Ride the Drive in Madison, WI: Bikers take to the streets


On Sunday, June 5, 2011, tens of thousands of cyclists are expected to take over the streets of downtown Madison, WI.

It’s not a conspiracy, or a Critical Mass ride, or a competitive event. It is simply a Sunday on which major thoroughfares are traveled by many, many vehicles…all of them having two wheels, and powered by lungs and legs.

The Madison Ride the Drive event has been held since 2009 and is modeled after similar rides held in cities around the world, from the Ciclova in Bogota, Columbia to Bike the Drive in Chicago.


In each case, municipalities coordinate closing streets to motorized traffic and invite cyclists to pedal with gusto.

And pedal they do.

On new bikes, old bikes, fast bikes, rusty bikes, tandems, unicycles, in costumes, and carrying boom boxes. The allure of being able to ride in large groups on roads that are free of car exhaust beckons to many bikers on a nice Sunday in June. The atmosphere is festive, with traffic noises amounting only to the click of gears, kids giggling, and the occasional spontaneous melody from street musicians.

Last year, Focal Flame Photography captured memories for one family participating in a City of Madison Ride the Drive event in August 2010. Parents Jo Ann and Doug rode with their young son, Cooper, who enjoyed a front-row seat of the Ride the Drive in a Burley trailer. Over 20,000 riders participated, many hoping to catch a glimpse of celebrity guest Lance Armstrong.

Cooper, however, was simply enjoying the ride. “Our goal was to get to the kid's bike decorating area,” said Jo Ann, describing one of the community activity areas. “I thought we'd avoid the Lance Armstrong crowd. Funny part was that 10 minutes after we got there, we find out that he's headed there to lead the kid's bike parade,” she laughed. “Everyone was looking for him - we all thought he'd be in yellow - he ends up being this guy in red in front of me who just got off his bike and started writing his name in chalk on ‘the drive.’”


Cooper was enchanted all the while. “The best part was riding the streets and having the whole road to cruise on and not be worried about traffic,” said Jo Ann. “It was a little crazy at times because of so many riders. But a good crazy.”

Cooper and his parents visited the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, made arts and crafts at booths staffed by Madison Sports and Recreation (MSCR) members, and adorned their bikes with streamers.

When asked about the highlights of the day, Jo Ann responded, “How cool it was to see SO many people on bikes and hanging out with friends on the Square. Plus the big grin on Cooper’s face while he was watching his pinwheel fly with him in his bike trailer. And thanks to Clint we have shots of it!!!”

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