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If there ever was a bike story about an “AH HA” moment that we can all be inspired by, Denise Fenton owns it. Early spring of 2020, Denise was meeting a group of friends for a regular walk, but this time, as she reached for her car keys, she had a flash of inspiration and asked herself, “Why am I driving my car to go for a walk only a few miles from my house?” Denise looked at Google maps in Bike Mode, which highlighted the easy and comfortable streets to pedal to her destination by bike. That ride was only her beginning, this was the first of many revelations and trips by bike.




You don’t have to be an athlete to ride your bike. Everybody can do it! Nothing special was needed to continue riding regularly all summer. 

(Although she does aspire to get a bike light for the shorter daylight hours and a cargo basket for bigger trips to the store!)

On a bike one feels less rushed, naturally searching the route and planning better allows the extra time to relax and enjoy the trip. I am sure Denise would be happy to give a tour around her district in Appleton, helping you comfortably connect parks, schools, and grocery stores by bicycle. 

Introduce yourself, and tell us where you live

[Denise Fenton] I am 62, the mother of two public school teachers and grandmother to an amazing two-year-old girl. My husband and I are fairly recent transplants to Wisconsin – he is from Kansas and I grew up in Texas. We met in Arkansas where we had both ended up for work and were in New Jersey for nine years before moving to Appleton. We live in the Erb Park neighborhood on the near north side of the city.

What do you do on the daily?

[Denise Fenton] I retired early this year after a forty year career in information technology. In 2019, I was elected to the Appleton Common Council, having been approached about running for the seat left vacant when our alderperson relocated for her job. Although I had never been interested in holding an elected office, I have found that I truly enjoy working with the people in my district and with my colleagues to keep our city a great place to live and raise a family. In my spare time, I am an avid walker and I love to read. My husband and I had hoped to do quite a bit of traveling in retirement, but that has been put on hold for now by the COVID19 pandemic.

Why do you ride bikes?

[Denise Fenton] I have biked for exercise and recreation for a long time, but the climate crisis really got me to look at my lifestyle to see what steps I could take to reduce my carbon footprint. Now that I don’t commute to a job every day, I realized that most of the trips I make are short and there are very few of them that require driving. Biking to meetings or to run errands makes me feel like I am making my small effort to keep the planet healthy. When I bike somewhere, I notice so many more things about my surroundings that I did from my car, and I’m getting exercise as a bonus.

Since the start of the COVID19 pandemic, how has cycling impacted you and or your community?

[Denise Fenton] The COVID19 pandemic basically slowed life down for me and a lot of other people. I think being at home all the time with no place to rush made me and a lot of people realize that we didn’t have to be in such a hurry. When Spring came, we were so glad to be able to do things outdoors – we walked more and we dragged our bicycles out of the garage. I see so many more “regular” people out on bikes now. I think that a lot of people remember the freedom that our bikes gave us as kids and we are reliving it now.

What is your favorite memory on a bicycle?

[Denise Fenton] I think my favorite adult bicycle memory is a very long ride along the Niagara River during a vacation in upstate New York and Canada. The scenery was just amazing.

What do you enjoy most about biking?

[Denise Fenton] What I enjoy most is the slower pace that lets me really experience my neighborhood and my city. I also really think about the fact that for every trip I take by bike, I am not creating greenhouse gas emissions that are harming the planet.

Do you have any tips for new riders?

[Denise Fenton] WEAR YOUR HELMET! I still see too many people riding – even on city streets – without a helmet. Also – learn the traffic laws and the rules of the road. I think we increase the chances of getting bike-friendly policies implemented if we are as considerate as we want drivers to be.

What is your vision for safe bicycling in your community?

[Denise Fenton] Ideally, we will have bike lanes on every major street in the city. I would also like to see more protected bike lanes where bikers are separated from cars by curbs or gutters. We need to make sure that the bike lanes we have are kept clear and in good repair.

Bicycling is impacting Wisconsinites for good, and we’re proud to share stories like Denise’s from around the state. Denise’s vision echoes the Wisconsin Bike Fed’s legislative priorities that aim to make cycling more enjoyable and safe. Join us in fighting to restore the statewide Complete Streets Policy and design streets that prioritize the needs of all users. 

Thank you to those who have donated and become members, together we are the Wisconsin Bike Fed.

Portraits by Bike is a collaboration between Wisconsinites and their bikes and is sponsored by Barbara A and Robert B Monnat.