February hosted the Wisconsin Bike Summit held at Inn on the Park. I have attended this event for the past two years after learning more about it in 2010 at the Wisconsin Bicycle Tour Directors conference and then speaking at the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association when the event was held in Madison. At that time, Trek Bicycle president John Burke, told attendees that should take the time to attend their state bike summits and the National Bike Summit if they wanted to make a difference for biking in their communities. I took his statement to heart.
Goals for the Wisconsin Bike Summit
My goal was to meet other county and township bicycle route planning leaders who were working on active projects. Especially those mapping routes to benefit eco-tourism in their rural communities. I went as a representative from the Town of West Point as I sit on the Outdoor Open Space and Natural Area Committee. I also represented the Columbia County Silent Sport Trail Committee that I have been working on for a year in a volunteer capacity.
Biking in Columbia County
In the Scenic Lodi Valley, two committees are helping to make biking better.
The West Point Outdoor Open Space and Natural Area Committee worked on a plan for conserving and using our open space wisely in West Point Township. This includes plans for routes via bike, foot, water as well as playgrounds, prairie plantings, sports fields, and preserving lands that are significant agriculture lands or open space like Gibraltar Rock in Richmond Memorial Park and the Ice Age Trail. West Point is the gateway from Madison to Devil’s Lake to the north, Sauk Prairie Riverway to the west, the Arlington Prairie to the east, and the Fox Wisconsin Heritage Parkway to the North East. We need to maximize the benefit our scenic beauty has to draw tourists to visit and this includes biking. We encourage communication between our adjacent neighbors for connecting trails and routes for public enjoyment.
The Columbia County Silent Sports Trail Committee was created around the idea of eco-tourism for Columbia county and biking initially. With US Bike route 30 tagged to come through Devils Lake, across the Merrimac Ferry, through to Lodi on its way to Middleton – Madison and finally Milwaukee, we wanted to be positioned to show bikers and their e-tourism dollars that Columbia County has much to offer. Although USBR 30 only includes 10-14 miles in Columbia County, it is very important to all of Columbia County since connecting routes to campgrounds, restaurants, and shops need to be well defined. Personally I am working on mapping routes and posting them on Mapmyride.com so they can be viewed by the public. I have recently spoken at the Wisconsin Counties Association Annual Meeting to present my activities on this project.
I was impressed by the passion and activism of the community leaders, bike store owners, product companies and tour directors. I felt that I, as recreational rider, needed to be more involved. While 2011 gave us a snow coasted Capital Building to trudge through, February 21, 2012 was a gorgeous day for meeting. The day consisted of a combination of education on funding, planning, infrastructure and lobbying.
One of the more interesting meetings was the Wisconsin Ped and Pedal Network. It’s a new networking group, bringing together public health, WI Department of Transportation, Safe routes to School and local bike/pedestrian supporters to improve community health and the built environment. They hold interactive discussions monthly via phone conference calls.
I attended sessions on Bicycle Advocacy Best Practices and Bicycle Facilities: Basics of Building Bicycle Infrastructure. Both were informative and well attended. Then after a reminder session on proper etiquette for meeting with elected officials and a review of the requests we were making, I headed to the Capitol. The Trek Bicycle and Saris representatives were a pleasure to meet as they really live what they do for work. I was happy to let them lead the discussion and add my additional comments.
The legislative asks for this year were support for the Vulnerable User Law and help in creating a dedicated and consistent funding source for bicycle infrastructure. Senator Mark Miller was tied up in session on this day, but we met with his assistant who is also a biker and held our discussion. Next was Rep Keith Ripp with a good discussion since as an area farmer, he understands the risks to slower moving traffic on the roadways.
Vulnerable User Legislation – SB431 Motorists who injure or kill vulnerable roadway users often are only charged for a minor offense. This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, farm implement operators, motorcyclists, people in animal drawn vehicles emergency responders and a few other groups. This law would protest and appropriately and fairly punish those who harm through reckless or careless behavior.
State Bicycle Funding – bicycling should be taken into account for all transportation projects as it’s a critical piece of the transportation network. Wisconsin lacks a consistent and dedicated funding source for bicycle infrastructure projects. In fact bicycle projects create more jobs per million dollars spent than roadway projects do. The legislature needs to develop a way to fund so that we can continue to build out bike transportation infrastructure in our state.
It is important to note that congressman Tom Petri won a Hero Award for his commitment to biking in the State. We need more senators and representatives like him to make it successful.
Key Facts Learned
According to research data supplied by the Wisconsin Bike Federation (bfw.org)
Bicycling contributes $1.5 Billion annually and 13,200 jobs to Wisconsin’s Economy
(source: “Valuing Bicycling’s Economic and Health Impacts in Wisconsin” – The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies)
- Industry – Wisconsin has the reputation of being a national leader in the bicycling industry with 9 major companies including Trek bicycles, Pacific Cycle, and Waterford Precision Cycles. In addition, over 200 bicycle-related business find a home in our state.
- Tourism – visitors from outside the state spend $535 million on Wisconsin bicycling annually.
- Recreation – 49% of Wisconsin residents report bicycling for recreation
- Events – there are over 300 bike related events including bike tours, races and triathlons in Wisconsin that bring thousands of tourist from around the world.
- Health – The average bicyclist loses 13 pounds the first year of commuting. Just 3 hours of bicycling weekly can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%
- Wisconsin is ranked as the 3rd most bicycle –friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists.
If you enjoy biking and want to support biking in Wisconsin, consider joining the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation (www.bfw.og) to make your voice heard. Even better, consider joining me next year at the February 2013 Wisconsin Bike Summit.
- Wisconsin Bike Federation Summit 2012 – BFW.org � wendysoucie � Storify (networkmindshare.blogspot.com)
- Wisconsin Bicycle Summit set for February 21st in Madison! (lodivalleynews.com)
- Bicycle Benefits Program Rewards Pedal-Powered Customers (triplepundit.com)