A Black Eye for Wisconsin Bicycling

Click image to read the full report.

Once Wisconsin was a national leader in bicycling with the most miles of trails and ranked second best state overall for bicycling by The League of American Bicyclists in their Bicycle Friendly State rating system. In the ten years that the LAB has been ranking bicycle-friendly states, Wisconsin has fallen from 2nd place to an embarrassing #25 in this year’s Bicycle Friendly State Progress Reports. Today both Minnesota and Michigan have hundreds of miles more trails and Pennsylvania is poised to have more than Wisconsin soon.

For a state that is home to much of our national bicycle industry (Answer, Bontrager, Borah Teamwear, Hayes, Fyxation, GT, Manitou, Mongoose, Pacific, Planet Bike, Sun Ringle, Trek, Wheelsmith, and Waterford Precision Cycle), the fall from grace is a real black eye.

  • the diversion of 50% of Transportation Alternative Projects funds (TAP) to highway projects
  •  the repeal of Complete Streets
  •  the inability to use Eminent Domain for bicycle infrastructure
  •  the change rules of  federal funding which has eliminated the funding for safety education

We can do better!

On average most states spend about 80% of their federal Transportation Alternatives Program funds on non-motorized projects. Our neighbors spend Michigan and Minnesotsa spend even more. Wisconsin only spends 50%.

The Wisconsin Bike Fed is working to restore our Bicycle Friendly status because we believe Wisconsin is still a great place to ride a bicycle. Recently, the Bike Fed staff, board member Steve Arnold and staff from the Rails to Trails Conservancy were in Madison to discuss these issues with incoming Governor Evers’ staff and staff for 27 legislators. We will continue to meet with our state leaders to try to get cycling back on track here.

But we can use your help.  Please make a donation to our Safe Streets campaign to allow us to continue to provide education in communities throughout the state. Over the last eight years, we have taught 982 classes, attended 1,541 community events, reached 228,880 people with safety messages in person and millions more on social and broadcast media.

Donate Now »

Our statewide safety education and encouragement program to make walking and biking safer needs your support. Our goal is to raise $100,000 to continue this important work. Any donation helps. We can reach our goal quickly if 1,000 people donate $100 each for safety. Thanks to those of you who have already donated $1,025 dollars to our Safe Streets Wisconsin Campaign, but we have a long way to go.

We are tracking where people are from who donate to our Safe Streets Wisconsin campaign and we will do our best to reinvest your donation to improve the area where you live and ride.

Please donate to this effective program that improves safety for all of us.

If you are one of many people who has been passed too closely by a car, been honked at for trying to cross the street in a crosswalk, or frustrated by scofflaws who give all bicyclists a bad reputation, here is your chance to take some action and make a difference!

We need community support to be able to support your community.  Make a donation today.

Click the image to find out more about how your donation can improve safety and help get Wisconsin cycling back in the race.

About Carolyn Dvorak, La Crosse Ambassador

Carolyn lives in La Crosse with her husband and two daughters. She has loved riding a bicycle throughout her life. She enjoys working in the La Crosse area helping to create great places to bicycle.

6 thoughts on “A Black Eye for Wisconsin Bicycling

    • BOTH! You are totally right Nick. As the statewide advocacy group, we must take some responsibility for not making a better case for cycling, despite the winds of politics.

      I think our new Advocacy 2.0 plan that we unveiled at the State Bike Summit is the first step toward more effectively making the case why cycling is good for Wisconsin. We also have some pretty compelling arguments in that while we divert 50% of our federal TAP funds to highways and our neighbors spend almost all of theirs on non-motorized projects, our state gas tax is higher and our roads are rated in far worse condition. So this diversion of funds has done nothing to reduce our taxes or improve our roads, but it has given the home to our nation’s bicycle industry a black eye.

      But black eyes heal, and while we have fallen off the front, we are not out of the race. I honestly think Advocacy 2.0 is a good plan to move cycling forward in Wisconsin again.

      • Dave - Thank you for your honesty. I think this ranking should be a huge wake up call to the bike fed. I was a member for years and stopped being a member when I saw how ineffective the group was. I’m not trying to be a jerk, just stating my perception. And sometimes perception is everything. Hopefully the bike fed can use this opportunity to regroup and actually start to make a difference. If that happens, I would gladly rejoin.

        • Thanks for reading and writing Francis. The Bike Fed has had periods where we were very effective on legislative/budget issues and periods where we were not. I would argue that the last 8-10 years the Bike Fed staff have done great programmatic work, directly educating thousands of adults and kids about how to ride legally and safely. We have also published a great magazine to promote riding in Wisconsin and created a handful of unique events that thousands of people enjoy participating in. During that time we have also passed the 3ft passing rule, and some other updated laws to make blinky lights legal and hand signals sensible.

          We have though failed to organize statewide advocates so we speak with an effective, collective, geographically diverse and bipartisan voice. Because of that, we have lost on issues around funding for facilities. We really do think that our new Advocacy 2.0 strategy is the remedy.

          • I don’t mean to demean the thoughtful question and answer, but we cannot forget the the last years have been 100% headwinds with a Republican administration and representatives that range anywhere from ambivalent to hostile to bicycling. An improved plan and advocacy is absolutely needed, but this outcome was entirely predicted the day Walker, Vos and Fitz took over.

          • I understand your argument, but I would point to our neighbors in Michigan, who have mirrored our state politics for the last 8 years. Their Republican governor and legislature have been very supportive of trails. So I can’t put the blame on politics, even if it gets the Bike Fed off the hook. That is why I always point out both Michigan and Minnesota outspend us on trails but also have lower state gas taxes and their roads are rated in better condition. If they can do it, so can we.

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