Friday, December 17, 2010

Madison Bike Winter Events

A group of Madison bike supporters have created a series of events, Madison Bike Winter, to help all of us hop on our bikes a bit more this winter. The next Bike Winter event is tomorrow! Don’t miss it…

Santa Rampage/Ugly Sweater Ride

Saturday, December 18, 11am

Starting from Espresso Royale (650 State)

This ride is planned for participants to either break out their Santa suits or a favorite UGLY sweater and go for a short ride from downtown stopping a various establishments for hot/cold beverages along the way.

Bike Fed Member, Mindy Preston, provides a recap from the last Madison Bike Winter Event.

Madison’s first annual Bike Winter Fashion Show was a dazzling event, even after the models removed their reflective jackets, safety vests, and blinking lights. Ten models gathered to show off what keeps them warm on their winter rides, which ranged from 20 minute commutes around campus to hours-long snow endurance races. Whether models were showing off base layers, rain pants, goggles, or their work attire, all agreed that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to ride your bicycle in the winter.

Event models began by talking about their full riding ensembles. Outer layers – for keeping out snow, wind, and slush – often had reflective elements as well, for additional safety. Beneath that, cyclists showed an astounding variety of warmth layers, ranging from layers of normal street clothes to high-tech sport-specific gear. Many models demonstrated layering vests and scarves over shirts to keep the core as warm as possible. Most wore “base layers” (also known as “long underwear”) made of wool or synthetic materials, as wet cotton feels very cold next to the skin.

Cyclists shared a number of strategies for keeping the weather off sensitive skin, and staying comfortable even in the coldest temperatures. Liners, mittens, lobster gloves, and bar mitts all had their time in the limelight. Models suggested covering faces and ears with balaclavas, scarves, masks, goggles, hats, and helmet covers.

Audience members included seasoned cyclists, prospective winter cyclists, and folks new to the upper Midwest’s temperature extremes. ”It seems very possible to ride in winter,” a prospective rider commented after the show. “If you ride the bus or walk in the winter, you probably have all the gear you need,” another said. Madison Bike Winter’s organizers agree, and welcome new winter riders to join the Madison Bike Winter group on Facebook to hear about fun winter cycling events.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What biking season?

I usually get annoyed when the bike racks on State Street, near the Bike Fed's Madison office, are full and it's hard to cram mine in. But yesterday I had a different reaction.

I went to State Street after work to visit an art exhibits and found this situation at the rack closest to my destination:

Although it took a little extra effort to lock up my bike, my reaction was more of delight than dismay. Yesterday was the first day in Madison with sustained below-freezing temperatures and a pretty vigorous wind. But people are still biking. Who says that Wisconsin has biking weather only half of the year?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Milwaukee bike racks on buses prove their usefulness

Milwaukee Bike Racks on BusesIt's been popping up in the Milwaukee news lately that the bike racks on the count's buses are getting used pretty frequently, after the Milwaukee County Transit system put out a press release that their usage has rocketed up since last fall.

In August and September of 2009, the buses had 1,890 bike boardings, while in August and September 2010, they had 14,289 boardings.

The dramatic increase shouldn't come as a huge surprise. The fleet only became fully equipped with racks in August 2009, and it has taken time for people to get used to the idea that they can bring their bikes along on bus trips. Since August 2009, there have been more than 46,000 bike boardings.

Before the program was in place, the transit system projected the bike boardings could hits 100,000 a year. (That number was based on a ridership of 51 million; based on today's ridership of 39.4 million, the adjusted projection would be closer to 77,000.)

A lot of people have expressed impatience that the bike boarding numbers haven't reached the projections yet. But it seems a bit audacious to expect a brand new program to reach its full potential within the first year.

It should also be noted that the boardings that have happened have pretty much covered the cost of the bike racks to Milwaukee County. The initial investment in the racks by the county was $20,250 (the rest was paid by federal funds), and maintenance costs are less than $20,000, according to MCTS. The average income to the transit system from each boarding is $1.12.

46,000 x $1.12 > $20,250 + $20,000
or (in other words)
income is greater than expenses
or (in other words)
The bike racks are paying for themselves.

Good job, Milwaukee County!

(If you want to learn more about bike racks on buses throughout the state, look for our article on this topic in the next issue of Wisconsin Bicyclist, the Bike Fed's quarterly newspaper. It will be available in early December.)

Grants available for Wisconsin bike advocacy – apply by Jan. 31

The Dane County Bicycle Association is inviting applications for the 2011 grant cycle. Each year DCBA invites proposals from organizations to fund projects that promote bicycling in Wisconsin. DCBA annually awards grants that total approximately $10,000. Most individual awards are range from $500 to $2,500.

Grant applications are due by January 31, 2011 for the upcoming grant cycle. Grants awards will be announced at the February 20, 2011 DCBA Board of Directors meeting.

For nearly 30 years DCBA has provided grants to improve the quality, scope and effectiveness of bicycling education, usage ,and advocacy. DCBA grants have funded a variety of bicycling projects, including sponsoring bicycle events, supporting bicycle advocacy efforts, promoting bicycling for young people, and publishing bicycle touring routes. In recent years, the emphasis has been on funding projects that expand the bicycling community and offer resources and services to lower income individuals and households.

Grant application materials can be found on the DCBA website or by contacting Bill Putnam at (608) 770-8242 or Groups from throughout Wisconsin are eligible to apply.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

La Crosse gets new bike lane

Nov 18 2010 - VID00009_2
Originally uploaded by jack.zabrowski

Jack Zabrowksi, bicycle pedestrian coordinator for the La Crosse County Health Department, just posted this video of La Crosse's newest bike lanes to Flickr. Riding in a 5-foot wide bike lane is so delightful that Jack periodically bursts out in spantaneous, joyful laughter, as you'll hear when you watch it.

Ripon College gets single-track mountain bike trail

IMBA Trail Specialist Jill Van Winkle checks her GPS as she plots the trail corridor for a new singletrack mountain bike trail within the woods of Ripon College's Ceresco Prairie Conservacy. Photo by Ric Damm.
Our guest blogger today is Ric Damm, head of the Ripon College Cycling Team and a Bike Fed board member. We asked him to tell us about the new mountain bike trail that will be built on the Ripon College campus thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. Each month, the Pepsi Refresh Project puts charitable projects up for public vote on its website, and the top vote-getters receive grants. Ripon College is in Ripon, Wis., about 20 miles west of Fond du Lac.

We're starting to move forward on the Ripon College mountain bike trail that's been made possible by a $25,000 Pepsi Refresh Project grant that we won in August.

Earlier this month, Jill Van Winkle, a trail specialist with International Mountain Bicycling Association's (IMBA's) Trail Solutions team, came to Ripon College to help us piece together an initial design for the trail. The trail, which we plan to have ready by fall 2011, will be used by our mountain bike team as well as by casual riders from the college and Ripon community.

The trail will be located in the wooded sections of the college's Ceresco Prairie Conservancy, which comprises 130 acres of native prairie, oak savanna and wetland habitat. The area is part of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) Glacial Habitat Restoration Program, a partnership between the DNR and the college.

Minimizing the potential for erosion and other impacts of the new trail is clearly a priority for us. IMBA will design and build the trail, drawing on its expertise to ensure the integrity and longevity of the trail, as well as the prairie and woodland habitat.

