Trek: Wisconsin Bike Summit Shifts into High Gear

2009/05/01

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(Madison, WI) The 2009 Wisconsin Bike Summit drew hundreds of enthusiastic cycling supporters to the state capitol this week, as industry leaders and advocates from across the state gathered to discuss the future of bicycle infrastructure in Wisconsin and to lobby for pro-cycling legislation and funds.

Organized by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, the Summit began Monday afternoon as over 450 participants convened downtown at the Madison Concourse Hotel. “This Summit is not just a Madison event, but a statewide event that includes all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties,” said former Dean of Students of the University of Wisconsin, avid cyclist, and civic leader Mary Rouse during her opening remarks.

Leaders of various cycling advocacy groups, including League of American Bicyclists Executive Director Andy Clarke, Bikes Belong Coalition Executive Director Tim Blumenthal, and Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin Executive Director Kevin Hardman, along with Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Trek Bicycle President John Burke, each presented to the standing-room only ballroom where the dress code included both business suits and Lycra.

“A city that’s good to bike in is a city that’s good to live in,” said Cieslewicz as he laid out goals for the capitol city, including two “shovel-ready” bicycle projects set to begin soon with the help of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Mayor also discussed his commitment to raise Madison’s Bicycle Friendly City rating from Gold-level to the League of American Bicyclists highest level, Platinum.

“Together, I believe that by 2025 we can transform Wisconsin, its cities and its towns, into one of the world’s greatest places to be on a bike,” remarked Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman, who listed many of Wisconsin’s assets, including existing trail networks, dedicated cycling retailers and manufacturers, committed individuals and organizations, and bicycle friendly communities before challenging Summit participants to join together in advocacy groups and commit to better organization and action.

League of American Bicyclists Director Andy Clarke emphasized the relative simplicity and logic of increasing bicycle infrastructure and funding, while Bikes Belong’s Tim Blumenthal stressed the importance of engaging non-cyclists by proving cycling’s value and exercising “bike-partisanship” when lobbying for bicycle friendly legislation.

“The world is run by those who show up,” remarked Trek’s John Burke as he thanked the audience for their attendance and participation in the event. Burke then encouraged those in attendance to take action during Tuesday’s lobbying event and in the future. “Don’t under estimate the power of phone calls and short notes.”

Tuesday’s lobbing event began with an educational “Lobbying 101” presentation at the Monona Terrace. Afterwards, over 220 constituents walked and biked to the capitol to meet with their representatives. Harman and State Representative Spencer Black (D-Madison) both offered pointers for speaking with and soliciting support from representatives while laying out three major points to stress upon legislators.

The first was to ask legislators to push for an end to raids on Federal Transportation dollars originally allocated for bicycle infrastructure and maintenance and to commit to raising Wisconsin’s allocation of Federal Transportation funds for new bike infrastructure and maintenance from the current 1.4% to 3%.

"If you look at neighboring states like Minnesota, we actually have half of the funds," said David Vogt of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. "Even though bike and pedestrian trips make up 9% of all trips in Wisconsin, we have only 1.4% of our transportation dollars being spent on them."

Legislators were also asked to support Complete Streets legislation that requires bicycle and pedestrian accommodations be incorporated into state and federally-funded road projects and to support the “car-dooring” legislation up for a vote later in the day. This bill, which was passed by the Senate and Assembly Tuesday afternoon, requires drivers and passengers to look for other traffic (bicycles, motorcycles, and cars) before opening a door into a roadway.

While Monday’s Summit and Tuesday’s lobbying sessions represented an unprecedented level of organization and support for cycling in Wisconsin, there’s still work to do. “We need more support and organization from our up-state colleagues,” remarked State Senator Mark Miller (D-Madison) during a talk with local constituents. Hardman and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin promise that next year’s Summit won’t disappoint Miller or other Wisconsin cycling advocates.