Chris Fortune knows how to make the business case for bikes. The CEO of Saris has built his company into a world leader in bike racks and other bike related products.
For a decade Chris has been chair of the Governor’s Bicycle Coordinating Council and last November he was the top vote getter in Wisconsin Bike Fed board elections. It’s great to have Chris and his business expertise on our board.
So when Chris decided that the business case for cycling wasn’t being heard in the State Capitol he did what might be obvious but has not been done before: he brought the argument right to the center of the place.
On May 13th the council sponsored a powerful presentation on the value of bicycling to Wisconsin’s economy. Speakers pointed out that the bike industry is responsible for over 13,000 jobs and $1.5 billion of economic activity annually. The Department of Tourism estimates that bike-related tourism spending comes in at $924 million with most of that being brought in from outside Wisconsin.
Than there are the health benefits. UW Professor Jonathan Patz explored the savings in health care costs that come from active transportation. He presented information from research done by Maggie Grabow, PhD., in which she found that if we substituted biking for short car trips we could save $8.5 billion a year in the Upper Midwest alone from better air quality and the benefits of more physical activity.
Some of you may have heard these numbers before, but they need to be heard and reinforced among Wisconsin’s policy makers. So, the best part was that the speakers played to a packed house in the Capitol’s largest hearing room. About one hundred people, mostly legislators and legislative staff were on hand to hear the message.
The great turnout was in no small measure because of you. I heard from legislators who said they received several calls from Bike Fed members asking them to attend and that they showed up specifically because of those contacts.
So, thank you and thanks to Chris! We will be more successful in the legislature as those who represent us better understand the central role bikes play in our economy.