The trail will be a great boon to the Ripon College mountain bike team, which has flourished since its inception in 2008. The team has won the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference Division 2 team mountain bike championship and qualified multiple students for national competition in each of the past two years. Still, the nearest mountain biking trail is more than 20 miles from Ripon.

I also want this trail to be a gateway for others who are curious about the sport of mountain biking. The trail will be built with some challenges in mind for more advanced riders, but will not be so intimidating as to scare off would-be newcomers. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the Ripon community at large all supported this project and voted online to help us secure the grant. This trail will be built for all of them, and everyone is welcome to use it.

We're also grateful to the greater Wisconsin bicycling community, including the Bike Fed, for supporting our Pepsi Refresh Project grant request and getting out the vote through Facebook, Twitter and email.

The Pepsi Refresh Project began in 2010 as a means to help "refresh" communities. People submit ideas on the Pepsi Refresh Web site in tiers of $5,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $250,000 grants. Each month, Pepsi awards $1.3 million. According to Melisa Tezanos, communications director for Pepsi, the company is using the money it saved by not advertising during the 2010 Super Bowl.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Milwaukee Trails survey

Do you bike/walk/run/explore the Milwaukee River Trails?

If so, please take a short survey at .

This “trail use” survey that will determine the various uses of the Milwaukee River trails, as well as to gauge the public’s general knowledge of the Greenway. The survey has been distributed throughout the Greenway in nifty duct tape boxes, and is also available online.

Thank you so much for your time and input! It is greatly appreciated. You can check the MRGC out on Facebook at for updates and articles.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ride the Newest Trail in the State with the Bike Fed

On Monday November 6th, the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin joined over 200 people in officially opening another 4.5 miles of the Hank Aaron State Trail. The trail previously went from Lake Michigan to Miller Park. Now it goes from the Lakefront to 92nd Street along an old rail road corridor. Once the Zoo interchange is built, Hank Aaron will connect to the Oak Leaf Trail and a system of trails that goes all the way to Mississippi.

If you missed the opening on Monday, you still have two more chances this week to celebrate. The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin will lead two free bike rides along the extension where you can see salmon spawning, beautiful new trail bridges, historic buildings and more. The rides are 9 miles round trip from 34th Street:

Lunch Break Ride
Thursday, November 11th
Meet at Hank Aaron/Canal Street and 34th St by the new bridge at 11:30 or 6th and Canal/HAST at 11:15

Sunday in the Park Ride
Sunday, November 14th
Meet at Hank Aaron/Canal Street and 34th St by the new bridge at 10:30 or 6th and Canal/HAST at 10:15

If you can't make our tours, the trail is marked with signs and is on the free Milwaukee By Bike map.

According the Melissa Cook, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources trail manager, "over 400,000 people live within a 15 minute bike ride of the trail and no other trail in the state has such a big potential user group." For the past three years, the Bike Fed and the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail have helped connect local kids with the trail through summer Bike Camps.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Saris Gala raises $95,000 for the Bike Fed

The seventh annual Saris Gala, benefiting the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, was held at the Saris Cycling Group headquarters in Madison, Wis., on Friday, October 29th. Silent and live auctions helped bring in $95,000 to support a variety of infrastructure and educational programs throughout Wisconsin, including Safe Routes to School. Thanks to all who contributed!

"We strongly support bicycling advocacy in Madison and across the country," said Saris President Chris Fortune. "So working with the Bike Fed is really important to us. We're proud to host the Saris Gala, but we did not do this alone. This is a community event that relies heavily on volunteers and the generous support of our industry partners."

This year's event had a Halloween theme complete with a costume ride and costume contest. More than 600 attendees enjoyed food and drinks, bid on auction items, and listened to cycling commentator Phil Liggett (in the photo from Focal Flame with a fan) talk about his experiences at the Tour de France. Pro-cyclist-turned-coach Robbie Ventura led the live auction and got the crowd bidding on items like a Cyclesport Travel trip to the Pyrenees, Vision Quest Coaching Camp package, and a high-end Trek bike of the winner's choosing.

Kevin Hardman, the Bike Fed's executive director, said, "We're grateful for partners like Saris who are stepping up to make Wisconsin a better place to bike. The Saris Gala funds important work to increase transportation choices throughout the state, including our Safe Routes to School programs. Over the years, we have taught more than 9,000 kids how to stay safe on streets and sidewalks. We're looking forward to continuing this work and helping more Wisconsinites make bicycling a convenient part of their daily lives."

Photo credit: Clint Thayer / Focal Flame Photography

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The 3rd Annual Milwaukee Bike Swap is Dec. 12

Mark your calendars for the Bike Fed's 3rd Annual Milwaukee Bike Swap on December 12, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the UW-Milwaukee Union. Come to buy and sell parts, accessories, complete bicycles, clothing and bike-themed crafts. The event attracts people from as far north as Green Bay, as far west as Madison and as far south as Chicago. (With the lake right there, about as far east as they'll be coming from is Lincoln Memorial Drive.)

Want to sell your stuff? Through November 29, retailers can reserve two display tables for $150 ($50 each for additional tables), and individuals and non-profits pay $40 per table. After that, the fees go up to $175 for two retailer tables and $50 for one individual/non-profit table. There are only 70 tables, so reserve yours now.

The swap is a fundraiser for the Milwaukee Junior Cycling Team and the UW-Milwaukee Cycling Club. The Junior Cycling Team gets Milwaukee middle and high school kids involved in bicycle racing first for fun and then for health, recreation and enjoyment to last a lifetime.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Governor Announces $32.5 Million for Non-Motorized Projects

Last week, Governor Jim Doyle announced $32.5 million for 56 transportation enhancement and bicycle and pedestrian facilities projects across the state. Congratulations to the 40-plus communities who will receive this funding for through 2014 as part of the federal Transportation Enhancements program and the state and federal Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Program, including a dozen communities who will complete bicycle and/or pedestrian plans.

The federal and state funding will close several gaps in Wisconsin's transportation system. It will extend the Beerline Trail in Milwaukee, launch the first phase of the Yahara River Trail connecting Madison and McFarland, connect school to parks and shopping in Crandall, and create a north-south shared bicycle-pedestrian route along the Winnebago-Calumet County border. Click here for the complete list of grant projects.

Two statewide projects also received funding in this round, including the Bike Fed's Share & Be Aware program. We'll work with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Bureau of Transportation Safety to teach more bicyclists and motorists in 2011 about sharing the road. We're looking forward to being able to bring this important information to people throughout the state.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wienermobile bike!

Okay, okay. So we already mentioned the Wienermobile bicycle (aka "pedal car") on our Facebook page, but this thing is so cool I can't keep myself from writing about it more.

We'll be auctioning one of these babies off at the Saris Gala tomorrow night in Madison. The Saris Gala is our largest annual fundraiser and is put on by the generous folks at Saris Cycling Group, which is headquartered here in Wisconsin.

