Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Southwest Bike Path lighting -- I think the city means well, but I'm with the owls and other opponents on this one.
The city wants to put lights on the Southwest Bike Path between Breeze Terrace and the Beltline to improve safety on the path at night. It's a controversial proposal. Many neighbors and night-time users of the path see this as misguided meddling that would fail to accomplish its objectives, reduce dark sky visibilityand bikers' night vision and would drive off the owls that live in the neighborhood. I'm with the neighbors, bikers and owls on this one.
This is one of the test fixtures on the path between Glenway and Sheldon. The sign directs people to this web site about the project.. Opponents have put up a Facebook page called Owlpath (Outdoors Without Light Pollution Adulterating The Heavens). It includes a video of Silent Eddie, a barred owl that lives in a backyard on Gregory Street. There's also an interview with Silent Eddie, representing the entire owl community. And there's an excellent summary of Myths vs Facts regarding lighting the bike path.
Opponents face a an uphill public education challenge that involves taking on a widespread reflexive feeling that more light means more safety. The last time I looked, Madison.com's poll on the issue (bottom right of this page) shows a majority of responders favoring lighting the path. It's hard to convince people that more isn't always better when it comes to lighting. A lot of people really are afraid of the dark, even if they don't put it that way. And the "lighting industrial complex" has taken advantage of this to overlight American cities since World War II.
Have muggings taken place on Madison bike paths at night? Yes. Have accidents happened? Yes. Ironically, they've all happened on lighted paths in other parts of the city. This stretch of the Southwest Bike Path is the safest in the city at night, and the most beautiful. I'd love to see it stay that way.
If you'd like to find out more or speak out on the issue, a neighborhood meeting is being scheduled for Thursday, July 19, 2012 from 7 to 8:30 pm in the Anderson Auditorium of the Predolin Humanities Building at Edgewood College.