing it because I’m not sure how others will interpret what it means. Long story short, bicycling style and fashion and speed evolve when one grows to love it. Yes, we need to be patient and courteous and WELCOMING to all who use the trails! My point is, that this courtesy and patience and understanding goes both ways. Avid cyclists typically don’t mean to be jerks. Be careful not to interpret clothing and speed and fancy bike as elitist. Perhaps one day you’ll be one, lol. I’m sorry you ran into a nasty, unwelcoming person.

  5. As a Latino Cyclist who once lived in the beautiful city of Madison, I am so happy that the Latino community is taking steps to break barriers of not having sports (cycling or any sport) be stereotyped exclusively for a particular ethnicity. Such a positive message for young kids (latino or not) to adopt cycling, which then ultimately leads to a healthier lifestyle. Keep riding!

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