Going to See Wisconsin

It was a short, slow trip I was on.

On a pleasantly balmy Wednesday evening in Stevens Point Bob Fisch leads about forty cyclists through downtown streets and into quiet neighborhoods and then the university campus. We cover all of four miles at a reasonable pace and when we arrive back downtown we go for pizza and beer.

The some of the folks waiting to start the Polky Pedal Ride in Stevens Point.

It’s the Pokey Pedal, Bob’s own creation and an attempt to kindle some of the bike culture that this veteran of Portland, Oregon misses in his new Central Wisconsin home.

He started the Pedal a couple of years ago when he was lucky to get ten riders. On this evening there were four times as many and most were taking their maiden tour with Bob. He always builds his rides around themes like the “Influential Citizens” tour in which he stops to give local history lessons along the way. But his most popular rides are his Wednesday night “Pizza Rides” like the one I joined.

It’s a way to get people back on their bikes and enjoying the social aspects of biking. They might shy away from other rides where they might not feel up to the task, but the Pokey ride is about including everybody. On the night I rode there were older folks, moms and dads and kids and some twenty-something hipsters too. As I rode along I had a nice chat with Jim, a guy who used to ride hard and fast and now wanted to just enjoy the movement, the evening air and the company.


Supper Clubbing at its best.

The Pokey Pedal was just one great stop on last week’s Tour de Dave, my weeklong adventure in Wisconsin bike culture. I put 700 miles on my car (ironically enough) but also sampled four trails around the state. I visited six cities in addition to Stevens Point including Appleton, Wausau, Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, La Crosse and Onalaska. I stopped by more than a dozen bike shops, met with local bike advocates, mayors and key city staff members.

I also managed to hit three supper clubs and check them off of my Wisconsin Supper Club Life List. They were Mark’s East Side in Appleton, the Pinewood in Mosinee and Sullivan’s in Trempeleau. Hey, a guy’s gotta relax after a hard day of riding a bike and hanging around bike shops.

The point of the trip was to build better relationships and stronger connections with all parts of the bike culture in our state. Too often the Bike Fed is perceived as a Madison-Milwaukee focused organization and too often the perception is at least a little bit accurate. But the truth is that we have bike ambassadors or regional directors in Sheboygan, Appleton, Stevens Point, Wausau, Chippewa Falls and La Crosse as well as in southeastern and south central Wisconsin. We really do strive to be a statewide organization and I understand that I can’t serve the whole state if I never leave our offices in Madison and Milwaukee.

So, this won’t be the last Tour de Dave. I plan on doing this again in the fall and, of course, there will be plenty of day trips here and there now and then. So, if there’s a place or a person or a group that you think I need to visit in your area let me know. I’ll be there.

You can follow me on Twitter to keep track of my whereabouts until then. Below is a sample of my feed from this trip.

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 focuses 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.

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