Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

Wisconsin Declines in National Bike Rankings

Since 2010, we've dropped from 2nd most bike-friendly state to 8th place. State funding cuts are main reason.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - May 24th, 2013 10:17 am
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The League of American Bicyclists recently released their ranking of Bicycle Friendly States, and Wisconsin fell from 6th in 2012 to 8th place this year. As recently as 2010 we were second in a neck-and-neck race with Washington for the best state in the country for bicycling. So what has caused our rapid fall from grace? More importantly, if you’re a person who loves bicycling, what can you do about it?

Click to open readable PDF

Click to open readable PDF

It will come as little surprise that the number one reason we have dropped in the rankings is the continued cuts to bicycle funding. Want us to go back up in the rankings? The LAB offers this as their number one tip for Wisconsin:

“Utilize all MAP-21 funding programs – including TAP, HSIP, CMAQ, STP, and Section 402 – to include biking and walking in all transportation projects.”

If you read no further and want to keep Wisconsin a great place to ride a bike, here is all you need to do:

Call or email your state representative and state senator and tell them you want to stop Wisconsin from falling behind other states as a great place to ride a bike. Ask your elected representatives in Madison to restore the federal funding for bicycling in the budget. It is that simple to be a part of the solution.

Click here to find out who your elected officials are.

Want more background information to help you be more specific and answer questions? Read on…

The 2013-2015 budget (AB 40) Governor Scott Walker submitted to the State Legislature on February 20, 2013 proposes to increase the biennial transportation budget from $5.7 billion to $6.4 billion. Despite this $700 million increase in Wisconsin’s transportation budget, the Governor’s draft budget proposes a nearly 50% reduction in investment towards Wisconsin’s bicycle infrastructure.

Beyond the impact to our national ranking, these cuts will have a very real impact on the millions of  residents and visitors who ride bicycles in Wisconsin. The cuts to bicycle funding proposed in the Governor’s budget would, if passed, pose a significant threat to the viability of Wisconsin’s bicycle industry, the state’s standing as a top-tier bicycle destination and to the mobility of the millions of Wisconsin residents who chose to travel by bicycle. Wisconsin’s bicycle industry, which includes the two largest bicycle companies in the country (Trek Bicycle Corporation and Pacific Cycles), dozens of other smaller companies that make everything from complete frame sets to spokes and saddles, nearly 200 independent bicycle dealers, and over 350 bicycle-related events and rides. Wisconsin bicycling generates an annual economic return of over $1.5 billion and nearly 14,000 jobs.

How to stop the slide: The Bike Fed proposes that the legislature amend the biennial budget for the Transportation Alternatives program to $26,403,400.

Our Ask
Program State 2012-13 State 2013-14 State 2014-15
Transportation Enhancements $ 6,251,600 $ 0 $ 0
Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities $ 3,720,000 $ 0 $ 0
Safe Routes to School $ 3,230,100 $ 0 $ 0
Transportation Alternatives $ 0 $ 13,201,700 $ 13,201,700
Total Available for Bike Projects $ 13,201,700 $ 13,201,700 $ 13,201,700

The League had some other tips to help us compete with other states that have passed us by in the last few years. If you want to add a couple other asks of the people you sent to Madison to represent your interests, we suggest you highlight these two other recommendations from the LAB this year:

  • Adopt a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for a motorist that injures or kills a bicyclist or pedestrian
  • Create a system of state bike routes that connect to destinations, and are suitable for all types of bicyclists.

Click here to read a preliminary draft of the Bike Fed’s proposed Vulnerable User Law. The Law provides for greater penalties for motorists injuring or killing vulnerable users of the road. States that already have similar laws are: Illinois (allows for Class 3 felony), Oregon, New York (A07917-C S5292-B) and Delaware.

If you need to explain the return on investment of a state trail system, read the article about it in the January edition of the Bike Fed magazine.

Nearly 50% of people in Wisconsin age 16 and older own bicycles. Imagine the impact it would have if you and the rest of those people took a couple minutes to send an email or make a phone call in support of bicycling in Wisconsin. We could easily stop the slide and keep Wisconsin a great place to ride a bike.

Click here to find out who your elected officials are.

If you care, all you have to do is call.

This story was originally published by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.

Categories: Bike Czar

8 thoughts on “Bike Czar: Wisconsin Declines in National Bike Rankings”

  1. mbradleyc says:

    I think it’s more likely that other states have caught up to and passed Wisconsin rather than because Wisconsin fell back. It’s not like trails have been removed or lanes unpainted.

    But you go on making it about politics if it makes you feel good.

  2. Chris Jacobs says:

    I’m not sure why spending more of our budget on bike infrastructure affects the bicycle manufacturing industry. Its like equating increased work on roads helps bolster the national automobile industry. I also don’t get why we want to increase penalties for someone who accidently hits a rider or pedestrian. This can happen to anybody. Nobody is out there trying to hit bikes. What about the penalties for bikers who are a nuisance in traffic and break the laws? I have never seen a biker ticketed ever for running a red light, but they do it all day long.

