Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"We go from shock to trance. You know, oil prices go up, gas prices at the pump go up, everybody goes into a flurry of activity. And then the prices go back down and suddenly we act like it's not important...And, as a consequence, we never make any progress. It's part of the addiction, all right. That has to be broken. Now is the time to break it."-- Barack Obama, President-Elect

Now's your chance to tell President-Elect Obama and the incoming administration what you think should be done to improve our country's transportation system. Visit to submit your comments!

In addition, be sure to sign the Rails to Trails' petition to Obama. As the petitions states: "Add your name to this petition to President-elect Obama and key congressional leaders. Within days of President-elect Obama taking office, Congress will likely pass a new large-scale economic recovery package, aiming to create millions of jobs. A significant percentage of this package may be allocated specifically to transportation infrastructure. This presents both a threat and an opportunity.

"The threat: Unless we speak up, these transportation funds will go overwhelmingly to road projects -- the same unbalanced strategy that has created our existing transportation problems."

The opportunity: Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, in partnership with Thunderhead Alliance and America Bikes, has collected a list of hundreds of ready-to-go active transportation projects from communities across the country. These projects would create new jobs and revitalize communities by funding trails, bike lanes, sidewalks and other infrastructure."This would meet the ultimate goal of the recovery package: creating immediate jobs. Additionally, such an investment strategy would provide both immediate economic benefits and lasting positive change."

The long-term benefits are many: promoting local businesses along active transportation corridors; reducing health care costs; and curbing climate change emissions and oil dependency. These projects would also establish the principle that active transportation infrastructure is a wise, efficient and desirable public investment."

Visit to sign the petition and make your voice heard.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bicycle Federation Launches New Advocacy Initiative

Madison, WI; The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin (BFW) today announced a new advocacy initiative, aimed at making Wisconsin the most bicycle friendly state in America. Jack Hirt, Executive Director of the organization, said the BFW will unite cyclists in a statewide network to push for bike-friendly legislation at the state, regional and local levels.

"This is the time for Wisconsin to improve the safety of cyclists from Kenosha to Superior," Hirt said. He emphasized that increased bicycling will address major problems like gas prices, global warming and health concerns. "To increase bicycling we need to increase safety," Hirt explained. To do that, he said bike-friendly laws and law enforcement and safer places to bike are imperative.

The central focus of the BFW’s initiative is appointment of a statewide advocacy manager, who will develop a network of organized, informed and supported advocates throughout Wisconsin. Hirt explained that this network will provide grass-roots support for the BFW’s state legislative agenda. "And, in turn, the BFW will provide expertise and connections to support the regional and local bicycling advocates across the state," he said.

Hirt said his work as Executive Director of the BFW for the past two years has convinced him this is the time for cyclists in Wisconsin to join together to promote safe cycling for everybody – from people who bike to work to students riding to school and from mountain bikers to bike racers. Hirt said he is personally devoted to uniting cyclists and amplifying the voice of bicyclists in Wisconsin.

"I want to lead the charge," Hirt said. To do that, he has worked with the BFW’s Board of Directors to create the statewide advocacy manager position. At its inception, it will be a part-time position, directed at developing and expanding the advocacy network. Hirt has also requested assignment to that position. He explained, "I want to focus my work for the BFW on this major goal, and to do that, I will be moving from Executive Director to this new role."

Chick Veenstra, chair of the BFW’s Board of Directors, said Hirt has a proven record of success with the BFW. "We are confident Jack is the right person to take charge of this new initiative," Veenstra explained. According to Veenstra, Hirt is doing an outstanding job as Executive Director, and the BFW Board agreed with Hirt that it would be impossible to continue that level of work while taking on the added statewide advocacy networking responsibilities. Veenstra said the Board will launch a search for a new Executive Director, and until that position is filled, Hirt will continue to serve as Executive Director.

Veenstra pointed to the success of the BFW’s recent fund-raising event, the Saris Gala held in Madison at the Saris factory, as an example of how far the organization has come under Hirt’s direction during the past two years. The event has grown from producing revenue of $30,000 in 2006 to $60,000 in 2007 and $100,000 this year. It is now one of the largest fund-raising events by a bicycle organization.

As Hirt noted, the Saris Gala shows not only financial support for the BFW but also support for bicycle advocacy in Wisconsin. "Bicyclists have supported the BFW thru things like the Gala," Hirt said, "and the BFW will support bicyclists by increasing its grassroots advocacy work across the state."

