Death and Taxes, another day at the office

One of our yard signs up in Marathon County.

Yesterday was a tough one. I spent quite a bit of the day dealing with the fallout from a number of fatal crashes involving people riding bicycles. I started the day around 6 a.m. because I had to get out payroll checks and make sure we pay our state taxes.  This was in between requesting crash reports and medical examiners reports, talking to friends of the victims, and even dealing with one Bike Fed member who emailed to say he was quitting because he considered the “Give 3ft” yard signs that we sell “Visual Pollution.”

The sentencing hearing is coming up for Tracy A. Kruzicki, 42, who was driving with a suspended license when he veered into the shoulder and killed Gass a year ago. I think in response to that, some of the friends of Tammy Gass had purchased a bunch of those signs from us and put them up along Highway KK in Marathon County where she was killed and her former husband Gregg Bednorski was killed four years earlier. Our former member even blamed the victim, despite the proof of a suspended license and the crash report.

Finally, I ended my day taking a ride up to the spot where Tom Van Hoof was killed in a crash last Thursday at the intersection of the new section of Oak Leaf Trail by Mill Road and Sydney Place in Glendale. I knew Tom from the Santa Cycle Rampage and some other local rides. While I didn’t know him well at all, Tom must have been a pretty special guy to have his smiling face stand out in a crowd of a couple hundred other jolly santas and elves. The crash that killed him happened last week on a regular Thursday night ride he did with friends, so I thought I should pay my respects since it was Thursday.

The memorial flowers for Tom Van Hoof on the new section of trail (still under construction), near Mill Rd and Sydney Pl.

If you have ever been jealous of the staff at the Bike Fed for the great jobs we have, let me tell you, we earn our pay on days like yesterday. I was pretty frazzled by 7:30 when I finally got home. I sat down on the couch, popped open a Milwaukee Brewing Company Polish Moon and watched a couple episodes of some dumb detective show with my wife. She went to bed at nine, then I got back on the computer to do some more work. I was barely able to keep my eyes open by 10:30, so I closed my laptop and went to bed.

I was thinking about yesterday and about writing this blog post on my way in to the office this morning, when the overwhelming beauty of the prairie flowers along the Hank Aaron State Trail  forced me to stop and pull out my camera. I lost myself behind my camera as my senses were overcome by the sight and fragrance of all the flowers, the sounds of the busy worker bees that hovered around me and the babbling of the Menomonee River that flowed past the fly fisherman behind me.

A person enjoying the Hank Aaron on a beautiful morning.

Ten minutes and 15 frames or so later, I felt refreshed. I got back on my bike, reminded of why I do what I do and what a privilege it is to work on the behalf of the folks who pedaled past me on the trail while I was stopped. I can remember when I first started at the Bike Fed and the Menomonee Valley was a post-industrial wasteland. I remember working on the design competition to build the trail and renew the valley. Once it was designed, I remember  our campaign to get then Governor Thompson and the Department of Administration to help free up the log jam and get the trail built. I remember follow-up meetings in Washington to help secure the funding for the new Three Bridges Park. I even remember working on the Oak Leaf Trail Network Plan that resulted in the new trails still being finished in Glendale where Tom Van Hoof died.

Why we do what we do.

With the help of lots of other people like you readers, all our Bike Fed members, and concerned citizens around Wisconsin, we have restored scarred and empty land and filled those once abandoned places with beauty, people and jobs. We are working to make our trails and roads safer by educating people on how to ride safely and legally, and reminding people in motor vehicles how to share the road with more vulnerable users.

After 25 years, our work is not yet done. There is still much to do. The path forward is clear, and I am happy and proud to be working to make Wisconsin America’s best ride.

We have helped create places where parents feel it is safe for little guys like this to ride and learn what freedom and responsibility feel like. I took this photo by turning 180 degrees after I shot Tom Van Hoof’s memorial flowers.

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.

12 thoughts on “Death and Taxes, another day at the office

  1. By you blogging about the victims and their families allows others, who have not heard about these tragedies, so send prayers their way. Thanks for keeping us informed.


    • Dona,

      Thanks for reading, writing, riding and the positive thoughts and prayers.

  2. Thank you Dave for all you do for bicycling and capturing what it’s like to work at the Bike Fed so well. Thanks for reminding us all to take time to smell the roses, even in times of sadness.

  3. Thanks to you and the Bike Federation for the education programs, the ever-growing network of trails and the safer road bike lanes. The tragedies tear at our heartstrings but would be much more numerous without your accomplishments. We are safer because of you all. Keep the faith.

    • Thanks for the kind words Astrid. And thank you, because as a statewide membership-based organization, YOU are the Bike Fed. Wisconsin is too big to ever hope we will have enough staff to attend all the meetings or write to elected officials. We rely on our members and everyone else who loves living and riding in Wisconsin.

    • Some bike shops carry them. You can call your local shop and ask. Otherwise we sell them on from our Madison and Milwaukee offices and through our online store.

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