I would really really like to start commuting to work in one of these, but I think I'm too big to fit inside. So instead I'll have to resort to sticking Oscar Mayer stickers on my commuter bike and referring to it as my "pedal car." I won't look quite as cool as this kid, but I'll feel cool on the inside – and that's what really counts.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learn about the U.S. Bicycle Route on Novermber 3

Adventure cyclingIf you're in the Milwaukee area, you have a great opportunity next Wednesday to learn more about the U.S. Bicycle Route System and bicycle travel from Jim Sayer, the executive director of the Adventure Cycling Association. Adventure Cycling is the largest membership nonprofit cycling organization in North America with more than 44,000 members. To fulfill its mission of inspring people to travel by bicycle, it has mapped more than 40,000 miles of cycling routes throughout the United States and Canada, and it works on national bicycling advocacy issues, including the U.S. Bicycle Route System.

Winona Bateman, media director of Adventure Cycling, sent the following description of what you can expect at Wednesday's presentation:

On Wednesday, November 3, grab your cycling buddies, friends, and family, and join Adventure Cycling Association for a special regional gathering and party in Fox Point at the Wheel and Sprocket North Shore Store from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m.

Adventure Cycling's executive director, Jim Sayer, will be in town to share the latest news on bicycle travel and adventures in North America (and perhaps beyond!). He'll be looking to the year ahead, with new routes, trips, and policy and outreach initiatives to improve bicycling and bike travel in the United States, including an update on the emerging U.S. Bicycle Route System. There will also be time for you to share your thoughts, ideas, and stories. Refreshments and snacks will be provided, courtesy of Wheel and Sprocket. Click here for directions.

Refreshments start at 6:00. There will be a brief safety workshop at 6:30, followed by the program with Jim Sayer at 7:00 pm. Please RSVP for this event by calling Wheel & Sprocket North Shore at (414) 247-8100 or emailing Jesse at

Click here for a printable event flyer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another side of AAA

Last month, we told you about Rails to Trails talking AAA to task after the president of AAA Mid-Atlantic spoke against using federal Highway Trust Fund money for bike and pedestrian facilities. He advocated for using the Highway Trust Fund for highways only (as opposed to how it's been used since 1991) and paying for bike and ped facilities with general revenues only.

In contrast, the current issue of American Bicyclist (the member magazine of the League of American Bicyclists) features a story about steps the automobile association has taken to encourage road-sharing and bicyclist safety. According to the article:
  • More than half of AAA's 51 regional clubs offer bike safety outreach programs
  • The programs have traditionally focused on children, but clubs are increasingly working on bicycling programs for all ages
  • AAA Oregon/Idaho extends its roadside assistance program to bicycles. (The service is not available through the AAA club in Wisconsin yet; however, Better World Club - which is not affiliated with AAA - does offer this service nationally.)
  • AAA worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2009 to promote a "share the road" message nationally and to distribute a four-part video series on bicycle safety
You can read more about it in the American Bicyclist. If you're not a subscriber, you can view the September/October issue online beginning in November.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Omro, Wisconsin: Bicycling Paradise

omro 3
Omro students walk to school with U.S. Congressman Tom Petri (center)
Omro students gather for Walk and Bike to School assembly
From our education director and Wisconsin Safe Routes to School Network coordinator, Jessica Wineberg-Binder:
What places do you think of when you hear “bicycling paradise”? Portland, Oregon? Copenhagen, Denmark?

Today, I discovered a bicycling paradise in my own backyard: Omro, Wisconsin.

Why such accolades? Omro Middle School has woven bicycling into almost every facet of the school day, with a noon recess riding program, an in-school bike shop, and physical education classes that teach bicycling skills. Over the next couple of years, the city of Omro will improve bicycling facilities and sidewalk connections near schools using an $89,438 grant it received through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

Today, well over 200 Omro students celebrated their school’s progress by walking and biking to school with U.S. Congressman Tom Petri and Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman. The “walking school bus” was more than two blocks long! Petri – along with Omro Mayor Bob Breu, Wisconsin Assemblyman Richard Spanbauer, Omro School Board members and other special guests – toured Omro Middle School’s in-school bike shop, its noon recess riding program, its PE-based cyclocross course, and the nearby community fitness trail. Credit goes to PE teacher Joe Horvath and Principal Paul Williams for creating bicycling options before, during, and after school.

Omro has utilized volunteer efforts and many small donations to build a comprehensive bicycle program that should be replicated across the state and the country. The Wisconsin Safe Routes to School Network, which I coordinate as part of my work here at the Bike Fed, will help Omro Middle School share its innovative ideas with other communities and inspire them to truly embrace walking and biking to and from school.
You can watch WBAY's coverage of the walk and bike event here.

omro 2
Bike Fed board Chair Elect Chris Kegel visits the Omro Middle School bike shop.

omro 4
Right to left: Bike Fed Chair Elect Chris Kegel, U.S. Congressman Tom Petri, Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Remembering Jeff Littmann, a champion of bicycling

jeff littmannOn Tuesday, October 5, Jeff Littmann became the eighth bicyclist this year to die from injuries received in a bike-car crash in Wisconsin. As a road racer, owner of Attitude Sports in Pewaukee and president of the Wisconsin Cycling Association, Jeff was a tireless ambassador for bicycling. He mentored many competitive cyclists and is greatly missed by those who knew him.

A service for Jeff will be held this Saturday, October 9, at Nativity of the Lord, 3672 E Plankinton Ave., Cudahy, Wis. Visitation is from 9:00 a.m.-12:45 p.m., and the service begins at 1:00 p.m.

We have heard from many of Jeff's friends in the past few days who want something good to come out of this tragedy. Here are some steps you can take to commemorate Jeff and make Wisconsin's roads better for everyone:

  • Donate to the Littmann family collegiate cycling scholarship fund. Jeff's family will be setting up a collegiate cycling scholarship fund in Jeff's memory. We will post more details to our website when they become available.

  • Understand the rules of the road and educate others. The Share & Be Aware section of our website has lots of information about avoiding bike-car collisions, from both driving and bicycling perspectives. Click on the Facebook or Twitter icons on our Share & Be Aware pages to share the information with your social networks. (We also regularly post safety tips to our Facebook and Twitter accounts.)

  • Support complete streets. Thanks to the efforts of our members, Wisconsin enacted a law in 2009 that requires new and reconstructed roads that receive state funds to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians – for example, with wider shoulders on state highways. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is holding a series of workshops around the state about the new law, with three coming up in Waukesha, Eau Claire and Green Bay. Attend a workshop to learn about complete streets and how they can make roads safer for all of us.

  • Take a road safety class. The League of American Bicyclists has certified a number of Wisconsinites to teach bicyclist safety classes geared toward a variety of audiences, including motorists, bicyclists and commercial drivers. Please contact us to find a League Cycling Instructor in your area.

We also want to do our part to honor Jeff. The Bike Fed will soon receive funding to dramatically expand our Share & Be Aware program to educate drivers, bicyclists and law enforcement about sharing the road. Our policy, road planning and Safe Routes to School programs are additional strategies for improving the environment for bicycling in Wisconsin.

Over the past few decades, Wisconsin's roads have become safer as the rate of fatal car-bike crashes has dropped significantly. But that doesn't diminish the tragedy of Jeff's death or of the deaths of the seven others who were killed this year while riding their bikes in our state. We can't bring those lives back, but we can work together to prevent future tragedies.