Hirt and Veenstra noted that Wisconsin was recently named the second most bicycle friendly state in America by the League of American Bicyclists. The immediate goal of the BFW advocacy program, Hirt explained, will be to make Wisconsin the most bike friendly state. "By bringing cyclists across the state together in an organized advocacy effort, I am certain we can achieve that goal," Hirt said.

The Velorution Rolls Out at Ripon College

Ripon, WI; I hereby pledge to do my part to ease traffic congestion, limit fuel consumption and reduce pollution by not keeping a car or other motorized vehicle at Ripon College during the entirety of my first year, from August 23, 2008 through May 13, 2009. In exchange for this pledge, I accept the bicycle given to me by the College and will use it as my sole means of wheeled transportation on campus and within the Ripon community.

When Ripon College faced the challenge of limited campus parking, President David Joyce took an innovative approach to solving the problem; he started a Velorution. The Velorution, a bike incentive program, gives a free bike, helmet, lock and lights to any incoming freshmen that pledges to go car-free for their time on campus.

“For students, it’s a lifestyle choice. For Ripon College, it’s choosing sustainability over ease and convenience,” explains Joyce. As president of the college and an avid cyclist himself, Joyce was adamant against paving over any more greenspace on campus to make room for parking. For Joyce, offering free bikes seemed like a great way to both lure students off of their car dependence, and get them to experience first-hand the simple convenience of the bicycle.

“We obviously live in a car culture. That’s not about to change,” explains Joyce. “But if a significant number of students learn that a car isn’t a necessity at this stage of their lives, that’s good enough for us.” Joyce has already worked to encourage bicycling at Ripon College by introducing a varsity mountain biking team. The team coach, Ric Damm, worked closely with Joyce to set up the logistics of the program.

“We’re basically turning the tables on our car culture and trying to make a bike culture,” Damm explains when describing the purpose behind the Velorution program. In addition to giving away bikes, the college is working to make driving on campus less convenient. Major road projects are currently underway to transform two of the streets on campus into bicycle and pedestrian pathways.

In Ripon College’s case, what is good for the environment and student health is also good for the budget. “The entire cost of administering this program to date is roughly equal to the cost of three parking spaces in a multi-level garage,” explains Cody Pinksten from the Ripon staff, reflecting on the $50,000 that went into buying the bikes and setting up the program.

The program is good for the student’s budget as well. “I don’t want to waste money on gas for a car,” explained one student as he picked up his new bike. Nearly 60 percent of the three hundred incoming freshmen signed up to go car-free and get a bike. As they filed in to pick up their new bikes there was a buzz of excitement. “We’re getting free bikes for not bringing cars,” explained Nic Schaalma. “It’s pretty sweet!” While most students were excited about getting a bike, many were just as eager to use their bike to get fit and help the environment. “It’s just a way to do my part to help the environment,” explains Matt Maginns, a freshman who signed the pledge to go car-free.

Spreading the Velorution
Releasing 160 students on bicycles has obvious implications for the wider community of Ripon, and the program has already gotten community leaders talking about the need to accommodate the increase of bicyclists—outside of campus. “The Ripon City Council has been discussing the need to purchase bike racks,” explains Damm, who has seen many of the new students out on their bikes in the community.

“We really need to get a bike shop downtown,” describes Damm, expressing what he feels is a major obstacle to bicycling in the community. “We gave away these bikes, but a lot of students don’t know how to tune them up.” While getting a local bike shop and improving bike parking are great steps forward, ultimately what is needed is a comprehensive bike plan.

“Just like a land use or comprehensive plan, a bicycle plan serves as a guide to making a community a bicycle friendly place as the community undergoes new development or re-development and reconstruction,” explains Jack Hirt, Executive Director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. Eager to spread the Velorution to the wider community, Damm has been taking time out of his busy schedule to attend city meetings and advocate for improved bicycling infrastructure.

“At some point you have to hang your hat on something,” says Damm, when asked about the future of the free-bike program. Already the Velorution program is scheduled to continue next year. Starting a revolution is never easy work, but with over 160 students out in the community on new bikes, the Velorution is already in high gear.

Trek Stop: A Prototype 24-Hour Convenience Station for Bicyclists

Madison, WI: Located just off of the busy John Nolan bike path in Madison, the Trek Stop has gotten a lot of business, and—perhaps more importantly—it has turned a lot of heads. “I think it’s a great idea,” says a woman filling up her tires, here visiting from New York. “When can I get one in my neighborhood?”

Launched in July outside Machinery Row Bicycles in Madison, the Trek Stop is a convenience station for bicycles, and it has all the bells and whistles! Serving as a bicyclists’ vending machine, Trek Stop is stocked with everything a biker could need. Tubes, lube, energy bars, drinks, BFW maps, Ride Guides, and other cycling accessories— available at any time of day.

