Cyclists react after officials say annual Ride the Drive event in jeopardy

ride the drive 2017.jpg
Ride The Drive 2017

MADISON, Wis. - Madison Parks held its ninth annual Ride the Drive event Sunday, allowing cyclists to roam John Nolen Drive free of cars, but the event's future is in jeopardy after a major sponsor pulled out.

Trek Bicycle has sponsored Ride the Drive for eight years, providing thousands of dollars in funding. The company donated $15,000 last year, covering half of the event's $30,000 bill.

To cut costs, the route was made a mile shorter and only included John Nolen Drive and a small stretch of North Shore Drive.

Cyclists said they hope the event is able to continue.

John Penner spent the morning riding with his daughters Fiona, 6, and Naomi, 4.

"It's just nice to be able to get out and actually have the kids ride without fear of being hit," John Penner said. "I mean the bike lanes are great, but they're small."

He said he wants his daughters to be able to experience Ride the Drive for years to come.

"We would be pretty sad if it disappeared," Penner said.

Other cyclists said losing Ride the Drive would hurt Madison's reputation as a bike-friendly city.

"We'd just lose social capital," Jay Eckleberry said.

"It's just a really great way to be involved with the community," Christine Yim said. "Taking away something like this might hinder it. That's one of the things I really like about Madison, is that we have these kinds of events."

In a statement, Trek spokesman Eric Bjorling explained the reasoning behind withdrawing sponsorship.

"We founded Ride the Drive with the city, invested heavily in it for the past eight years, and have worked to help build a sustainable event with a blueprint for success and felt it was the right time to hand it off to the city and pursue other local initiatives we've had plans for. It was never in the plans for Trek to be the sole sponsor of the event."

Madison Parks is waiting on the city's 2018 budget to go before the city Common Council to see if there is enough funding to host the event next year.