Your Bike Fed Needs YOU!

As announced last fall, the Wisconsin Bike Fed is reaching out to local bicycle organizations (LBOs) to designate Bike Fed Representatives to serve as an official point of contact between the Bike Fed and each organization. LBOs include local advocacy organizations, clubs, competitive teams, and other non-profit organizations with an interest in promoting access and safety in biking and walking, such as organizations supporting health, the environment, and social justice. Bike Fed Reps are intended to be two-way channels of communication, sharing local news and needs with the Bike Fed Board and staff, and passing along information from the Bike Fed to the LBO’s members.

Efforts to connect the Great Headwaters Trail system in Eagle River to the Heart of Vilas system in Saint Germain were hampered by the restriction of eminent domain use. Photo: Great Headwaters Trails

A current effort serves to illustrate this concept: the 2017-2019 Wisconsin State Budget prohibited municipalities from condemning private property to create or extend recreational trails, bicycle ways or lanes, or pedestrian ways. This provision was inserted anonymously into the budget in the infamous “999” motion, which is intended for technical and housekeeping changes, but instead is now frequently used to pass quickly and poorly conceived policies into law with a minimum of scrutiny by state departments, the media, or the public.

The condemnation (or “eminent domain”) process is crucial for acquiring continuous corridors for transportation. It’s one of several ways we work together through our government to provide cherished freedoms we can’t assert individually, such as the freedom to travel. The process has many safeguards to prevent abuse and insure that owners are fairly compensated for condemned property as well as the inconvenience of replacing it.

Those opposed to eminent domain to provide for the “greater good” generally focus on “property rights,” the freedom to control one’s private property. Wherever you fall in this balance of conflicting concerns, it’s apparent to most people that governments must have some way to acquire land for transportation corridors. We at the Bike Fed think that’s even more important for bicycle and pedestrian ways than for roads, as we prepare for a low-carbon future. If you agree, you can help in two ways:

  1. We are collecting stories from around Wisconsin about projects important for economic development, tourism, safety, and health that have been abandoned, delayed, or diminished by the loss of eminent domain authority. Jurisdictions that sponsor such projects include counties, cities, villages, towns, school and other special districts, and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). As a Bike Fed Rep for your LBO, your members can help identify such projects and crowdsource contact information to the Bike Fed staff. We want to identify projects hurt by the loss of eminent domain authority in every one of Wisconsin’s thirty-three Senate districts!
  2. This fall, our allies in the legislature will propose a bill to at least partially restore this needed authority. As a Bike Fed Rep to your LBO, we’ll be counting on you to pass along action alerts to your members, sharing our key points and the stories collected from your district with local legislators. Nothing gets an elected official’s attention faster than multiple calls from constituents on the same issue!

Take the first step. Discuss among your members who should be your Bike Fed Representative. For small organizations, the president or chairperson might be a logical choice. For larger organizations with multiple officers, your LBO might appoint a person specifically for this job. Further information about the role of Bike Fed Representative is on the application.

Become a Bike Fed Representative

When you determine who will be your LBO’s Bike Fed Representative, that person should complete the application with his or her contact information. Act now! You can always change your Bike Fed Rep later. The Bike Fed will be back in touch to confirm your appointment.

Finally, please share this blog with any other LBOs in your area, or pass along a representative’s contact information to the Bike Fed. We to know about every LBO around the state. We are stronger when we work together!

About Steve Arnold

Wisconsin Bike Fed Board Secretary Steve Arnold came to bicycle advocacy from late-in-life bike commuting. Now retired from careers in information technology and public service, he dabbles in transportation policy and planning and loves to tour the roads and paths around his home in Fitchburg.

One thought on “Your Bike Fed Needs YOU!

  1. I’ve asked city and county planners how often they actually use eminent domain, and they say that it’s almost never because of the high legal costs. The power of the law is that it’s a “last resort” that encourages property owners to be more agreeable to mutually-beneficial arrangements such as land sales, swaps, easements, etc.

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