What sets the Trek Stop apart from any other vending machine is its free extra features. The bicycle convenience station is fully equipped with a covered and lighted bicycle work stand, air hoses for filling tires, video tutorials demonstrating bike repair basics, bike maps, and other bicycling resources.

“Auto drivers have lots of places to get fast service for their cars,” describes Rebecca Anderson, the advocacy director of Trek’s “1 World 2 Wheels” campaign. “The idea behind Trek Stop is to provide some of these same conveniences to bikers” The 24-hour vending machine expands customer access to high demand products, making it easier for bikers to get the things that they need, when they need it.

“It’s not about making a profit, but about building an infrastructure for bicyclists,” explains Michael Hammond, the design engineer behind Trek Stop. The machine is the culmination of a brainstorming session and a research study aimed at making bicycling easier for commuters and recreational riders.

The Trek Stop in Madison is currently only a prototype machine, but Hammond sees potential in the concept. “I envision Trek Stops being located at state trail heads and in urbanized areas along heavily traveled bike paths,” he describes. The Trek Stop can serve as a convenience station for mountain biking trailheads as well he says, explaining that it would be easy to “cater the product inventory to different rider groups.”

“We’ve got a lot of user feedback, and now it’s time to take a look at what we really need,” says Hammond, reporting on the prototype’s initial debut. He would like to see future Trek Stops made into environmentally friendly, low maintenance, cost-effective, and user friendly machines. “Now it’s about getting down the cost” so interested purchasers can afford it, he contends.

The Trek Stop will stay at Machinery Row Bicycles in Madison through “Trek World,” an annual Trek dealer’s convention in mid-August. Given the receptive public response in the local cycling community, many local cyclists hope that the bike-friendly prototype will become a permanent addition to the Madison community!
To find out more about Trek Stop and how long it will be in Madison contact Mike Hammond at .

Blufflands Trail System Expansion: Single Track Bliss Minutes from Downtown

LA CROSSE, WI - “What surrounds the community of La Crosse is a regional treasure,” explains Steve Carlyon, the Parks & Recreation Director of La Crosse. “In ten years, the vision would be to build connectivity between the Blufflands Trail System and the surrounding area so that you could go on a three to four day bike trip,” Carlyon describes. The Bluffland Trail System is a shared commitment between the City of La Crosse, the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, the Hixon Forest Nature Center, and Human Powered Trails, Inc. a non-profit organization that builds and maintains shared-use trails.

Human Powered Trails has already developed twelve miles of beautiful shared use trails, and has the potential to build many more miles of trail on the over 3,000 acres of bluff land awarded to the organization for trail development by the city of La Crosse. “They believe in what they’re doing, and they do it for the right reasons,” praises Carlyon. “They’re not just tearing up the land to build a bike trail; they know what they are doing and they are doing it well.”

But what sets the Bluffland Trail System apart from other trails in the state?

“The landscape and bluffs around La Crosse is very different than other trail areas in the Midwest,” explains Dan Luebke, the President of Human Powered Trails. “The trails here are like riding in the mountains without having to drive so far to get there,” he describes. “They have a little bit of everything including double-track fields to fast single track to super slow and technical downhills and climbs.”

Luebke has plenty to be excited about, and so do all Wisconsin bikers. Most recently Human Powered Trails has raised $40,000 in grant money to purchase a Ditch Witch, a machine used for trail building. This purchase will allow volunteers to build miles of trails in the coming years, and it is a big step forward for Human Powered Trails.

“We’ve always been a loose conglomeration of workers, but as we have developed we have built a stronger organization,” reflects Mike ‘Frenchy’ Charron, Vice President and long-time member of Human Powered Trails. He credits the strong commitment of volunteers for the organizations success. He recites the organization’s well known mantra, “If you used the trails today, thank a volunteer! If you want to use the trails tomorrow, become a volunteer!”

Human Powered Trails hosts a wide variety of activities. You can get involved with weekday and weekend trail building, MTB Time Trials, cookouts, Intro MTB Rides, Ladies Rides, Group Rides, and Trail Running. This year, Human Powered Trails will be hosting the 2008 Blufflands Epic Enduro Race on August 16 in conjunction with the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series (WEMS).

La Crosse is already a widely-recognized destination for outdoor recreation and Human Powered Trails is working hard to put the area on the map for its extensive off-road trail system.

For more information on Human Powered Trails, Inc. and the Blufflands Trails System, visit their website at