State Budget: The Reason We Need to be 20,000 Strong

Wisconsin Bike Fed

The state budget is now law and biking took a big hit.

But before I give you the bad news let me send out a big thank you to everyone who contacted their legislators over this long process. It was worth it. You made a difference. We beat back the bike tax and helped restore funding to trail development under the state Stewardship Fund

Now for the bad news. We were not able to restore the $2 million cut to Transportation Alternative funding or save Complete Streets.

In the case of TAP, $14 million in federal funding remains, which is something, but it is the minimum amount of federal money the state could allocate.

In the case of Complete Streets we were able to get some improvement over the governor’s proposal for complete repeal. The state senate, under the leadership of Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) applied the federal language requiring “due consideration” of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations to state funded projects. Unfortunately, in the bargaining with the Assembly additional language was added that requires local governments to authorize these installations. That’s a big step back and we’ll have work with the state Department of Transportation to figure out how to make that work.

There are two take away messages from this experience.

The first is that we need to step back and work more intensively with local governments. Counties, cities, villages and towns are filled with public spirited and practical leaders. They just want to get things done and there is far less partisanship and ideological posturing then we see in the legislature. And besides, it’s local government that fills the potholes, fixes the creases and builds the bike paths that we all use. In the weeks to come we’ll be developing and outlining details on how we move forward with a Local First agenda.

The second lesson is something you can help with right now: we need to get bigger. Our voice, while already effective, just needs to get much louder. If the Bike Fed had, say, 20,000 members rather than 5,000 would we have lost Complete Streets? I don’t think so.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Sign up for the Ride Across Wisconsin or get your friends or fellow bike club or team members to sign up. Everyone who rides will get a Bike Fed membership automatically.

  • Don’t know anyone who might want to ride 175 miles in one day? We understand. So, how about inviting your friends to the Polish Moon Ride on Friday, July 31st? This Milwaukee ride takes place in the evening and it’s the coolest thing ever with Mexican and Polish food and beer (to celebrate the heritage of the near southside) and a family-friendly jaunt around the neighborhoods. A small entry fee helps fund our work and if people like what they see they can become full-fledged Bike Fed members for only $35.

  • Or just get your family and friends to join us. Use your social media contacts to essentially say that “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore” or, if you’re inclined to be less militant, “we need to do better and you can help.”

Look, state government sent us some lemons this budget. It’s up to us to make lemonade.

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About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

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