As my other rights to collective bargaining are being stripped from me, it seems only fitting that I look for another way to organize. After hearing from Driftless Tim about their successes around La Crosse and how Sonia and Ron have cut new trail out in the Wild West, I feel even more strongly that people in Milwaukee who ride bicycles for transportation could benefit from some sort of association, coalition, chapter or whatever you want to call it. Based on my converstations with Kevin from the Bicycle Federation of WI, and given my naturally lazy inclinations, I am not inclined to start a full-on non-profit and file for 501(c)3 status.
For a number of reasons, I think the Driftless Region and Waukesha might benefit more from the presence of more formal bicycle advocacy organizations than are necessary in Milwaukee. First, not to sound too self-important, but Milwaukee has had me as a staff bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for six years. Second, our City has a recently adopted bike plan which has solid support from senior staff at the Department of Public Works and support in principle from the vast majority of elected officials. Third, we have been agressively building bicycle infrastructure for many years now, the result of which is 52 miles of bike lanes and funding to complete our bike lane network. The last major reason why I think we can get by with a less formal organization is we already have a formal bicycle advocacy organization with an office in our City.
While I do believe that in emphasizing its mission as a state wide organizations, the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin has reduced it’s effectiveness at the local level, I am also confident that the Bike Fed board and staff can leverage the power of even loosely oganized coalitons of local bicyclists. After my recent conversations with Kevin, I have faith that if we people in Milwaukee can get our collective acst together, the Bike Fed will provide the necessary back end support and expertise to help us accomplish whatever agenda we set for ourselves.
Could this yet to be named Miltown crew become the Milwaukee Chapter of the Bicycle Federation of WI? Maybe, but it would not have to go that way. If a formal Imba-style chapter program does not work out, we could still organize as people with common interests and rely on local the Bike Fed staff when we need help with something. The Milwaukee Metro Mountain Bikers are a wonderful example of a local mtb advocacy organization that has been incredibly successful for quite a few years, yet their status seems to be in flux right now. I don’t think there is a perfect model yet, but that is OK. We don’t need to wait for a perfect model or a formal BFW chapter program. We can begin forming our new Milwaukee area alliance of people who ride bicycle for transportation and figure that other stuff out later.
The important thing now is to start something, even if we begin with 5 people who meet over a beer or coffee once a month. But lets make plans to meet, and start spreading the word to our friends. Shall we meet week day evenings? That puts less stress on the weekends as the weather begins to turn nice. Where will our clubhouse be? It might be nice to move the meetings from neighborhood to neighborhood. If you can’t wait for that first beer, feel free to brainstorm names for this organization to be and submit them in the comments below. Once we get together we can figure out a mission statement, spit and shake hands, swear our allegiance to ride only in tweed or whatever.
When? Take a look at the Over the Bars Google Calendar and suggest a date. I am generally free Wednesday evenings. Do we want to try for Wednesday, March 2nd or is that too soon? 5:30? 6?
Where? Suggest a spot or a neighborhood. I work downtown and live in Washington Heights. I can do Bay View, East Side, Downtown, Riverwest, or West Side. Someplace with food and beer? I could hook us up with a Lowlands Group spot (Trocadero, Hollander, etc.) but I’m open to whatever.