On Thursday, May 4th the Wisconsin Bike Fed will be hosting the State Bike Summit in Milwaukee for the first time since the 1990s. Most years of over the last decade or so the State Bike Summit has been tied to lobby efforts, so has been held in Madison to make it easy to walk to the State Capitol Building. The last couple years we have held a separate Lobby Day in Madison to allow us to move the State Bike Summit to different communities around the state in the hopes of attracting a wider audience. Last year the Summit was in La Crosse, and two years ago it was in Appleton. Yesterday we held a separate Lobby Day in Madison, which allows us to hold the Summit in Milwaukee this year.
The Bike Summits is also a way to recognize the infrastructure improvements for cycling that have been made in our host communities and for visitors from other parts of the state to take those lessons home to their communities. Milwaukee certainly has much to be proud of. If you are a visitor who has not ridden in Milwaukee recently, be sure to take a ride on one of the bikes in the ever expanding Bublr Bikeshare system. A trip across the “Marsupial Bridge” is also a must-see, as is a ride on Wisconsin’s only raised bike lane on Bay Street. Get to those via the more than 100 miles of regular and buffered bike lanes and our burgeoning municipal trail network.
While Milwaukee certainly has much to be proud of, local advocates attending the Summit should use this as an opportunity to attend sessions about next generation bikeways like protected lanes, neighborhood greenways, safe street networks, and and new intersection treatments to help encourage our leaders to keep up with our peer cities where these facilities are already on the ground and more are being constructed as you read this post.
Milwaukee also has a number of groups working on improving equity in cycling, so Milwaukee is an ideal place to feature an equity focus in this year’s Bike Summit. If you are interested in those issues, be sure to connect with any of the members from Red Bike & Green, Black Girls Do Bike, Cadence, The Velo Femmes, etc. Despite not being labeled “Equity Programs,” our core and most effective Bike Fed programs like Safe Routes to School, Valid Bike Shop and our Mobile Bike Repair do serve a very diverse population, so the Summit is a good opportunity to learn about what is working and where we really have more work to do.
While Milwaukee does have a lot to crow about, local riders have been been impatient with progress on things like protected bike lanes. It feels like we are still falling behind as new protected bike lanes and bicycle boulevards spring up all the time in cities across the country, from big cities New York and Chicago to peer cities like Indianapolis and Minneapolis. With groups like the Path to Platinum and the Bike Fed leading the charge for safer streets coupled with the unfortunate claim of being a city known for its inequities, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for a Bike Summit focused on bike equity issues.
With our largest office in the City of Milwaukee, we frequently hear from residents about their desire for protected bike lanes, bike boulevards (neighborhood greenways), and a more tolerant driver culture. These demands are also represented in Path to Platinum’s recent survey. Respondents chose protected bike lanes (88%) as the most desired improvement and neighborhood greenways (73%) as a means to provide low-stress slow-speed routes. 64% identified bad drivers as a barrier to cycling. These serious yet manageable barriers will be addressed by several presenters that are veteran changemakers in their respective fields.
If you are one of those who participated in that survey and feel Milwaukee is falling behind the 82 cities in 34 states that are expanding their network of protected lanes, you should take a vacation day from work and come to the Bike Summit. Tom Barrett, the Mayor of Milwaukee, will be our featured guest speaker, and seeing a large contingent of Milwaukee residents at the Summit will help raise the priority for next generation bikeways in the 414.
While there are extra reasons for Milwaukee Residents to show up at the State Bike Summit, we have assembled an impressive list of speakers for a diverse agenda of sessions that should appeal to everyone from around the state. The session on state funding for trail projects led by Brigit Brown and Tanya Iverson of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources should appeal to everyone. The session on small town and rural bike networks led by Tom Gustafson of Alta Planning + Design should interest out-state residents. To see a list of all the great sessions, check out the schedule here.
A full day of advocacy, equity, and cycling
Join us Thursday, May 4th in Milwaukee at the UWM School of Continuing Education. This year’s Summit will cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on bicycle equity.
- Plenary Speaker Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is leading the charge to make Milwaukee the second platinum-rated Bicycle Friendly City in Wisconsin.
- Melody Hoffman, Ph.D, author of Bike Lanes are White Lanes, will discuss the increasing number of cyclists of color and why planners should shift their exclusive focus away from white, upwardly mobile bicyclists.
- Rob Henken, president of the Public Policy Forum will provide historical context on transportation policy issues and what our new administration plans for the future of transportation.
- Anthony Taylor, founding member of Major Taylor Cycling Club of MN and National Brotherhood of Cyclists, will lead an interactive journey that will provide participants with the insight to better understand and create a shared definition of Equity. The workshop will challenge participants to make Equity and the creation of Equitable outcomes the foundation of their advocacy work in active transportation and community development.