¡Viva la Ciclovía!

LOTS of bikes to give away!

LOTS of bikes and locks from Master Lock to give away…

Milwaukee’s open streets event, Ciclovía MKE and Southside Bicycle Day, closed out our Bike Week in the 414 yesterday. I got up Sunday, made coffee and immediately loaded up the camera gear I wanted to bring. As soon as I was packed, had formatted my cards, charged the camera batteries and cleaned the camera sensors, I headed straight to the office to pack up our portable Saris event racks (donated by Eppstein Uhen Architects) in our Sprinter van and went directly down to Walker’s Square to help all the staff and volunteers get ready. We had more than 500 bikes, helmets and Master Lock cable locks to give away, so I skipped my usual routine skipped reading the Sunday papers. I had so many details on my mind, I never even turned on the radio in the van.

The bikes were all donated used and fixed up by volunteer mechanics on a number of nights up in the Rebel Wipes warehouse where the bikes were collected. The whole bike giveaway was overseen by our friends at Rebel Wipes, who take the short ends of industrial cleaning clothes destined for recycling and instead package them for sale with 100% of the profits going to the bike program. The volunteer mechanics came from a number of area bike shops, clubs, and teams.

Dad made a very cool DIY top-tube child seat for this cutie (and no, I don’t mean the stilt-walker, sorry).

In fact, while the Bike Fed staff got the whole idea for an Open Streets event in Milwaukee going a few years ago with some funding from Bikes Belong, the event has really been taken over by members of the Walker’s Point and Walker’s Square neighborhood associations, the Chavez Drive Business Improvement District, The Sixteenth Street Community Health Center, Bradley Tech High School, the City of Milwaukee, the Zilber Foundation and a number of other grassroots organizations. Mirtha Sosa from our staff is one of the lead coordinators, but Ciclovia MKE has become a real community driven event.

We had bikes for kids and adults of all ages.

This year the route went from Chavez Drive, east down Washington Street and turned the corner onto S. 3rd Street. Last year we crossed S. 2nd Street and connected to the Kinnickinnic River Trail. We had to turn out route at 3rd this year because Milwaukee’s Pride Fest Parade was taking place at the same time on S. 2nd Street. All the organizers actually thought the two events would have some great positive synergy since Ciclovías are kind of like disorganized parades. I saw quite a few people from the Ciclovía riding on 2nd Street after the parade had passed by and the street was still blocked off. I saw them when I did exactly the same thing.

There were quite a few families on cargo bikes of all kinds this year.

Our Ciclovía ended at 4pm and I packed up the van with the now empty bike racks put them back in the basement of our office. Pedaling home from our office after such a successful day, I kept reliving the smiles of all the cute kids, the infectious beat of the Zumba, and generally basking in a day that made me proud to work for the Wisconsin Bike Fed and be part of such a wonderful, healthy, community building event. It was one of those days I couldn’t imagine living anywhere but Milwaukee.

Then I got home and my wife told me the news about the mass shooting in Miami. I am still in shock as I finish writing this at 12:30am. I can’t believe our event and the Pridefest Parade overlapped and I had no idea of the horrific attack on the LGBT community the night before. It has taken me until now even to write about it. At first I felt guilty for being so self-absorbed that I missed learning about the biggest mass murder in our nation’s history for a “bike event.”

Mariachi powered smoothies from Voces Y Cuerdas De Mexico!

After some reflection and a little time for the shock to wear off, I now feel like what we did at Ciclovia MKE and Southside Bicycle Day was even more important because it happened in conjunction with the Pridefest Parade. We started Ciclovia MKE to help improve bicycling on our south side, in a mostly Latino community where our Milwaukee office is now located. We believe that bicycling is part of the solution to our segregated society’s complicated problems. Bicycling improves people’s health, saves money, provides transportation that reduces congestion and pollution.

Of course we had live Mariachi for the ceremonial opening of the Bublr Station at Washington and Chavez. Thanks to Alderman Perez for all his help getting the Ciclovia approved and the Bublr station installed.