We will celebrate Jeff's legacy by continuing our work to make Wisconsin's roads safer for everyone.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicago parking rates and the popularity of bicycling

Jessica Binder, the Bike Fed's education director, was back in Chicago yesterday and sent us this email, along with the picture to the right:
Want to know why so many Chicagoans bike? A dense urban fabric, congestion, and EXPENSIVE parking all play a role. The hotel I was at yesterday for a conference charges $22 to park for an hour or less! Good thing I biked.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bringing Dutch-Style Bicycle Facilities to the U.S.

On Thursday, the Bike Fed's Education Director, Jessica Binder, had the pleasure of attending a ThinkBike presentation in Chicago that explored the details of the Dutch bicycle infrastructure that supports the 80% people who bicycle at least once per week in the Netherlands. The Dutch consulate and Chicago DOT brought in a team of Dutch bicycle planners to share their knowledge and ideas. To attend this workshop, Jessica Binder had a very euro-style day. She biked her Taga bicycle (converts from bike to stroller and can hold a child - see picture at right) to the Amtrak station, converting the Taga bike into the Taga stroller so it could be brought on board the train. Once in Chicago, she converted the stroller back into bike mode and was early for the 8:30am start time for the conference. She wrote this note summarizing some of what she learned:
The highlights of the workshop included learning that, in the Netherlands, bicycle mode share declined to about 10% in the 1970s. Through major investments and a paradigm shift, much like the one the U.S. is experiencing now, they were able to recapture a lot of trips - bringing them to 28% bicycle mode share today. From a tram with a special open air cart to push bicycles up hills to streets with 18 mph speed limits, the Dutch have created a utopia for cycling that we in Wisconsin can learn from. Milwaukee's Bicycle Plan and some infrastructure plans for Madison draw on the Dutch for inspiration. After today's talk, I will too.

To help bring innovative bicycle facilities to Wisconsin that can get more people to ride more often, please join the Bike Fed. Your support helps us increase funding for bicycle infrastructure. Join now at and save 15 bucks with coupon code JB15off until October 15th.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Milwaukee by Bike is approved by Common Council

The Milwaukee Common Council just approved Milwaukee by Bike, the bicycle transportation plan that the Bike Fed helped develop. The plan passed nearly unanimously, with just one opposing vote, as you can read in this article from Tom Held of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Thanks so much to everyone in Milwaukee who educated their representatives about the need for better bicycle facilities and how better biking conditions will contribute to Milwaukee's livability and economic development.

The plan would add more than 200 miles of bike lanes, boulevards and trails to Milwaukee, but our work does not end here. The Council has approved the plan, but it has not yet budgeted for its implementation. It will be important for Milwaukee residents to continue to let their council members know about the importance of bike facilities to the city's growth.

To read the plan documents, go to

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Milwaukee Bike Plan one step closer to reality

Jessica Binder, the Bike Fed's education director, attended this morning's meeting about Milwaukee by Bike, the city's proposed bicycle plan, and has great news to report:
Today the Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety Committee voted to accept the Milwaukee Bicycle Plan. It was energizing to see the City Engineer wonderfully articulate the benefits of cycling and investing in cycling infrastructure. All the members of the committee were supportive of the plan and, while we do not anticipate any issues with the full Common Council adopting it when it meets on September 21, bicycling supporters are encouraged to call their alderpeople by Monday, September 20, and urge them to vote for the Bike Plan. From today's meeting, it was very clear that alderpeople are responsive when their constituents speak out and contact them.

If you can, please also attend the full Common Council Meeting where the plan will be voted upon. It's on Sep 21 at 9 a.m. in the Common Council Chambers (3rd Floor of City Hall).
For more about today's meeting, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal's Tom Held wrote up a nice summary of the meeting for the paper's website.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Madison, Milwaukee and La Crosse make national Bicycle Friendly Communities list - again!

The League of American Bicyclists yesterday announced its list of 2010 Bicycle Friendly Communities, and La Crosse, Milwaukee and Madison are on it once again. Madison received gold, the second-highest designation (with platinum being the highest), while Milwaukee and La Crosse each received bronze. You can download the complete list of honorees here.

Badger State Trail Grand Opening - Northern Section

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the city of Fitchburg will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the northern 6.1 miles of the Badger State Trail, the state's first interstate trail connection with Illinois. The ceremony will take place at the trail kiosk at Market Drive in Fitchburg.

According to the Fitchburg's 4th district alder, Steve Arnold,
"The completion of this connection, from bicycle-loving Madison to the Jane Adams Trail in Illinois, with connections to the Capital City, Military Ridge, Sugar River, and future Cannonball State Trails, will unleash a torrent of 150,000 to 250,000 visitors a year to the Badger State Trail, promising to improve the health, economic vitality, and recreation opportunities in the region."
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on Saturday September 18, 2010 at 10:00 am. at the trail kiosk located at Marketplace Drive (in the Fitchburg Commerce Park south of McKee Rd., also known as County Hwy PD).

See the Bike Fed's events calendar for more details about the event.

Note: The final link from County Highway M to Purcell Rd. (a distance of 1.1 miles) may not be open for the ceremony. To bypass this section going south, Arnold suggests riding west on CTH M, south on Borchert Rd., and east on Purcell Rd. back to the trail, a 2.0-mile detour.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A city where bicycling went from 0.6% to 6.5% in four years

Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman and Madison Director Amanda White are in Chatanooga, Tenn., at Pro Walk Pro Bike 2010, a conference organized by the National Center for Biking and Walking. The annual conference has attracted 500-600 people from around the country, including bicycle advocates, planners and administrators from state departments of transportation, and city pedestrian-bicycle coordinators.

"The consistent overall theme is that the bicycling movement is growing," Amanda says of the Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference. More people, including people at all levels of government and business, are getting involved.

Amanda was impressed by a Tuesday session that discussed the incredible increase in bicycling in Seville, Spain, in the past few years. In 2006, just 0.6% of trips were made by bicycle (a little lower than the Wisconsin average). By 2010, the rate was 6.5%, thanks to a concerted effort to encourage bicycling that included installing a network of segregated bike lanes (which can be bike paths or simply lanes that are separated from other traffic by a curb), as well as an extensive bike-share program.

Segregated bicycle facilities have a controversial history in the United States, with many bicyclists concerned that they denote second-class status for people on bikes and interfere with bicyclists' lawful use of the road. (See the website of bicycling advocate John Forester for this perspective.) Their concerns are valid, since some states, like Oregon, prohibit bicyclists from using the main travel lanes wherever a bike lane is present (even a poorly designed lane), or from using the road at all when a bike path is present. Thankfully, Wisconsin is not one of these states, so far recognizing that paths and lanes are not appropriate for every type of bicycling.

Despite the potential drawbacks of segregated bicycle facilities, there is good research to show that, when well-designed, they can enhance safety and increase bicycling rates in compact urban spaces like Seville.

Also today at the conference, Rails to Trails Conservancy announced a petition drive it is launching to encourage the American Automobile Association (AAA) to take a friendlier approach to bicyclists and pedestrians. The president of AAA Mid-Atlantic recently advocated for the elimination of existing federal dollars that help build bicycle and pedestrian trails and sidewalks.

