Do I really want to go there?

If the traffic had grown as people predicted in the sixties, when many of our roads were originally widened, we would all be driving cars like the Jetsons, not horses and buggies.

I recently put the truth-o-meter to the first comment under an Off the Couch post about the critical mass riders over the Hoan Bridge. Well today Tom forwarded me another completely “Pants on fire” comment from his recent Off the Couch post about the protest ride over the Hoan Bridge.  Get ready, this one is a doozy:

Actually it’s far more than “2 lines”. Again, I’m a city person. Our roads are poured concrete, around 10-12″ thick (B) with an asphalt cap. That includes the bike lanes, they’re about 4′ wide with the stripes (A). The real cost to road projects as always is the labor(D). It costs the same to build a bike lane as it does a standard lane.(E) On National Ave. and Bluemound Road the added bike lanes actually took away from vehicle lanes.(C) Certainly not my idea of progress, what’s next, removing the car/truck lanes totally to make room for horse & buggies?

Do these trolls think if they just make something up, say it with authority and get it published in the comments section it become true?  Deconstructing this comment I will attempt to get to the truth:

(A) Including the width of the stripes, bike lanes are 5 feet to 6 feet wide,  next to parking.

(B) Bluemound Road in the area under discussion, like most other reconstruction projects, is 8″ thick concrete on an aggregate base, and there is no asphalt “cap.” Roads with more heavy truck traffic can be 10″ thick.  Roads are often later resurfaced with asphalt once or twice before they are redone in concrete because it is cheaper in the short run than to do a full reconstruct in concrete first thing.

(C) National Ave does not have bike lanes.  Bluemound is 48 ft-50 ft wide with 2 11 ft -12 ft motor vehicle travel lanes, two 5 ft bike lanes and two 8 ft parking lanes.  We did not remove a travel lane.  We did not widen the road to add the bike lanes,  all we did was add the bike lane lines to delineate space that was always there as a wide parking lane.

(D) Road projects are about 30% engineering and 70% construction.  Construction projects are bid out with quantities that include labor, so it is difficult to separate the two costs on a particular project.  But larger scope studies of construction projects in the US have found labor costs can vary between 20% to 40% of construction and on rare occasion equal the cost of materials.

(E) Bike lanes cost the City $.02 per linear foot to paint with our City forces, including wages and benefits.  Since there are typically four bike lane lines on a two-way road, that averages to $422 per mile, a lot less than a mile of urban freeway, which cost $4.9 million to $19.5 million per lane mile.  The number varies quite a bit depending if there are bridges or interchanges. 

The City of Milwaukee spends about $25,000 per year of its $70 million DPW annual budget to maintain bike lanes.  Bicycles are a cheap date.

Many of our roads were constructed 30 years ago to a width that would accommodate future traffic projections.  Traffic volumes have remained flat or gone down over the last decade, so we are on occasion able to be fiscally responsible and narrow some of our City roads that have more capacity than needed.  We do this when we can to reduce future maintenance costs and the amount of runoff we have to treat.

OK, now that I have refuted another baseless claim, do I really want to keep doing this?  I don’t have enough time after work to keep up with all the crazy statements in the comment section of the Journal Sentinel.  Until they actually require people to register with their name and email address, I suggest you do what I do: read the articles for the facts and skip the false sense of democracy promulgated in comments section.

What do you think, should I continue to refute crazy comments from trolls in jsonline or let it go?


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Bicycle Funding, Bike facilities. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Do I really want to go there?

  1. Dave Steele says:

    After banging my head against the wall reading the ignorant drivel on the JSOnline talkback forums, I made the decision to avoid reading comments altogether. Occasionally I will click on the comments with the same sense of macabre curiosity I would have while gawking at a train wreck – sometimes you click on it just to see how bad it can get.

    JSOnline really should do something to clean up the gutter that is their comments section. The Talkbacks are really starting to drag the entire website down.

    Thanks to technology, the general public now has access to every ignorant comment that once would have been confined to people’s living rooms or family get togethers. It’s too bad because allowing people to comment anonymously can lead to some valuable observations that people understandably want to keep anonymous. But I don’t think the benefits of anonymous posting really are worth it.

    No one I know admits to posting on the Talkbacks, and relatively few people I know really read them. So I wonder just how wide the audience is for this garbage.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Dave I try to stop myself from reading the comments, but sometimes I just get drawn in.

  3. if you spend your valuable time refuting foolish statements maybe “they” win as “they” occupy your time. you do much better work by doing what you do, spreading the word of transportation bicycling. my two euro’s worth. but, as to the hoan ride… did nothing to advance the cause and probably set it back which is ok as i think pushing for a hoan bike path uses up political capital. having said that i may have done the ride at their age as i “didn’t know no better” – now i do.

  4. CK says:

    I would leave the trolls to themselves Dave – nobody with a brain takes anything seriously in the comment section of JSOnline.

    If they wanted to clean it up, they could limit responses to only people who actually have a subscription to the paper and display the person’s full name / city of residence OR allow people to post by commenting through Facebook.

  5. Sam Dodge says:

    Every once in a while it’s worth the effort to refute misinformation (and in the process educate your readers), but it’s mostly a lost cause. Those people saying those things won’t listen to anything you’re saying, even if you have all the proof in the world. They’re the same people who tell their doctors they are wrong because they once read something different on some random internet forum or saw a late-night tv show. They don’t want the truth and they wouldn’t recognize it if it hit them in the face.

  6. Ronsta says:

    Dave, great insight to these points, but I agree, don’t waste time refuting every ignorant comment. I pretty much refrain from reading the JS comments now.

    Keep up the good work on this site, its much more positive and constructive.

  7. Bill Sell says:

    For transit trolls we have pulled together an “A-Team” – about a dozen willing writers, which spreads the duty around. Our goal is not to refute numbers unless we have them, but to compose reasoned statement with what we do know and hope that independent minded readers will gravitate from the loud to the reasoned. I know life is not always like that, but I believe we have made something of an impact on the trolls, or maybe have added another kind of voice to that loud party.

  8. Mike says:

    Dave, I think you’ve answered your own question when you referred to the people leaving JS comments as trolls.

    Keep your reactions focused on the content of the actual articles. Don’t waste your time getting into a pissing match with trolls in the comments section. If you want to rebut an article, you have the resources and knowledge to do so rationally with fact and logic. Do so by submitting your own editorial or submit an article. Stay out of the comments.

    You are the true champion of the Milwaukee cycling community. Your voice would best serve the Milwaukee bicycle community in thoughtful, well researched and reasoned articles. If JS will publish your articles, bravo to them. If not, publish here on the blog. But wasting your time and energy responding to trolls is foolish and without reward.

  9. still rollin says:

    I would only respond to legitimate articles written by legit reporters and vetted by an editor. If a mistake makes it past the editor you should refute.

  10. D'nardo says:

    You Libs and your “reasonable dialogues” can all go take a hike. This great country was founded on the right to bare arms and shoot one’s mouth. Bikes are for people with legs and feet which accounts for only 1% of the US population.

    Why don’t you just give up your silly crusade and do what I do – whatever Charlie Sykes tells me to do?

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