Down to #8 in state bike rankings, what you can do to stop the slide.

The League of American Bicyclists released their ranking of Bicycle Friendly States today, and Wisconsin fell from 6th in 2012 to 8th this year. It was only 2010 that we were second in a neck and neck race with Washington for the best state in the country for bicycling. So what has caused our rapid fall from grace? More importantly, as a person who loves bicycling, what can you do about it?

Click to open readable PDF

It will come as little surprise that the number one reason why we have dropped in the rankings is the continued cuts to bicycle funding. Want us to go back up in the rankings? The LAB offers this as their number one tip for Wisconsin:


“Utilize all MAP-21 funding programs – including TAP, HSIP, CMAQ, STP, and Section 402 – to include biking and walking in all transportation projects.”


If you read no further and want to keep Wisconsin a great place to ride a bike, here is all you need to do.

Call or email your state representative and state senator and tell them you want to stop Wisconsin from falling behind other states as a great place to ride a bike. Ask your elected representatives in Madison to restore the federal funding for bicycling in the budget. It is that simple to be a part of the solution.

Click here to find out who your elected officials are.


Want more background information to help you be more specific and answer questions? Read on…

The 2013-2015 budget (AB 40) Governor Walker submitted to the State Legislature on February 20, 2013 proposes to increase the biennial transportation budget from $5.7 billion to $6.4 billion. Despite the sizable increase in Wisconsin’s transportation budget, the Governor’s draft budget proposes a nearly 50% reduction in investment towards Wisconsin’s bicycle infrastructure.

Beyond the impact to our national ranking, these cuts will have a very real impact on the millions of  residents and visitors that ride their bicycles in Wisconsin every year. The cuts to bicycle funding proposed in the Governor’s budget would, if passed, pose a significant threat to the viability of Wisconsin’s bicycle industry, the state’s standing as a top-tier bicycle destination and to the mobility of the millions of Wisconsin residents who chose to travel by bicycle. Wisconsin’s bicycle industry, which includes the two largest bicycle companies in the country (Trek Bicycle Corporation and Pacific Cycles), dozens of other smaller companies that make everything from complete frame sets to spokes and saddles, nearly 200 independent bicycle dealers, and over 350 bicycle-related events and rides. Wisconsin bicycling generates an annual economic return of over $1.5 billion and nearly 14,000 jobs.

How to stop the slide: The Bike Fed proposes that the legislature amend the biennial budget for the Transportation Alternatives program to $26,403,400.

Our Ask
Program State 2012-13 State 2013-14 State 2014-15
Transportation Enhancements $ 6,251,600 $ 0 $ 0
Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities $ 3,720,000 $ 0 $ 0
Safe Routes to School $ 3,230,100 $ 0 $ 0
Transportation Alternatives $ 0 $ 13,201,700 $ 13,201,700
Total Available for Bike Projects $ 13,201,700 $ 13,201,700 $ 13,201,700


The League had some other tips to help us compete with other states that have passed us by in the last few years. If you want to add a couple other asks of the people you sent to Madison to represent your interests, we suggest you highlight these two other recommendations from the LAB this year:

  • Adopt a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for a motorist that injures or kills a bicyclist or pedestrian
  • Create a system of state bike routes that connect to destinations, and are suitable for all types of bicyclists.

Click here to read a preliminary draft of the Bike Fed’s proposed Vulnerable User Law. The Law provides for greater penalties for motorists injuring or killing vulnerable users of the road. States that already have similar laws are: Illinois (allows for Class 3 felony), Oregon, New York (A07917-C S5292-B) and Delaware.

If you need to explain the return on investment of a state trail system, read the article about it in the January edition of the Bike Fed magazine.

Nearly 50% of people in Wisconsin age 16 and older own bicycles. Imagine the impact it would have if you and the rest of those people took a couple minutes to send an email or make a phone call in support of bicycling in Wisconsin. We could easily stop the slide and keep Wisconsin a great place to ride a bike.

Click here to find out who your elected officials are.

If you care, all you have to do is call.


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.

6 thoughts on “Down to #8 in state bike rankings, what you can do to stop the slide.

  1. Dave,

    I know the funding puzzle is almost impossible to solve, but do you know what the biennial budget includes in the way of CMAQ dollars and Recreational Trails Program money for bicycle and pedestrian projects. CMAQ has been a huge source of money for the Hank Aaron State Trail, the Oak Leaf Trail and other projects.

    • Tom,

      Here is what I have for the Congestion Mitigation Air-Qaulity Improvement Program:

      FY2012-$27,454,262 FY2013-$25,876,282 FY2014-$26,094,451

      Rec Trails is sort of a pass-through and harder to nail down.The Feds set that amount. Wisconsin’s apportionment for 2012 was $2,023,744. For 2013 it is Wisconsin $2,167,754 minus a 1% required to be returned to FHWA for program administration for a net of $2,146,076 See more about that here:

  2. As an Illinois resident who has pedaled across the State of Wisconsin, I have serious doubts about the LAB’s scoring system. It’s all very nice to look at legislation, policies, education, etc. But I wonder if LAB isn’t just looking at each state as a collection of municipalities. Perhaps instead the LAB should be asking itself, “Do I want to pedal across this state?” I pedaled from Milwaukee to St. Paul because Wisconsin has bike trails in good condition and generous paved shoulders on many state roads. Illinois has no paved shoulders and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find a suitable route for crossing Minnesota, either. When I pedal along the Mississipi later this year, I’ll be on the Wisconsin side because a safe route along the river does not exist in Minnesota. It’s nice to have some municipalities pushing the envelope with bicycle-friendly policies but, if you can’t feel safe pedaling from one city to the next, what does this ranking sytem really mean?

    • Thanks for the perspective Chris. BTW, some friends and I are taking a vintage train up to St. Paul on Sunday and riding back to Milwaukee via trails over the next three days. We are bringing cameras (one guy is bringing a 4×5 and lights) and we will have a story about it in the next edition of our Bike Fed magazine.

  3. Don’t expect any more $$$ from me now that the WI Bike Fed has gone anti-Walker. In fact, I want a refund on my membership.

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