According to the Rails to Trails website,
"AAA Mid-Atlantic suggests that an $89 billion annual highway fund shortfall can be blamed on investments in walking and bicycling. But those investments total less than $1 billion annually and produce tremendous benefits for everyone, including drivers. The reality is that many bicyclists drive, support AAA, pay gas taxes and want balanced transportation systems that provide the choice to get around in a variety of ways—for commuting or daily errands, or for fun and exercise."
You can find our more about the petition here.

Last but not least, it looks like the League of American Bicyclists has been inspired by the city of Madison's bicycle transportation goals. Today, Andy Clarke, the League's president, outlined steps that our nation can take to reach the goal of 20% of trips by bicycle or foot by 2020. Here's the slide that shows how:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Madison by Bike guided tour, Sept. 19

Have you ever considered going to work, the grocery store or a friend's house by bike, but aren't sure which route to take or what type of bike gear you might need?

The Bike Fed's Madison office is joining with We Are All Mechanics and 20by2020 to offer Madison by Bike, an fun event to familiarize Madisonians with bicycle routes and resources.

Madison by Bike will take place Sunday, Sept. 19, from 1 - 4 p.m. The event consists of two sessions, a Resource Hour and a Guided Tour. Attend just one session or come out for both!

Resource Hour: 1:00-2:00pm
Held at the Machinery Row end of Law Park (the grassy area near the intersection of John Nolen Drive and Williamson Street). Volunteers will be on hand to answer your questions about biking in Madison and show you how to use the free City of Madison bike map.

Guided Bicycle Tour: 2:00-4:00pm
Enjoy a relaxed, 7-mile guided tour of bike paths downtown and on Madison's near east side. Tony Fernandez from the City of Madison Engineering Department will stop at a few places along the way to educate riders about new bicycle infrastructure and discuss plans for future bicycle improvements. Click here for a route map. This friendly ride is perfect for anyone who wants to experience more of Madison by bike or for those bicycling veterans who want to enjoy a fun, relaxing Sunday ride.

For more information, email Amanda White or India Viola.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Milwaukee bike plan needs your support

mke mayor ride 2009
Milwaukee by Bike, the city of Milwaukee's 2010 Bicycle Master Plan, would add more than 200 miles of new bicycle facilities in the city. The plan will be reviewed by the Public Safety Committee on Thursday, September 16 at 9:00am in Room 301-B of City Hall. It is then scheduled for a Common Council vote on September 21.

If you live or bike in Milwaukee, please attend the Public Safety meeting on September 16 to voice your support for this plan. You can also show your support by emailing, writing or calling your alder and telling them that Milwaukee by Bike is good for Milwaukee. Talking points are available here and a sample letter/email for your alder is available here. You can read the complete plan at

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lance Armstrong and Major Taylor: Two World Champions

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz (left) and bicycling champion Lance Armstrong (right) at Ride the Drive in Madison, Wis., August 29, 2010.

As I was posting pictures from Ride the Drive to the Bike Fed's Flickr page this morning, I noticed Major Taylor on Lance Armstrong's t-shirt, captured here in this photo by Laura Whitmore of Madison Parks.

Major Taylor was a barrier-breaking American athlete on many levels. He was the 1899 world champion for the 1-mile bicycle sprint - an amazing feat on its own, but even more so considering that he was black, and sports associations in much of the country prohibited competition by black athletes at the time. (Later that year, he knocked down the one-mile world record to 1 minute, 19 seconds.) Taylor was America's second black world championship athlete.

Not until after he won the world championship was he allowed to participate in the U.S. national championships in 1900. In 1901, he went to Europe and beat every European cycling champion.

After he retired from racing in 1910, he was plagued by misfortune. At 53, he died in the charity ward of Cook County Hospital, Chicago, in 1932.

But Major Taylor's legacy has not been forgotten. A significant player in preserving his memory is the Major Taylor Association, based in Worchester, Massachusetts (where Taylor moved in 1895 and was pleasantly surprised by a lower level of overt prejudice than he had encountered in his home state of Indiana). A number of Major Taylor bike clubs throughout the United States encourage safe and fun cycling among African Americans through organized rides and events. (Check out the Web site of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota, which recently co-hosted a national summit of bike clubs made up of African-American cyclists).

An archive of period newspaper articles about Taylor is available on the Web site of the Major Taylor Society.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Safe Routes to School across Wisconsin

In January, the Bike Fed helped to launch the Wisconsin Safe Routes to School Network, which brings together 50 state leaders from government, non-profits and the bicycle business to remove barriers to walking and biking to school. Safe Routes to School is a national movement to boost the number and safety of kids walking and biking to school, and our network is one of 20 such groups throughout the country.

At the heart of the new state network effort is policy change. We want to remove policy barriers to walking and bicycling to schools by:
  • Creating complete streets that include pedestrian and bicycle accommodations
  • Changing statewide policies for how sites are chosen for new schools, so that accessibility by foot and bike are considered
  • Implementing legislation that leads to funding or policy changes
We also have several non-legislative priorities.
  • Complete Streets. The network has reviewed and submitted comments on WisDOT’s draft complete streets administrative rules. The rules will flesh out the complete streets law passed by the Wisconsin legislature in 2009, which mandates that newly constructed or reconstructed state roads include access for people traveling by foot, wheelchair and bicycle.
  • Sharing Information. The network is working with WisDOT to create a guide highlighting the successes of Wisconsin’s existing Safe Routes to School programs and how other school districts can emulate them.
  • Improving Curriculum. The network is reviewing a bicycling safety curriculum for physical education teachers and looking at ways to include active transportation education in many academic subjects.
  • Access for Low-Income Communities. The Wisconsin Network is actively working to make Safe Routes more accessible to low-income communities of color, including American Indian tribes, and has applied for a grant to support these efforts.
You can read more about our work in this fall's issue of the Wisconsin Bicyclist.

If you’re interested in participating in the Wisconsin Safe Routes to School Network, or want more information about it, please contact me at or 414-431-1761, ext. 3. You can find more information at

Thanks for a great Ride the Drive!

Lance Armstrong and Jack HirtWorld bicycling champion Lance Armstrong with Jack Hirt, executive director of the Midwest Cycling Series. Photo by Sknurr Photography.

highrise bikesDouble-decker bicyclists begin their loop around Ride the Drive. Photo by Sknurr Photography.

Thanks to everyone who joined us at Ride the Drive - a celebration for anyone who wants to run, ride, skate or stroll in the city of Madison - on August 29. We had a great time meeting so many of you. We're grateful to everyone who became a Bike Fed member at Ride the Drive, and so is Burley, which donated a Travoy trailer and three detachable transit bags to raffle off for these new members. Congratulations to Jeremy Basoulek of McFarland, who will now be toting his groceries by bike!

At the opening ceremonies, Lance Armstrong hit home with a lot of children in the crowd when he talked about the freedom he felt when he first lost his training wheels as a kid and was allowed to bike around the block by himself. We've never forgotten the freedom that bicycling brings to both kids and adults, and love helping more people experience that freedom in our day-to-day work here at the Bike Fed.

We'll be posting more photos from Ride the Drive later this week.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bicycle Rights AND Responsibilities

We get lots of great questions in our inbox, and many of them share common themes. Occasionally, we'll be posting some of the questions we get (along with their answers) on our blog.

