Friends, Cyclists, Bike Advocates! Lend me your ears…and your wheels!

Day two of Bike to Work Week Madison kicked off with the First Annual Community Commute – a group ride celebrating the choice to Go By Bike and featuring a who’s who of community leaders passionate about bicycling in the Madison Community.  The commuter caravan rolled out from the Allied Drive area of the South West Commuter Path and picked up the rest of the rush hour crew at the Glenway intersection to roll onward toward the Capitol Square.  We were quite the group, 30-some strong, pedaling down the local pathway, earning double-takes, friendly waves and hellos from drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who recognized familiar faces in our ranks.

We arrived at the Square to a warm welcome by Alterra Cafe and The Isthmus, plenty of morning refreshments, and a crowd of fellow commuters who made a point of stopping on their own route to work or play.  As I stepped up to introduce our featured guests, I felt a little like Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, and was tempted to announce “Friends, Cyclists, Bike Advocates, lend me your ears!”  Theatrics aside, the sea of smiling faces I looked out upon was indeed comprised of Friends, Cyclists and Bike Advocates.

I mean, what better way to spend the morning commute than with friends, new or old?  Friends share ideas: the Community Commute was geared toward starting the friendly conversation about how we can expand bicycling into every part of the city.  Our friends Michael Johnson from the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County and Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison are highly committed to this idea.  Friends keep each other accountable:  Michael and Kaleem made a very public commitment to bike more frequently and meet regularly to ride – a bold declaration!  But goals for riding, whether focused on our own health, the environment or bike advocacy, are so much easier to achieve with the support of a friend.  Or a hundred friends, like we had gathered on the Square yesterday morning!

The friends gathered yesterday were all Cyclists as well.  Whether we rode B-Cycles like Claire Hurley from Madison B-Cycle or Jessica Cork of Dream Bikes, or we were on a custom-built commuter bike like “Citizen Dave” Cieslewicz, who set a brisk pace for the commuter caravan.  Some of us were on our bike for the first time this season, dusting off some cobwebs and pumping up tires last minute.  Others had hundreds of miles under their belt from the previous few days.  Regardless of your rig, fitness level or gear, we are a strong Community of Cyclists, and Bike to Work Week is a great time to acknowledge and celebrate this simple fact.

And, while we may not realize it, the community of commuters are all Bike Advocates.  Whether it’s a “day job” for folks like Arthur Ross from the City of Madison, or Tom Klein, the Bike Fed’s new Dane County Director…or through work in his spare time organizing Madison Bike Winter like Aaron Crandall, or making a public commitment to cycle regularly, like Kaleem and Michael did …  Each ride we take demonstrates our passion about transportation choices, safe road use, sustainability and FUN.  I asked the crowd to thank they person next to them, whoever that may be, for doing his or her part to move bicycling forward in Madison, because we all work through each pedal stroke to do just that.

Our community commitment to bicycle advocacy was recognized at the conclusion of the Commute by State Representative Chris Taylor, who  – along with Representative Brett Hulsey, State Senators Fred Risser and Luther Olsen , graciously presented the Bike Fed with a legislative citation recognizing our work across the state of Wisconsin to date and their commitments as legislators to continue work to make every ride better and every community better through bicycling.  This acknowledgment belongs not only to the Wisconsin Bike Fed, but to everyone who geared up to join the commute yesterday, and everyone who gets out there for transportation, fitness and fun.  Thank you all.

Yesterday’s Community Commute started the conversation around how bicycling can empower the entire Madison and Dane County community moving forward.  We are grateful for everyone who came along, in particular the following friends, cyclists and advocates:

Claire Hurley and Brian Conger – Madison B-Cycle

Jamie Patrick – Madison Area Sports Commission

Dave Cieslewicz  – Former Mayor, City of Madison

Peter Gray – QTI Group and Wisconsin Bike Fed Board of Directors

Kaleem Caire, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison

Michael Johnson, CEO, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County

Jessica Cork, Dream Bikes

State Representative Chris Taylor

Janell Palmer – The Isthmus

Margaret, Casey and the Crew at Alterra Cafe

There are still plenty of ways to enjoy Bike to Work week in Madison and around the state, so get out there and Go By Bike, have fun, and enjoy the ride!

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