Life-long cycling advocate, President of Wheel & Sprocket
Spreading my passion and knowledge for cycling has been my life’s work. Next week, our state is moving to remove legislation that could have drastic negative consequences. Today, I want to take a moment to ask anyone who cares about cycling in the state of Wisconsin to consider the following:
First Issue: Bike Partisanship
Many issues divide our country, but biking should not be one of them.
I am often asked where my political alliances lie. My response is simple: I am bike-partisan.
Bikes are good. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, bikes are good for your health and good for our environment. Liberals and conservatives alike can enjoy riding bikes. Your political background has no affect on your ability to love bikes, and it does not make sense to turn this into an issue that divides us.
Even if you do not like riding bikes, bikes are still good to you. More people riding bikes eases traffic and reduces noise and air pollution. More bike infrastructure in your hometown increases property values and encourages more young professionals to stay in your city.
Bikes are good for the economy. In Wisconsin alone, bicycling is a 1.5 billion dollar industry and supports 14,000+ jobs, including 100+ full time Wheel & Sprocket employees.
Bikes are good for your community. Installation of bicycle infrastructure has a positive return on investment. In fact, I have seen it here in my local community. Ozaukee County has invested in 30 miles of paved bike trail that connects Mequon, Thiensville, Cedarburg, Grafton, and Belgium together to form the Interurban Trail. To this day, city leaders tell me this is the best investment they have ever made with tax-payer money.
It does not make sense for cycling facilities and investments to become political. These additions benefit all members of society, and they are smart investments for our future.
Everyone should be bike partisan.
Second Issue: The Complete Streets Law
Six years ago, we used this bi-partisan, bike partisan mentality to pass The Complete Streets Law here in Wisconsin. Cycling advocates came together to ask our State Legislature to consider all user groups (cars, bicycle, and pedestrians) when building new roads. Our elected officials heard our plea, and through the cooperation of road builders from both sides of the fence, our ask turned into a law.
Since then, The Complete Streets Law has been responsible for the creation of sidewalks, paved shoulders, bike infrastructure and fewer dangerous intersections throughout the state.
Roads are typically rebuilt every 20-50 years, and to build them with all user groups in mind follows reasonable logic. More often than not, the cost of adding these bike and pedestrian facilities costs pennies on the dollar when compared to the scope of the total project’s funding. That being said, is the law perfect? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it is a generally good idea. These are smart investments that adhere to national guidelines.
Complete Streets is a good law that makes sense. Safer streets equate to fewer deaths and to remove this law without proper review would be a mistake.
Next week, The Complete Streets Law is earmarked to be removed from funding along with a 2 million dollar Transportation Alternative Program. This is a step in the wrong direction for our state.
Third Issue: The Proposed Bike Tax
In addition to the defunding this legislation, the state is also proposing a $25 sales tax on new bike purchases. While a bike tax that raised money for bike funding could make sense, this is not the case.
Representatives like John Nygren have requested the state consider this tax following logic similar to the gas tax. In their argument, bikes are considered “freeloaders” that have yet to pay their share of costs to maintain the road.
This is just not true. Many cyclists are members of society who have cars and pay taxes for road improvements with their own contributions anyway. Perhaps more importantly, bikes have very little wear and tear on the road in comparison to cars. The logic behind this bike tax is unjust, and unless the funds were apportioned to bike infrastructure this tax has no legs.
My official Ask to all of you:
Let your state representatives know, in your own words, why you disagree with the removal of The Complete Streets Law and installation of a Bike Tax.
Let them know that you would like them to spend their money wisely. Let them know why biking is important to you.
Even if just a handful of you take action today, we can make a difference.
Just last year, Wisconsin was ranked 4th on the League of American Cyclists Most Bicycle Friendly states. This year we slipped to 9th in the national ranking, moving us in the wrong direction.
Thank you for supporting cycling, and if we work together we can still enjoy the ride,
Below are resources to help your find you area representative along with links to more information on this topic:
- FIND YOUR AREA REPRESENTATIVE:
- Wisconsin Bicycle Federation: Vote Delayed, Bike Tax Proposed
- Wisconsin Bicycle Federation: Complete Streets and TAP Votes Scheduled!
- Letter form John Burke, President of Trek Bicycles:
- Milwaukee Business Journal: Trek, Wheel & Sprocket leaders gear up opposition to Wisconsin bike tax