One of the frequent themes is whether bicyclists need to follow the same laws as motorists. This question is often followed up with a request that the Bike Fed correct the rude behavior of some people who use bikes. Here's a recent one:
Dear Federation,

Your web pages apparently don't have a link to information about what is legal behavior on City streets or other roads and highways for bicycle riders and for the motorists who use the way with them.

Your web pages do mention bicycle "rights." I don't see anywhere any mention of bicycle riders' responsibilities.

So, I would like to see if it is legal for bicyclists to block lanes of traffic ever.

It seems like there is a general presumption that the bicyclists and their rights are the ones at risk and therefore, motorists need to take steps to recognize their "rights." Actually, rights are constitutional things whereas behavior, legal and illegal behavior, is written down as statutes.

But, it also seems to me that quite few bicyclists have seriously bad manners and very bad attitudes about motorists and can be very confrontational about that.

So, as I say, I would like to read about the appropriate behavior of both parties as written down in law.

In any event, as the Federation, I think you clearly have a responsibility to promote discussion of bicyclists' RESPONSIBILITIES just as much as about their "rights". There is no right to dangerous, rude, confrontational behavior on the part of anyone on bicycle or not. Not promoting this kind of discussion and public awareness, I think, is avoiding a very clear need. We need some balance here.

This was our response:
Thanks for your email, and sorry you had trouble finding the information you were looking for on our site. We are currently trying to make our site easier to navigate, but obviously there is still work to be done.

You can find information on the rules of the road and courteous bicycling/driving at and We don't include city-specific statutes because we are a statewide organization, but we do address state-level laws that apply in every Wisconsin city.

I wish I could directly answer your question about blocking traffic, but the rules about impeding or slowing the flow of traffic depend on the situation. Hopefully, the links above will answer your questions. If you have further questions, please let me know.

We agree that no road users should act in a way that is rude or dangerous to others. We promote legal, responsible bicycling behavior. We regularly engage our members and others on these topics through our interactive forums, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. We also educate road users on the importance of safe and legal behavior through classes, workshops, public service announcements and other media. We welcome your ideas for venues in which to share this information.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Join the Bike Fed at Ride the Drive and win a Burley Travoy

burley travoy

Bicycle trailer manufacturer Burley wants to encourage more people to join the Bike Fed in making Wisconsin a better place to bike. So, if you join the Bike Fed at Ride the Drive on August 29 in Madison, you will be entered to win a new Travoy trailer and two attachable Transit Bags. The trailer is designed especially for commuting and shopping, and it's easy to attach and detach so you can take it with you once you've parked your bike. Skip the grocery cart – use your Travoy.

You can see the Travoy and sign up for membership at one of the two Bike Fed booths at Ride the Drive - one on Capitol Square (where the Travoy will be on display) and the other at Olin Park. We'll draw the winner at the end of the day.

At Burley's request, only people who sign up for membership at Ride the Drive are eligible to enter to win the Travoy. We look forward to seeing you at Ride the Drive!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bike Fed statement on Iowa County DA's letter about Allen Belonger case

Recently, the Spring City Spinners cycling club and the Bike Fed wrote to Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson asking why no traffic citations have been issued in the year since Allen Belonger, 61, was killed in a truck-bicycle collision while he was cycling in Iowa County on July 11, 2009.

A state trooper's report completed in October 2009 found that the driver of the passenger truck had failed to yield and that Belonger's behavior did not contribute to the collision.

We thank Mr. Nelson for taking the time to write to us in response to our questions. However, we are disappointed by the content of that response.

Mr. Nelson stated in his letter several reasons for why no citation had been issued. These included:

  • "… issuance of a citation is a law enforcement function. District Attorney's [sic] Offices do not issue tickets." This response begs the question. District attorneys have the power to recommend that law enforcement personnel issue citations. Mr. Nelson made no such recommendation.
  • "I would support a decision not to issue a citation in this or any other matter where the incident occurred and all appreciable facts were known over a year before." This answer is based on a false premise – that all the facts were known more than a year ago. The sheriff's department did not conclude its investigation into the collision until October 2009. The Spring City Spinners did not receive the accident report until July 2010. Moreover, there is plenty of precedent for acting on a legal infraction more than a year after the infraction occurred.
  • “Could I … recommend to the Sheriff’s Department that they issue a citation? Certainly. … I did not do so out of an affirmative decision not to issue because it may or may not have been warranted.” We do not understand why the district attorney feels that a citation "may not have been warranted" in a clear case of failure to yield resulting in death. (That's not our conclusion; that's the state investigator's conclusion.)

We do not seek retribution against the driver whose actions resulted in Allen Belonger's death. However, we do believe that he should not be spared the legal consequences of his actions.

Every day, we teach people how to operate their bicycles safely and legally on Wisconsin's roads, and we support efforts to keep bicycle operators legally accountable for their behavior. We believe that motorists should be held to the same standards.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Iowa County district attorney stands by decision not to issue citation in Belonger's death

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Held reported today that Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson written a letter to explain why no citation was issued in the July 11, 2009, killing of Allen Belonger - but it doesn't clarify much. Belonger was fatally struck by a passenger truck when the driver made a sudden left turn, according to a state trooper's report.

Nelson wrote:
I would support a decision not to issue a citation in this or any other matter where the incident occurred and all appreciable facts were known over a year before.
Nelson made the statement in a letter to the Spring City Spinners (Belonger's cycling club), Belonger's widow and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. The group had written a letter to Nelson on July 27, 2010, requesting an explanation for why no action had been taken in the year since Belonger's death.

Nelson's above statement is problematic because the state trooper's report was not submitted until October 2009 and not released to the public until July of this year. It seems, then, incorrect to conclude that all appreciable facts were known more than a year ago.

Nelson also stated:
“Could I after declining criminal prosecution and having been made aware a citation had not been issued at the scene recommend to the Sheriff’s Department that they issue a citation? Certainly. I expect the Sheriff’s Department would have done so upon my request. I did not do so.

“However, I did not do so out of an affirmative decision not to issue because it may or may not have been warranted. As I stated before, my focus was to review possible criminal charges.”

It's difficult to figure out why Nelson thinks charges "may or may not have been warranted," given that the state trooper's report clearly states that the truck driver "failed to yield to the oncoming vehicle. This was a significant factor in this crash."

The report also stated:
The timing of the crash sequence demonstrated that Belonger was riding defensively and was watching the slowing truck as it approached the driveway. Belonger did not have any obvious perception delay to the hazard. He was presented with a nearly impossible hazard to avoid. The manner in which Belonger was operating his bicycle was not a factor in this crash.
The Spring City Spinners are currently considering their next step.

See last week's blog entry for more background on this case.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Milwaukee bike plan needs your support

The Bike Fed and the City of Milwaukee recently completed Milwaukee by Bike, the city's 2010 bicycle master plan that, if approved, will guide the development of bicycle policies and facilities in Milwaukee for the next decade. In addition to proposing more than 200 miles of new bikeways, the plan sets goals and objectives designed to increase the safety and ease of bicycling in the city.

If you live or bike in Milwaukee, please help ensure passage and implementation of Milwaukee by Bike by contacting your alder and the mayor to express your support for the plan. A form letter of support is available here, but your letter will be even more effective if you use your own words to explain why the plan is important to you and the city you love. Contact information for your elected officials can be found here.

