The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin received the comment below on their Facebook page as a result of posting Santa Rampage info:
Scrooge? No, just safety minded and looking for cyclists to not fuel the driver/cyclist fire. It was fueled as far as what I witnessed.”
First, I have to take issue with driving a car on the santa cycle rampage. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a bicycle in the winter, that is cool, but don’t drive along with 300 santas on bikes just to be part of it. Maybe drive to meet the group at one location, but don’t follow along. I also hope the person was not drinking and driving to each of the stops, because not only is that illegal, it could result in an innocent death.
Second, I did write a courtesy email to the police department again this year, as I did last year. Here it is:
The Santa’s will ride their bikes to spread holiday cheer this Saturday beginning at 10am at Cafe Hollander. I have attached a route map and schedule. This event started out small a few years ago, but has grown virally through modern networking like Facebook. Also, one of the Cafe owners has done some advertising to promote the event at his restaurant.
Last year there were about 200 Santas and the police squads were very cooperative and helpful. As usual, everyone will be directed to obey all traffic laws, the ride leaders will stop early at all yellow and red lights, and everyone will have maps and schedules, so santas need not worry about getting lost if the group gets split up. But I am afraid the herd instinct may result in a few Santas going through a red light or two if the lights change while the large group goes through an intersection.
The santas will not try to block traffic and will keep a move on to stay on schedule and not be in any one area for long. But some Santas do hand out presents and candy canes to kids along the way and this large a group of santas on bikes will likely cause some traffic delays through gawking and sheer numbers. In the spirit of the holiday season, a bit of understanding from the district police officers would be greatly appreciated. Of course the Santas will obey any direct instructions from police along the route.
Last year the we MPD squads escorted the santas along some of the route, especially at busy intersections. There were no problems last year and the police were wonderful. A couple of squads even broadcast Erich’s rolling FM Santa Station. This year there were no police despite the early warning. I guessed because we didn’t have any problems last year they decided to skip the event and look for real criminals.
This year I was stopped at a couple of red lights and some errant santas blatantly rolled through the red, which was uncool. I think it is OK to roll a red or stop sign once in a while as a large group, but when there is a natural break in the group and the signal turns, the group should stop. That said, even though there were some naughty santas, the vast majority of motorists who had to wait a bit seemed to enjoy the santa show, not get angry.
I did witness a bunch of santas rolling around the roundabout, heck I did it too. It only lasted a couple of minutes. But I did not see anyone breaking the law except one woman in a minivan who tried to squeeze in while the santas were rolling around. She should have waited a minute and she wouldn’t have been surrounded by happy rolling veloclauses. The rules of a roundabout require vehicles entering the circle to yield to those inside. Until the rolling santas cleared out or there was a safe gap, the van should have waited.
As to the number of over-served santas, that is a tough one and something that does worry me a bit. I try to keep the event schedule tight so people only have time to have one drink at each stop until the Concertina Bar, which is the end for a lot of santas. Of course some people use poor judgement and over do it a bit. I’m not a pure libertarian, but personal responsibility is something we can’t enforce. Santas need to drink and bike responsibly.
Until this comment, I had only heard one other negative from a first time santa on the ride who was also dismayed that some santas ran red lights. Other than those two bits of negative feedback I heard only positive comments about the ride from participants as well as bystanders along the route. Perhaps next year we can do a better job promoting lawful cycling and responsible drinking, but that won’t guarantee all the santas will comply.
What do you think?