I’m dreaming of a bike Christmas

Whatever you’re celebrating this time of the year (and, hey, it’s cold and it’s dark outside, let’s celebrate something), it’s generally a time of year to take stock of the year gone by, remember old friends and think kind thoughts of others.

After a little more than a couple of months on the job I’ve reached a few conclusions.

First, we have a really talented staff. Not only are they good at what they do, they’re interesting people. The Bike Fed staff contains several musicians including a mandolin player and the lead singer in a rock band that has its own video. We have a guy who raced elephants, piloted a blimp and was a war zone photographer. There’s a woman who lived in Taiwan for six years and a guy who played semi-pro soccer in Copenhagen. We have a former Milwaukee public school teacher and a former Hollywood stunt man. And our staff includes Mr. Madison of 1985 (hint: this was not me). Anyone who can match those characteristics with the right staffers wins a prize.

Second, we have an engaged board that understands its role. It was great to see no less than 35 people run for six slots on our board of directors. I joked that some of the candidates were so engaged that they hired Karl Rove and James Carville. That was a quip, but in some cases it didn’t miss the mark by much. It’s a sign of the organization’s health that so many people were so passionate about serving in a volunteer position.

Third, we have active and fun members. For example, about a hundred folks turned out earlier this fall when Iowa County considered an ordinance that threatened to end organized rides there. The showing helped convince the county board to slow down and take a closer look at what bicycling means to their local economy. And our four “Drinks With Dave” events around the state attracted great turnouts in each location. I got a chance to meet dozens of our members. To a person these are great people who know how to have a good time and want to improve, in many cases, not just cycling opportunities but their communities as well.

From “The Christmas Wish” by Per Breihagen

Fourth — and here’s the one that really matches the spirit of the season – it’s clear from talking with staffers, board members and our members that the Bike Fed needs to continue to be the big tent of biking. Whether you like to road bike, mountain bike, commute, race, do cyclocross, play bike polo or fat tire in the snow or gravel we’re there to make biking better. But it doesn’t stop with serious cyclists. We’re also about getting more adults and kids on their bikes. If you’ve put your bike aside we want you to discover it again. If you ride a little we want you to ride more. If you’ve never learned to ride we’re there to teach you.

Bicycling is open to everybody regardless of where they live or how much money they make. If you can afford to enjoy an expensive touring bike or to collect lots of bikes for different purposes that’s great.  The bike industry employs a lot of folks in Wisconsin and is a great supporter of the Bike Fed.

But cycling can also be pretty much free. As such, the bike can be a vehicle of social change. Any family that can get along with one fewer car will save about $6,000 a year. Imagine what that can mean for a low-income family.  The bike can help in the journey up from poverty.

Our job is to break down the barriers, to open up new paths for cycling both literally and figuratively. It’s not about being against anything; we’re all about being for freedom of choice in transportation. We want to make biking safer and more accessible so that everybody can participate in the greatest form of mobility ever invented.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

Happy holidays from everyone here at the Bike Fed!

About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focusses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

2 thoughts on “I’m dreaming of a bike Christmas

  1. Nice article. It is fun to belong to an organization with a staff with such an interesting background.

    Could be a Facebook interactive (anytime one is a participant that has to be good even if money is not involved). Maybe a “pin the work history on the right staff person” and win a lunch with Dave or with the staff person of your choice (how was it playing soccer in Europe)?

    Just a thought as I stare at the frozen, snow covered Milwaukee river from my downtown abode and ponder the interesting collective life of your young staff.

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