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.

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