Getting the average commuter to consider riding a bike is a difficult thing because it comes with negative perceptions. It looks slow and dangerous, cyclists come off as snobs, and it requires effort, which leads to sweat, a very un-businessperson-like accoutrement.
Cycling has to remove as many barriers as possible to make it easy in order to encourage more butts in the saddle. This is getting more difficult as Wisconsin sinks further down the list of "Bike Friendly States." Not too long ago, we were at the top of the list, but due to the decreased funding for bicycle infrastructure we have sunk to number 8. The miniscule amount of money that was already granted is being robbed to build a few feet of extra freeway.
All told, not ideal. But even with reduced infrastructure funding (number 8 really isn't that bad, considering), there are still a lot of benefits of riding a bike and perhaps it's time to reconsider the incorrect perceptions.
Sure, driving a car might get a person within their destination faster, but it doesn't consider the time it takes to find parking. Riding a bike might look dangerous, but it is actually significantly safer than driving a car. Cyclists may seem like snobs (especially from behind the wheel) but talk to most of them and you'll find people who are happy to share their passions, and happy to see more cyclists on the road.
And the sweat? Well, that might be mostly unavoidable, but there are some ways to regulate that, either with riding when it's cooler, riding slower, packing an extra set of clothes, or, if you're lucky, taking advantage of on site showers.
And there are still a wealth of hidden conveniences that come with riding a bike. Sometimes they just have to be demonstrated, and Bike to Work Week, which runs from May 13-18, is like a crash course in finding out what the city has to offer.
Don't feel like you need to ditch your car. The overall goal is participation. Don't feel bad if you can't ride all seven days, but don't give up after only one. Bikeyface has an easy to follow illustration of how to take small steps towards enjoying riding a bike. If you find a problem, ask around for a solution; odds are someone has already figured it out. Bike to Work Week may not convert you to a spandex-loving gear head, but it might provide you with a new, fun weekly goal.
The following is a list of events happening all week long for Bike to Work Week. All events are free unless otherwise noted.
All week long, May 13-19
Help the state of Wisconsin log 3 million miles this year with the 2013 Wisconsin Bike Challenge. Download the app and record your travels. It's never been easier.
The whole week Vulture Space will be collecting unused bicycles for a bike donation drive at the Riverside Urban Ecology Center (1500 E. Park Pl.). Drop off any bike you’re not using, or that your children have grown out of, and they will be refurbished and reused by people who need them. Vulture Space, Dream Bikes and The Milwaukee Bicycle Collective will also be accepting bike donations at their locations during open hours.
Find free pastries and coffee provided by Alterra Coffee at commuter stations all along your ride in. Find commuter stations in Riverwest and the East Side (Riverside Urban Ecology Center, Juneau Park), Bay View (Alterra Coffee), the West Side (Urban Ecology Center Washington Park), The Menomonee Valley (Sigma Environmental, Menomonee Valley Passage).
Don’t forget to ask your own workplace if they are planning anything for bike to work week. Some offices offer lunches, group rides, and other benefits to commuting cyclists.
Monday, May 13
Bike to Work with Mayor Barrett | 8 a.m. | RSVP
51st Street and Washington Boulevard, Milwaukee
Ride your bike to work with Milwaukee's very own Mayor Barrett. Meet at 7 a.m. The ride will leave at 8 a.m.
Bike to Work Week Kickoff | 4-8 p.m. | RSVP
Stone Creek Coffee Factory Store | 422 N. 5th St., Milwaukee
A bicycle-themed fashion show featuring Howlpop, Vessel Workshop, Shinshine Acid Designs, YouphoriClothing, Nicole Labrie, and more! The event includes free pizza from Transfer Pizzeria and Via on Downer delivered by FLAVORCycle. Stone Creek baristas will be on hand to offer coffee breweing demos, sample tastings, and 30% off coffee beans and brewing equipment.
Tuesday, May 14
Pedal Pusher Ride | 7 p.m. | RSVP
Coast In Bikes | 706 S. 5th St., Milwaukee
The Pedal Pusher Society is back, and helmed by the city’s only female bike shop co-owner. All women and trans-identified people are welcome to join us for the first ride of the spring season! A casual ride through the streets of Milwaukee.
Wednesday, May 15
South Side Bicycle Day | 10am - 1pm
Kosciuszko Park | 2201 S. 7th St., MilwaukeeFind free helmets, t-shirts and food. Find free bicycle tune-ups as well and have fun on a group ride.
Valid Bike Shop Open House | 4-6 p.m.
North Division High School | 1011 W. Center St.
Valid Bike Shop is a vocational training program run by the Wisconsin Bike Fed in cooperation with the Milwaukee Workforce Investment Board and North Division High School. The shop teaches kids how to work on their own bicycles and provides them with workplace ready skills.
MKEBKE Group Bike Ride, 6 p.m., RSVP
Estabrook Beer Garden | 4400 Estabrook Pkwy, Milwaukee
These ribald group rides are generally paced to include all riders, students and older. They last between two and three hours, with one or two stops in the middle. These rides generally stop for lights and promote riding responsibly, though that responsibility is monitored by individual riders.
Thursday, May 16
Antique and Vintage Bicycle Show | 4-8:00 p.m. | RSVP
Milwaukee Public Museum, 800 W. Wells St., Milwaukee
We’re all familiar with the Penny Farthing and maybe even the Dandy Horse, but what other unique bicycles were dreamed up before the standard double diamond frame had fully evolved? The Wheelmen and South Shore Cyclery will display a rare collection of bicycles dating from the late 1800s up to the balloon tire bikes of the '30s through '60s. Michael Horne will also present the history of bicycling in Milwaukee and Carey Williams will be discussing the first 5 years of bicycling.
Friday, May 17
Sew to be Seen | 5-8 p.m. | RSVP
Vulture Space | 651 N. Plankinton Ave., Milwaukee
Stay safe at night by sewing reflective material onto bags and clothes. Free reflective material, thread, and needles will be provided by the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective. Mo Lappin, the fashion designer behind Howlpop, will give a workshop on DIY fashion. A sewing machine/work tables, and innertubes/small bicycle parts will be available to be made into jewelry, streamers, clothing, etc.
Saturday, May 18
Bicycle Fiesta | 11am-3pm
Wisconsin Bike Federation | 3618 W. Pierce St., Milwaukee
Find used bicycles for sale from anywhere between $20-$200. Go on guided walking and cycling tours of the Menomonee River Valley via the Hank Aaron State Trail. The event is free and food will be available for purchase.
Bicycle Film Festival/Closing Party| 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. | RSVP
Milwaukee Art Museum | 700 N. Art Museum Dr., Milwaukee
Tickets are $10 per program or get free entry to all programs with a Vulture Space membership card. Each screening will feature new and unique films, with a chance for camaraderie in between. After the last screening there will be a group ride to Red Light at Trocadero, 1758 N. Water St., Milwaukee for a Bike to Work Week After Party.
Tuesday, May 21
Dream Street | 5:30pm - 7:30pm | RSVP
Dream Bikes | 2021A N. Martin Luther King Drive, Milwaukee
You didn't think the fun was going to stop after the official Bike to Work Week, did you? Mark your calendars for Dream Street, a barbeque bicycle benefit for Dream Bikes, which will help send youth to mechanic schools and kick start a cyclocross team. More details can be found at their IndieGoGo page.
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.