Our list of frequently asked questions provides basic information about the plan and talking points on why the plan is important for Milwaukee.

Please show your support!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Enter our Wisconsin bicycling photo contest!

The Bike Fed is holding a photo contest for pictures that represent the fun of bicycling in our state - whether by commuter bike, recumbent, coaster, racing bike, tricycle, mountain bike, tandem, hand-powered bike, BMX, cargo bike, trailer, or some kind of bike we've never heard of.

To enter, post your pictures to our Facebook page or email them to Kathryn Kingsbury, Bike Fed communication director. Include the location where you took the photos. You can also send entries to Attn: Photo Contest, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, 106 E. Doty St, Suite 400, Madison, WI 53703. Deadline for entries is August 20. Winners will be featured on the Bike Fed website and publications, and retain the copyright to their work.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking for answers in Allen Belonger's death

Allen Belonger was killed on July 11, 2009, while riding in Iowa County. As he descended a hill at 30 to 35 miles an hour, a 16-year-old driver named Eric Hendrickson "abruptly turned [his truck] in front of Belonger," according to a recently released state trooper's report. The report states that Hendrickson "failed to yield" even though Belonger was in his sight line for 10 seconds prior to the crash, and that the "manner in which Belonger was operating his bicycle was not a factor in this crash."

Despite these conclusions, no charges have been filed against Hendrickson. Nor has he received a ticket for failure to yield. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Hendrickson orginally received a citation related to intoxicated driving, but when tests showed no alcohol in his system, that citation was dropped and no other citations were made.

Belonger's friends at the Spring City Spinners cycling club are pressing Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson for answers. A recent letter to Nelson written by Spring City Spinners President Laura Fisher and co-signed by six other club members, along with Bonnie Belonger (Allen's widow) and Bike Fed Executive Director Kevin Hardman, says:
Our question is a simple one: Why was no ticket issued to Mr. Hendrickson? There is no defense to his driving that day. Our friend died a violent and needless death because this young man was not paying attention and violated the law, and not even a traffic ticket was issued. Why?

Please understand that we have no vendetta against Mr. Hendrickson. He must be
devastated by this tragedy, and no doubt will carry it with him the rest of his life. We also understand that you must be very busy in performing the important functions of your office. Nevertheless, it is our opinion that there must be some official condemnation of his actions. Otherwise, the public may very well and possibly quite reasonably conclude that your county does not take the safety and rights of bicyclists seriously. That type of attitude can only lead to a greater disrespect of cyclists' rights and therefore to more tragedy, not only in Iowa County, but throughout the State.

The Bike Fed fully supports the Spring City Spinners in their quest to find justice for Allen Belonger and make the roads safer for everyone, and we are working to educate motorists about the rules of the road as they pertain to bicyclists. (Please direct your friends and acquaintances to for an introduction to these rules.) Yesterday, Tony Galli of WKOW 27 in Madison interviewed our Madison director, Amanda White, for a piece that laid out the problems with the case and why it's important for motorists to treat bicycles as the legal vehicles they are. You can see a summary of the piece, which aired on the evening news, here.

The Waukesha County case referred to at the end of the story was the Father's Day killing of Waukesha resident Brett Netke as he rode on Highway 18. He was hit from behind. The driver in the case has paid a $114 traffic ticket for failing to provide a safe passing distance and, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, may receive a three-point license deduction. You can see a story on the case from Milwaukee's TMJ 4 here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You Are Riding Bicycle History

Darryl Jordan Photography
Ride the Drive, June 2010, Madison. Photograph by Darryl Jordan. All rights reserved.

I've been having fun perusing through the Bike Fed's archives recently, and ran across this article by Jim Guthrie, a member of the Bike Fed and The Wheelmen, a group of antique bicycle enthusiasts:

Think you're riding the latest, greatest, high-tech version of the two-wheeled human powered vehicle. That's what I used to think. Then I joined a group of antique bicycle enthusiasts, The Wheelmen, and discovered that it's all been thought of and been done before. The big difference between the past and the present is materials; the space age has brought some neat things to bicycling. Let's take a brief trip through the history of bicycling. Perhaps you will end up as hooked as I am on this fascinating story.

Carriage makers started making bicycle prototypes in the early 1880's. They had iron tires, wooden wheels and, of course, a not-so-comfortable seat. People simply called them "wheels." These machines were "enjoyed" primarily by wealthy young gentlemen in Europe who had more leisure time than most. They would ride their "wheels" through the parks thrilling all who watched. Unlike bicycles of today, on these machines the rider had to pick up the front wheel in order to change directions. And to move it forward, the rider had to push his feet along the ground--hardly an efficient means of transportation.

By 1821, the first "wheel" had made its way to the United States. By the 1860's, riders could actually steer and pedal thanks to those two inventions. But getting anywhere on such dinosaurs still took a lot of effort. (Remember what it's like to pedal a child's tricycle.) To rescue the winded riders came the big drive wheel (the front wheel to which the pedals are attached on a tricycle). It was developed by an Englishman named Starly and dubbed the "highwheeler". People loved them because, compared to previous models, they could really cruise on their highwheelers.

When Starly completed his bike, he challenged a horseman to a 100-mile, one-day race. Starly won the race on his contraption and didn't require any hay, oats or water. The horseman required two mounts to complete the journey. Eventually, people began to see bicycling as a real means of transportation and not just a toy. It allowed them, through their own exertion, to reach their destination faster than on foot. And many ventured farther than they would have without a bike.

This new freedom caused societal changes; in a small but significant way, it contributed to the women's liberation movement. With bikes, young women more easily evaded the watchful eye of their chaperones. Bloomers, an early version of pants, were invented by a woman for females who wanted to ride a bicycle and still appear to be appropriately dressed.

Still other activities evolved as a result of the "wheel." Ordinary (highwheel) bicyclists irritated horsemen because the bike sometimes spooked the horses. Retaliation by horsemen involved sticking their riding crop in the spokes of the bicycle's front wheel causing the cyclist to catapult off the bike onto his head. This maneuver was called "taking a header" and injured or killed many early cyclists.

Poor roads were also a hazard to cyclists. Muddy rutted wagon lanes often made falling unavoidable. Logically, bicyclists began to organize for their own protection. Riding clubs formed throughout the Midwest and the East. Ultimately, a national organization, the League of American Wheelmen [editor's note: now the League of American Bicyclists], was formed. Its goals were to teach people how to ride and to improve road conditions. The League's Good Roads Movement resulted in the paving of many roads out East. In Wisconsin, however, we can credit the dairy industry with our fine paved country roads.

With all this interest in cycling, it was just a matter of time before bicycle design became more cyclist-friendly. That day arrived in 1885 when the Safety bicycle was introduced by its inventor, James Stanley. Featuring a rear-driven chain transmission and two wheels of approximately the same size, the Safety is the direct predecessor to today's mainstream models.

