Bicyclist beats ticket; state law next target - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Bicyclist beats ticket; state law next target


Madison (WKOW) -- On the eve of a trial, Madison city officials dropped a case against bicyclist Linda Willsey, who was slapped with a $10 ticket while in a hospital room.

   "I feel personally vindicated,"  Willsey told 27 News.

   This summer, Willsey was hurt when someone opened her car door into Willsey's passing bicycle on a downtown Madison street.  

   As Willsey received hospital treatment for her injuries, a Madison police officer arrived and ticketed Willsey for riding within three feet of a parked car.

   Willsey refused to pay the citation, refused to accept any settlement offer, and pushed city officials to a trial.   Willsey claimed she was a safe distance from the parked car, and had to navigate between parked cars on one side and passing traffic on the other.

   Assistant city attorney Marcie Paulson told 27 News Willsey's case was dropped just before trial because a witness to what happened changed his story to support Willsey's version, and the car's driver was unavailable to appear in court.  

   "I won this round,"  Willsey said.   "But I want to make sure no bicyclist in a similar situation is ticketed."

   In September, Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts (D-Middleton) wrote to Madison city officials, cited Willsey's case and recommended the city consider changing its local ordinances to mirror what's been done in Chicago.

   In Chicago, motorists bear responsibility to avoid collisions with bicyclists:  (1) they must provide at least three feet clearance while passing bicyclists; (2) they cannot open a parked car's door into moving traffic, to avoid "dooring" a bicyclist; and (3) motorists must operate with "due care."

   "Due care is a good thing to have,"  Paulson told 27 News.

   "We've had situations where people have opened their car doors into another vehicle, and there's nothing that can be cited for that."

   Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) is planning to propose changes in state law to address this potential hazard to bicyclists.   But even some supporters said unique circumstances on rural roads may make municipal rule changes more likely.

   Despite being hit and hospitalized, Willsey has continued to commute to work by bicycle.

   Willsey said she rides closer to traffic than in the past.   "I'm not going to get 'doored' again."

   Willsey vowed to lobby for safety changes, even though she's now in the clear. 



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