Commuting by bike has doubled in the city over the last two years and bike-related accidents have declined by 400 percent over the last four. The last several years saw gas prices spike painfully and, although they eventually relaxed, many commuters stayed in the saddle.
Several Milwaukee-area groups think the city, its businesses and residents can do even better -- and want to see an increase in cycling, even through the winter.
A new coalition of bicycle friendly businesses, Milwaukee Businesses By Bike (known shorthand as MbyB (pronounced Embibe) was started to help businesses turn their workplaces and Milwaukee into a more bicycle friendly city.
At its first meeting, they asked a question: can Milwaukee become a world-class bicycle city? Following the screening of the 15-minute documentary, "The Boulder Bike Story: How any town can become bicycle friendly," the answer was a resounding "yes." The short film listed some interesting, sometimes staggering, facts:
- Since 1989, Boulder has added 1 mile of off-street bike paths and two underpasses per year, totaling 74 overpasses so far.
- In 2008, Boulder devoted 46 percent of its transportation budget to bikes, transit and pedestrians.
- Flood mitigation money helped the city turn drainages into a bicycling network.
- Five percent of Boulder streets have a bike lane or path nearby.
But, with strong applause, most of the attendees agreed that Milwaukee should not aspire to become Boulder, Portland or Amsterdam. Instead we want to create a world-class bicycle city that is uniquely Milwaukee, according to MbyB.
It might seem odd to begin promoting cycling while the winter season looms ahead, but this Thursday an event aims to prove that it is never too late to pick up a bike and, perhaps, it's always too early to hang it up.
"So you want to Bike Winter: A Winter Cycling Discussion," put on by the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective, Truly Spoken Cycles, the Bella Donnas and UWM's U-Bike program, is for anyone who is interested in learning more about proper layering, lighting, and riding through snow and ice in the city.
Veteran riders are encouraged to attend and impart their knowledge to those with questions. The discussion will cover everything from how many layers to wear and how cheaply it can be accomplished to how to ride in traffic in the snow.
This coalition also hopes to attract a large group of winter enthusiasts to show the city that the cycling infrastructure needs to be maintained just as well as the automobile infrastructure throughout all seasons. Deep, broken seams in bike lanes and excuses like 'Plows don't expect people to use the bike paths or lanes' are unacceptable, according to organizers.
The Winter Cycling Discussion will be held at Transfer Pizzeria at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19. Door prizes and ap-pizza-tizers will be available as well as drink specials. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP and invite friends through Facebook, Milwaukee By Bike, or directly at the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective.
The next MbyB meeting is expected to be organized and planned within the next 4-6 weeks. Businesses interested in learning more about MbyB can contact Kevin Hardman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.