But perhaps most importantly, bicycling helps build community, strengthens neighborhoods and puts smiles on people’s faces. It allows people to move travel down streets while still feeling part of the neighborhood they are riding through. When you ride a bike past someone on their porch, you say hello. When you stop at an intersection and someone walks through the crosswalk in front of you, can comment on the weather or they might say “nice bike.”

The Zumba was off the hook.

Everybody wanted to Zumba.

Events like Ciclovia MKE also break down stereotypes proving “cyclists” are not all middle-aged white guys in lycra and proves that Milwaukee’s neighborhoods are mostly filled with nice, hard-working families. Ciclovia MKE promotes all the good that is bicycling and the good in our community. It turns out if you put them on bicycles, the Walker’s Point hipsters and LGBT community get along great with their working class neighbors in Walker’s Square and they all enjoy and benefit from the thriving business district on Cesar Chavez Drive.

That smile is why I do what I do.

Families made up the biggest part of the participants this year.

We probably could have used a few more bikes with training wheels, or maybe taken the pedals off some bikes and taught kids to balance that way. Many kids learn in 20 minutes.

So while we did give away 500+ bikes, helmets and bike locks, at the end of the day, Ciclovia MKE is really about so much more than bicycling. Thanks again to the Bike Fed staff, to all the sponsors (listed on the route map above), to shops Wheel & Sprocket, Southshore Cyclery, DreamBikes, Coast In Bikes and to the Boys and Girls Club for supplying top-knotch wrenches to do repairs, to Bublr Bikes for opening a station on Chavez, to the hundreds of volunteers, Alderman Perez, Mayor Barrett and the staff at the City of Milwaukee, and especially to the neighbors and business owners who make Milwaukee a wonderfully diverse and inclusive place to live.

It’s about the art!

It is not about the bike.

It is not about the bikes.

At least it is not about the Bi-cycle…

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.

13 thoughts on “¡Viva la Ciclovía!

  1. Thanks Dave for this wonderful and poignant post. So great a day and both events, Ciclovia MKE and the Milwaukee Southside Bicycle Day rocked the Southside with the Power of Possibility. Bicycling is good for the heart and good for the soul. Way too many people to thank individually but really Thanks to Everyone who came and shared in the excitement and joy of the day. I too did not know of the gun violence that had transpired and came home to learn about it from my mother. When will we finally act and do something to end this gun violence insanity? Meanwhile, more bikes for more people. More Zumba, more healthy days for all our Milwaukee neighbors and friends. Next year, Bigger and Better!!

    • Thanks for the comment Dr. Waters, and thanks for your hard work and the holistic vision from Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers for how active lifestyles and environment play such important roles in healthcare. You are right, I struggled to thank everyone who made such a great day possible, beginning with everyone who donated a bicycle, the many sponsors for cash and in-kind donations, the artists who shared their energy and passion, the City, Bublr, and especially the neighborhood associations and area businesses who welcomed the event. Actually, we should also thank Ken Hanson of Hanson Dodge Creative and the folks at Greater Together too. While we didn’t get funding from them, it was their program that was the catalyst for the core partners in Ciclovia to come together.

  2. What a nice day in a great Milwaukee neighborhood! Special thanks to Dave Waters and all the other volunteers from the Sixteenth Clinic, the many who found bikes in their garages to donate, and the many volunteer bike mechanics at the event (from Dream Bikes, Wheel & Sprocket, and other organizations). Most of the donated bikes were in good shape and ready to go, but it was so nice, when a little problem arose (seat too high, a loose chain, an unexpected flat, etc.), to be able to go right over and get the problem fixed. It really saved the day for some kids who were excited about getting a new-to-them bike.

    • Here, here! The combination of Southside Bicycle Day and Ciclovia was the perfect pairing. Dave Waters and the crew from Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers and Latinos Por la Salud grew that event from nothing to the huge success that it is today.

  3. What a great story and great pictures! It sounds like it was a huge success with lots of potential to become a regular summer event. Thanks for passing this along. It made my day, especially after the sad news from Florida this weekend.

