Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

A Read on Bicycle Scene Through Fresh Eyes

J Binder

Last week cycling advocates gathered in Madison for the annual summit put together by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. Two people in significant roles are quite new to the scene.

Kristin Bennett came last spring from Colorado Springs to become the City of Milwaukee’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Coordinator.

Dave Cieslewicz is the former mayor of Madison – he recently came on board as Executive Director of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Ahead of the summit, the two chatted with WUWM Environmental Reporter Susan Bence about shared their visions for building the bicycle climate here.

Cieslewicz says the Bike Federation’s focus includes epic mountain bike destinations and an interconnected state bikeway system.

"Commuting is also a big part of our agenda, we call it Platinum Cities because the League of American Bicyclists rates cities - platinum, gold, silver, bronze.  Milwaukee's a bronze city; Madison is gold. And our goal though at the Bike Fed is to get as many cities as possible as high on that list as possible."

Cieslewicz says the process is highly  competitive.

"The League takes it very seriously and I'll tell you what, mayors take it seriously.  Even mayors I knew who hadn't been on a bike for years, wanted their city to be platinum; mayors are kind of competitive by nature.  But one the reasons they are is that they realize that being designated a great biking city is good to sell their city to a lot of folks who actually look at that as one measure of quality of life."

Milwaukee's bike and pedestrian transportation coordinator Kristin Bennett says the city has projects afoot that will add to its bicycle-friendly.

"There's a lot of projects on the horizon.  We finished 24 miles of new bike land this year courtesy of some federal grant dollars.  We just opened up the first section of the KK River Trail which is part of the larger Downtown and Bay View connection.  We 're going to add another slate of bike lanes with the rest of that grant I mentioned.  We are working very closely with a local nonprofit Midwest BikeShare bringing public bike sharing to Milwaukee hopefully next year."

Dave Cieslewicz says the Bike Fed hopes to team up at the local level with Bennett and other Wisconsin towns.

"Because the kind of things that Kristin is working on in the City of Milwaukee are very tangible and what we know is about 60 percent of the population is interested in riding a bike but are concerned; and they're concerned mostly about their safety.  And if you can help them feel safe and be safe usually through an infrastructure investment, they're going to ride."

Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.