According to Nick Sanders in his book, Bicycle: The Image and the Dream, "By 1900, the bicycle had nearly reached perfection and was much the same as it is today." Oh, yes, and that seat that you all find so comfortable -- there have been many attempts over the last hundred plus years to improve it. But alas, even space-age materials can't improve some things.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Baileys Harbor works toward bike plan

Kevin Luecke, the Bike Fed's lead planner, has been working with towns in scenic Door County to develop bike plans. Bicycling is on the rise in this area, with hotel owner Bryan Nelson observing in the Door County Advocate, "Ten years ago I might have seen a couple of bike racks on the vehicles in my lots. Now it's about 80 percent. It used to be golfers."

Read the complete article here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Basic Concepts of Bicycling in Traffic

This blog entry was originally written by Arthur Ross, the Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Coordinator for the City of Madison and a member of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, for our Wisconsin Bicyclist newsletter. We hope it helps you bike smarter and safer. For similar articles, please check out the Articles and Resources section of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin website.

The most basic concept to keep in mind when learning how to ride a bicycle safely in traffic is that your bicycle is a vehicle. The rules for riding a bicycle in traffic are the same as for driving any other vehicle, like a car. Following these rules of the road is the safest way to ride and your best defense against being involved in a crash.

Here are five essential concepts that will help you bicycle more safely:
  1. Ride on the right side of the road, always in the same direction as other traffic. Riding against traffic is unpredictable, especially to drivers at intersections, driveways or to those exiting parking spaces. Remember that bike lanes go one way only, in the same direction as other traffic on the street.
  2. Ride as far to the right as practicable, not as far right as possible.
    • Practicable means safe and reasonable.
    • Mid-block, your lane position depends largely on the width of the lane and your speed with respect to the speed of other traffic. The faster you are traveling (such as downhill) the farther left in the lane you need to be. The narrower the lane, the farther left you need to be to ensure that overtaking motorists will pass you safely. Wisconsin law requires a motorist passing a bicyclist to give at least three feet of clearance when passing.
    • Stay far enough away from the curb, or from the edge of the road, to avoid hazards such as sand, broken glass and potholes that tend to accumulate there. About three feet is typical. Also ride at least three feet from parked cars to avoid a suddenly opened car door.
    • When approaching and reaching an intersection, your lane position depends upon your destination. On the right for a right turn, towards the center if going straight, to the left (or in a left turn lane) for a left turn.
  3. Turns are made the same way on a bicycle as they are when driving a car. To change your lane position, or your position within a lane, first look behind you to see if there is any other traffic nearby. Traffic in the lane you want to move into has the right of way. Signal and change lanes/position within a lane when there is a safe opening in traffic. Again, this is the same way you change lanes and turn as when driving a car. A left turn can also be made by riding straight through the intersection, stopping, and walking or riding your bicycle across the street when safe.
  4. Obey all traffic signs and signals. These apply to bicyclists as well as motorists. Be especially alert for yield and stop signs, traffic signals, and one-way streets. Obeying traffic signs and signals is your first defense against crashes, and is the best way to gain respect from other road users.
  5. Ride defensively. Be aware of what is going on around you, both in terms of roadway conditions as well as other traffic. Watch the road for hazards like sand, broken glass, potholes and railroad tracks. Watch side streets, driveways, alleys and parked cars for traffic that may enter the street in front of you or turn across your path. Remember that trees, shrubs, fences, bright sunlight and darkness can make it difficult for you to see and for others to see you. Adapt your riding style to minimize these and other hazards.
At night, use a white headlight and a red rear reflector. Many bicyclists also use a red flashing light on the rear of their bicycles. During the day, wear bright colors to help others see you.

Know and watch for others' mistakes. Some common situations to be alert for include: a motorist coming toward you who turns left in front of you; a motorist passing you then turning right in front of you; a motorist pulling out from a stop sign, driveway or parking space without yielding to you.

Finally, help fight road rage by respecting others' rights. If you, as a bicyclist, want to earn the respect of motorists and pedestrians, then you need to respect their rights as well. Never compromise someone else's safety for your own convenience.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Milwaukee 2010 Bicycle Master Plan Open House is Tomorrow

For the last two years, the Bike Fed has been working with the City of Milwaukee on a bicycle plan that will more than double the miles in the city's bicycle network and otherwise make it easier for Milwaukeeans to pedal about town. Tomorrow, you'll have the opportunity to learn the details of the plan and make written comments at an open house at the Zeidler Municipal Building.

    What: Milwaukee by Bike 2010 Bicycle Master Plan Open House

    When: Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 4-7 p.m.

    Where: 1st Floor Conference Room, Zeidler Municipal Building, 841 N. Broadway, Milwaukee

    Who: Anyone who uses Milwaukee's streets or bike paths

    More info:

We hope to see you there! If you aren't able to make the meeting, you are welcome to read the plan at and submit comments via email or postal mail:
    Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin
    ATTN: Milwaukee Bike Plan
    106 East Doty Street, Suite 400
    Madison, WI 53703

Friday, July 9, 2010

How To Use Hand Signals Safely while Cycling in Traffic

Ran across this video on REI's YouTube channel today. Nice, simple and quick introduction to using hand signals on the bike.

And don't think hand signals are just for roads. They are great for preventing collisions on bike paths, too.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Help kids with disabilities lose their training wheels

We got this email from the Madison Area Down Syndrome Society (MADSS) today and thought some of you might be interested in volunteering. It sounds like a really fun opportunity:
Each summer the Madison Area Down Syndrome Society (MADSS) bring the Lose the Training Wheels Bike Camp to our area to help children with different disabilities learn to ride on two wheels. In addition to helping provide children with disabilities another way to stay physically fit and to socially engage with their peers, learning to ride on two wheels often inspires new found confidence and independence in program participants. ...

We are once again seeking more than 80 physically fit volunteers to serve as "spotters" and in other capacities during the week of July 12-16th. ... We are also still seeking sponsors and donors for this event.

Lose the Training Wheels is a national program that boasts an 85% success rate in getting kids confidently riding without training wheels. Interested in helping out? Check out MADSS Bike Camp page.

If you're not in the Madison area, but would like to see the program brought to your part of the state, check out their camp schedule page and read the second paragraph from the top for more information.

Milwaukee hosted a Lose the Training Wheels camp in June. Contact the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin if you'd like to be involved with next year's camp.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thanks for a great Tour de Fat!

We had a wonderful time at Milwaukee's first-ever Tour de Fat on Saturday, July 3, raising more than $12,000 for the Bike Fed. Thousands of people gathered to celebrate bicycling. We were impressed by the costumes that people came up with, and thought our executive director's daughter did a great job picking out a sundress for him to wear.

Thanks to the more than 100 volunteers who made the festival happen. You rock! (Want to help out at next year's Tour de Fat? Contact to put your name in the hat.

Congratulations to Christopher Miller, who won the car-bike exchange contest and got to trade in his 2000 Saturn SL1 for a handbuilt Black Sheep Bikes commuter bicycle.

Our hats also go off to the Bike Fed's own Jake Newborn, who won the slow biking contest. All those years of doing track stands have finally paid off!

Tour de Fat raised about $12,000 to help the Bike Fed continue its work making Milwaukee a better place to bike. The low-impact festival produced 134 pounds of compost, 45 pounds of recycling and three pounds of trash.

If you missed the event or just want to relive its glory, these news stories did a good job of capturing its spirit:

We'll be adding pictures to our Web site and Flickr page in the next day or two. Keep your eyes open!