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Wisconsin town's proposed safety measures too extreme?

Road safety advocates are typically pleased when cities and towns enact measures designed to protect the people using streets and highways. But a Wisconsin town about 120 miles northeast of La Crosse has some worried that it's taking its safety concerns too far.

The town of Hull is currently considering restrictions on bicyclist and pedestrian use of its roads that some critics contend are an effective ban on biking and walking. Proponents of the restrictions say they'll cut down on car accidents in the town of approximately 6,000 people.

According to a local newspaper, the town's public safety committee last month recommended an ordinance "that requires biking, running or walking groups to register their travel plans with the town or bans them from using roads outright."

The newspaper article points out that according to county data, in the past 10 years the town of 32 square miles has had five crashes involving pedestrians and cars and one crash involving a bicycle and a car.

The town's chairman said there's more to consider than just statistics, however. He said the town regularly gets complaints from residents about "groups of people running down the middle of the road at night or taking up most of the road during the day."

Residents also complain about bicyclists riding on the wrong sides of streets.

The proposed ordinance is getting some attention among bicyclists nationwide, who widely consider the proposal to be little more than an illegal ban on biking and walking.

The newspaper article points out that if the proposal is enacted, it might be difficult to enforce. The town doesn't have its own police department; it relies instead on county officers to patrol its streets. County officers only enforce county and state laws, however. If the town enacts town-specific laws, it will have to enforce those laws itself.

We'll try to update you when the town makes its decision on the matter.

Source: Stevens Point Journal: "Hull discusses limits for bikes, pedestrians on town roads," B.C. Kowalski, Oct. 11, 2011

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