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Wisconsin Bike Fed's push for more bike- and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods

People on bicycles.
Wisconsin Bike Fed
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Bikers at Fifth Street Bike Fair in 2021.

It’s bike week here in Wisconsin and with the rise of gas prices, biking to work is becoming a more attractive commute option. Still, sharing the road with vehicles can be scary as reckless driving incidents are on the rise in Milwaukee. There’s even a dangerous driving move called “The Milwaukee Slide,” which is when a driver uses the bike lane to cut through traffic.

Kirsten Finn is the executive director and Jake Newborn is the assistant director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed. They share more about biking anxiety and their work in fighting for more bike- and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

Newborn starts by addressing biking with the rise of reckless driving. He explains, "I think doing your best to follow the rules of the road, ride in a safe place, being alert and aware as you're riding, just knowing what's around you. The same with I think anyone you know, if you're in a car or bike, we all got to share the road and make sure everyone gets home safe. It's on everyone to work to be safer there."

Wisconsin Bike Fed partnered with the city of Milwaukee in 2018 to pass a Complete Streets policy. And since then, Newborn says the organization has been working with the city to make sure they are planning for and building facilities to protect vulnerable bike riders.

There's been some improvement, but infrastructure takes time, he says. And if Milwaukeeans have traffic concerns, Newborn suggests reaching out to elected officials. Finn notes that a safe bike infrastructure is a wonderful indicator of a vibrant community as well.

Finn points out that Wisconsin used to be the second most bike-friendly state and now, the state has slipped to number 29.

"We really need to increase our investment because it's not just beneficial for safety, but it's also a great economic driver, we know that it attracts a diverse workforce when there are active transportation options in a city," she says.

A neighborhood that really emphasizes that streets are for people, and not only cars, Finn says they are more beautiful because people want to be out on those streets more.

As for people considering biking for the first time, Newborn suggests trying it with friends and plan out scenic routes to ride. A good place to start is this weekend at the Fifth Street Bike Fest on Saturday, June 11.

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