    Overall, moving from 6th to 8th place in the nation is negligible. Is ranking really a priority?

  3. Chris,

    Our automotive industry has long spent huge amounts of money lobbying for more spending on roads. Furthermore, as the nation’s bicycle industry leader, it reflects poorly on those businesses when our state disinvests in bicycling. Why did Rockwell Automation fight for bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on S. 2nd Street? Because they want the doorstep of their corporate headquarters to reflect their values and give the impression that they are located in a vibrant, active city. This helps greatly with employee hiring and retention. That is why so many youth magnate cities (Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., the Raleigh/Durham area, etc.) are great cities for cycling in addition to having vibrant cultural scenes. Our state corporate citizens feel the same way.

    You honestly don’t feel that someone who through their own carelessness kills an innocent kid in a crosswalk deserves more than a small fine? Perhaps you might change your mind if you talked to any of the parents or spouses of people who were killed through the careless actions of someone who didn’t take driving seriously. Or perhaps read this blog post: http://wisconsinbikefed.org/2011/12/19/why-wisconsin-needs-a-vulnerable-user-law/

    Just because you have never seen someone on a bike get a ticket does not mean it does not happen. It does and in fact the Milwaukee police department used to get special grants just to enforce bicycle traffic laws. I’m not sure if they still get those grants, but I do know people who have received tickets for running red lights and riding at night without a light.

    And Wisconsin has fallen from 2nd to 8th. That is the difference from on the podium, to nobody cares.

  4. Well, you can certainly think what you like, but the people who scored us said it was because we keep cutting our federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian project. This is their recommendation to move up:

    “Utilize all MAP-21 funding programs – including TAP, HSIP, CMAQ, STP, and Section 402 – to include biking and walking in all transportation projects.”

    And government spending is politics, so our ranking has a lot to do with the priorities our elected leaders set in Madison.

    It does not make me feel good to see Wisconsin falling in any category that makes our state less livable or less economically healthy. I would prefer to report we are moving up in the rankings in cycling, jobs, etc. As soon as that happens, no matter which party is in charge, I will report it. I have often reported about Rep. Tom Petri, a Republican, who strongly supports investments in bicycling is holding some listening sessions this Friday & Saturday in Belgium, Two Rivers, Sheboygan and Mequon. http://petri.house.gov/press-release/petri-announces-may-town-meeting-schedule

  5. Chris Jacobs says:

    There are 42 other states that would be just fine with a #8 ranking. Optimally the ranking should cycle through other states being near the top and bottom. Just because one state doesn’t use particular funding shouldn’t automatically lower rankings. Its what you do with what you have, not how much money you decide to take. Otherwise, it just looks like a bike lobby using the poll as an excuse to ask for more money.

  6. Chris Jacobs says:

    I have seen and treated many an innocent kid kit by a car. The majority of drivers involved in the accident are alert and careful, but accidents do happen anyway. Never mind whether the pedestrian was actually being careful or not. Increasing punishment on top of the driver’s emotions and critical blame from others from an obvious accident is cruel and unnecessary. Nobody considers how terrible the driver feels when it happens. It turns a normal day into a nightmare.

  7. Chris,

    Sure there are 42 other states that would like to be in our position. If we fall 24, we can say there are 25 other states that would like to be where we are. I would rather maintain our high ranking. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe Wisconsin is a great place to ride a bike, but the facts are that we are falling behind in spending and other states are passing us by in terms of facilities. I just rode from St. Paul, Minnesota to Milwaukee and the bike facilities were better on the Minnesota segments of the trip than the Wisconsin side of the River.

    These national rankings do count miles of facilities which is one reason we remain near the top. We still have lots of miles of great trails because we got an early lead in building trails. Funding in all things matters, and when the budget proposes to cut our funding by 50%, that is an issue I need to report and try to relate to people’s lives. Cut the transportation budget and the Zoo Interchange project is delayed. Cut bike funding and trails don’t get built. That is both reality and politics.

    I am a bike advocate. I do get paid to promote cycling in Wisconsin, just like folks at the Milk Marketing Board get paid to promote Wisconsin as the Dairy State. I have a personal and professional interest in keeping Wisconsin the best place to ride a bicycle that I can. The bike lobby is infinitesimal compared to most other lobbies in terms of money. We have managed to have a surprisingly powerful influence given it is much more grass roots based and relies on citizens taking time off from their lives to go to Washington or Madison rather than a building full of paid professionals on K Street.

  8. They are crashes, not accidents where a person kills or seriously injures an innocent, vulnerable road user through negligent use of a dangerous vehicle and the Bike Fed and the families of many victims believe those crimes should have a punishment more commensurate with the consequences of the (already) criminal behavior. That is the basis of our system of justice in this country. You can argue it’s effectiveness and cruelty, but that is the system we have. It is just tilted in favor of people driving cars and against people walking and riding bicycles. We just want to put those scales of justice back in balance.

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