Mayors Bike To Work, Milwaukee plans for gold

Mayor Barrett (left) and Dave Cieslewicz lead the group past Miller Brewery on Highland Street in Milwaukee.

On Monday Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former mayor of Madison, Dave Cieslewicz kicked off Bike to Work Week activities with a group ride to the Zeidler Municipal Building in downtown Milwaukee. Mayor Barrett has been leading this group ride since he has been in office, and even with threatening weather in the forecast, about 25 people showed to join him. Even Milwaukee Alderman Nik Kovac pedaled over in his suit and tie from his district on the east side to join the ride.

Alderman Nik Kovac proves you can ride to work in a suit after he rode about 16 miles from his home on the east side to join the group ride outside Mayor Barrett’s west side home, and then rode back downtown.

The ride leaves from 51st and Washington Boulevard, outside his home in the Washington Heights neighborhood and almost all of the route is on streets with bike lanes. Milwaukee now has more than 75 miles of bike lanes and has plans to hit 100 miles in a year or so. Since the Bike Fed brought along our own mayor this year, the two city leaders got together after the ride for a brief private meeting with key staff to discuss how cities can become more bicycle friendly.

Never fear, fixing pot holes was near the top of the list, but Citizen Dave and Mayor Barrett also talked about the bigger picture. Mayor Barrett highlighted the planned launch of a bikeshare system in Milwaukee. City Engineer Jeff Polenske mentioned how they are looking for the potential to add bike improvements on every resurfacing project. Kristin Bennett, Milwaukee’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator mentioned several streets where they are considering protected bike lanes.

Show here meeting Mayor Barrett’s (left) office, are Chief of Staff Patrick Curley, City Engineer Jeff Polenske, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Kristin Bennett and Dave Cieslewicz, Exec. Dir. of the Bike Fed.

It was great to hear about the specific projects in the hopper, but on a broader level, the two leaders agreed on that despite cuts to bicycle funding political gridlock at the state and federal level, mayors still see the importance of cycling in their cities and can really get a lot done using local funds. While it would be irresponsible not to leverage federal and state grants whenever possible, the associated red tape adds cost and time. By using municipal funding sources, cities can get a lot more done, for less money and in a much shorter time.

Dave Cieslewicz mentioned how Mayor Timothy Hanna in Appleton and Mayor Jim Schmitt in Green Bay both are working to make their cities more bicycle friendly. Of the 12 bicycle friendly communities in Wisconsin, Madison is rated gold, La Crosse silver and the rest are bronze. We all agreed Milwaukee will probably move up to silver the next round, but when Cieslewicz discussed the Madison Platinum Committee, Mayor Barrett and his staff all agreed to start a similar committee to get Milwaukee to gold.

In addition to that plan, the meeting ended with a plan for Mayor Barrett to tour some of Madison’s bicycle facilities the next time he is in the State Capital. Mayor Barrett also said he was interested in riding in the Bike Fed’s new Polish Moon fundraiser ride we are planning for August 9th.

The Bike Fed would like to thank Mayor Barrett and his staff for helping us kick of Bike To Work Week and we look forward to working with city elected officials and residents on the  Milwaukee’s Gold Committee.

Super volunteer and awesome photographer Richard Beauchampworked with our own Jessica Binder to make the video below of Alderman Kovac on his commute. The video was edited by Dragos Popa who works at Mainly Editing. Dragos commutes over 20 miles a day to work.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

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