  4. Thanks for your kind words. We loved organizing and throwing the 5th Annual Milwaukee Southside Bike Day…this year, like all previous years, was BIGGER and BETTER. I was one of many who made it all happen…….our planning, organizing and actualizing committee consisted of 3 amazing AmeriCorps workers at The 16th Street Community Health Center: Eduardo Castro (the really big cheese), Courtney Jankowski and Conner Enright; Jose Curiel of Latinos Por La Salud; Mirtha Sosa — Milwaukee coordinator for the Wisconsin Bike Fed; and Michael T. Kryshak of Rebel Wipes. These are the people who put it all together, pulled it off and hit a grand slam with the Bike Day yesterday. As in previous years, we received huge support from Russell and Dream Bikes, Vince and Ben’s Cycle, Tristan and Carolyn at CoastinBikes, Lawrence and the Boys and Girls Club, Steve and South Shore Cyclery, Amelia and Wil and Wheel and Sprocket. Also to thank are Ricardi Diaz, Juan Ruiz and the security guys at United Community Center for allowing us to store the bikes there the night before the event and to be able to walk them out into Walker Point Square yesterday. Also thanks to Lake Front Ferry for providing us with hundreds of bikes from their bike turn in for a ferry ticket annual drive and Mr. Mover for transporting the bikes a couple times in a couple directions. Much appreciated also are all the volunteers and mechanics who worked with us….some back for another year of fun and some rookies….hope you enjoyed the fun and spirit of the day. Thanks to Leslie Davis for organizing the crew of face painters and the Milwaukee Police Dept. for their donation of bikes and their presence at the event, and to Sandie Pendleton (head dude of the Greater Shorewood Bikers) for leading the kids’ parade……thanks to Bob Purman for filming the Bike Day…and lastly thanks to the Wisconsin Bike Fed for their support, collaboration, and for stepping up to serve as our fiscal agent this year…..thanks Jessica, thanks Dave S., thanks Dave C., thanks Andrew, thanks Bryon, thanks Betsy and last but not least, the little Obama community organizer, Mirtha Sosa.
    See you all next year…if you didn’t get a bike this year….SORRY….. the trick is to show up early as we gave away over 500 bicycles in under 2 hours…..you snooze you lose.
    David Waters

  5. Whoops…forgot to thank our wonderful Zumba leaders, Teresita and her daughters from Core El Centro; Loliss, Pati and Ara; Eida and Joelissa; and Esperanza …you Moved and Grooved on the streets of Southside MKE.

    • Right Jason, so many people to thank, I knew I was going to miss someone! Did those come from the High Speed Ferry donations? If so, we should really recognize the Lake Express too!

  6. Yes…….SORRY….my bad………I forgot to say THANKS to Jason McDowell, Sam Dodge and the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective for donating a TON of bikes for this year’s Bike Day and also THANKS to Russell and Dream Bikes for donating a TON of bikes for this year’s Bike Day which helped us break the 500+ number of bikes we were able to give away this year which HUGELY surpassed the 225 bikes we raffled off last year at the 4th Annual Milwaukee Southside Bicycle Day that happened on June 20th, 2015. And next, year…..
    David Waters

  7. Tons and Tons of the bikes came from the annual Lake Front Ferry bike for a ferry ticket exchange and I thanked them in a comment I did above on 6/13/16 at 6:15 PM. But …why not thank them again as they really gave us a HUGE boost in our bike donation numbers for this year and we HUGELY appreciate it.
    David Waters

  8. Our whole family enjoyed the event this year! (We enjoyed last year as well, but obviously it was bigger and better this time, even just weather-wise, haha)
    There were so many great sponsors and activities for the community. Thanks to all who helped!
    My only constructive criticism is on how the bike giveaway was run. I’d really suggest next year not printing off more “free tickets” than you have bikes. There was some disappointment on the part of those who finally got a ticket only to find no bikes left. All around great event, though!

  9. Waters, great job once again with this fantastic event! Many thanks to Mirtha, Eduardo, Connor, Dave, and everyone at 16th St HC, the Bike Fed and many other organizations that came together to pull this off.

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