The 2014 Wisconsin Bike Summit has come and gone and if you weren’t there last Friday you missed a lot. And some of what you missed might have moved you.
Madison Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Michael Johnson started off the day with an inspirational message about how biking has changed his life (he lost over 100 pounds) and how it has been a positive influence in the lives of the kids at the Club.
After a morning of a great workshops key note speaker R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of Minneapolis, entertained the crow with a lively talk about how bicycling helped the Twin Cities achieve a reputation as an economic powerhouse and a destination for young entrepreneurs.
Before the mayor’s talk, Bike Fed Youth Education Manager Jake Newborn introduced Maja Holcomb, Last year’s Youth advocate of the Year, to present the 2014 award to twelve-year-old Dennis Taylor for his work in organizing his Milwaukee neighborhood for increased safety infrastructure after he was knocked off his bike by a reckless driver this summer.
We heard from a number of Summit attendees that they were inspired by the presentations. Sessions that got particular praise were the women’s cycling session, Phil Van Valkenberg’s session on how Wisconsin electrified the nation with the first cross-state bike route and the first rail trail, and the presentation by Rails to Trails Executive Director Keith Laughlin about the Route of the Badger, a potential new trail network in SE Wisconsin. inspirational
The workshops in the afternoon were followed by a group ride, past the new trail totem counter, up to the State Capitol where Eleanor McMahon and Craig Kleinsteiber spoke. Eleanor is a newly elected member of the Ontario Parliament, but she’s there because of her great work at Share the Road Ontario. She founded that organization after her husband, an Ontario police officer, was killed on his bike. And Craig Kleinsteiber was training for an Iron Man event when he was struck by a hit and run driver in August.
Of all the great information and messages that came out of this year’s summit, which was titled “I bike. I vote.,” it was the consistent theme that came from Dennis, Eleanor and Craig that stuck with me the most. Each of them had suffered through a painful incident related to irresponsible drivers and yet none of them was bitter. Instead, they each found a way to build something positive out of the tragedy. In Dennis’ case it was a petition drive to get traffic calming on his street. In Eleanor’s case it was building the most effective cycling advocacy group in Canada and now a political career where she can carry on the work from the inside. And in Craig’s case he’s now speaking out about the need for drivers and cyclists to understand each other better.
Biking is a safe activity, but there are still too many crashes that could be avoided. These three individuals are advancing the cause of understanding between cyclists and drivers better than anyone I know.
We hope everyone enjoyed another Wisconsin State Bike Summit. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any suggestions for sessions you would like us to attend next year. Please also let us know if you have a topic you want to present.
Finally, we would like to hear what you think about moving the Bike Summit to another city next year. We thought it might help to move the summit around to get more people involved. The first place that springs to mind is Appleton, because the Fox Cities Cycling Association is so organized. We would need a strong organization to host the summit. If we move the summit around, we might also do some walking and biking sessions to look at streets that need improvement, try to come up with recommendations and make that a call to action for the members in the host communities.