Milwaukee Bicycle Association… or something like that

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.


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
This entry was posted in Advocacy, commuting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Milwaukee Bicycle Association… or something like that

  1. Eric Crawford - Dutch Rider... says:


    What are you thoughts about the possible purpose(s) of this group? Is is solely advocacy?



    • daveschlabowske says:

      Eric, this purpose of this group is first and foremost to provide people who ride bicycles primarily for transportation with a social Even thought our numbers are growing, they remain very small and in a city the size of Milwaukee, I think many people who ride bikes for transportation feel like that lone crazy person. A secondary purpose is to provide an identified group of Milwaukee metro area people who ride bikes for transport. This group will serve as something people who are “bike curious” can look to for inspiration and as something to “join.” Finally, the group can serve as a voice for advocacy when local issues come up. But the main thing is to privide that sense of comaraderie through meetings for things like happy hour and the like where people can talk with others who have similar interests.

  2. Tim K says:


    I truly think that Milwaukee is lucky to have some one like you on staff. Milwaukee has a strong bike plan and as you noted they have put in many of miles of bike lanes and other facilities. But plans are just plans and they are subject to financial and political whims, just like the jobs of public employees! Having a more formal organization could help you and Milwaukee and the formality/continuity will help to make sure the organization is there when you need it. A simple beer/coffee groups is great but from my experience, these informal groups tend to fade over time. I think Milwaukee and the surrounding communities could benefit greatly from an advocacy focused group, especially one with the intent to foster connections/access between communities. Not every community has their very own Dave. But then I am an organizing kind of guy!

  3. Dave Reid says:

    Let me know when this happens as I’d like to be a part of it. And there is a bar on Jefferson St. downtown that has a bit of a bike connection…. I’m trying to remember the name, it’s pretty new.

  4. Chris says:

    You had me until “tweed”.

    None-the-less I would be interested and hope that this would be a fashion neutral fellowship….

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Just kidding on the spitting and the tweed (though isn’t tweed the new fashion neutral?). Seriously Chris, this is not a cyclechic organization. I am scheduling some cyclechic sort of rides for this year, but this has nothing to do with those. Hi-vis yellow Lycra, jeans, flannel or silk, these meetings are about giving people who ride bicycles for transportation a voice and a social network, not about fashion. I hope you will participate.

      • Chris says:

        Then I plan on wearing all of the above to the first meet-up.

        And after a few beers, I will probably make an impassioned appeal to counter the cyclechic movement with a clothing-optional ride…..b/c it really is all about the bike.

      • daveschlabowske says:

        Milwaukee participation in the World Naked Bike Ride?

  5. d'Andre Willis says:

    This came across the bars a few days ago – Milwaukee Business By Bike kickoff gathering the evening of March 1 at Discovery World. I don’t know if they have enough bike racks! Maybe you’ve seen it Dave, sounds like a good group to loop into your plan. Anybody know more about the organization?

  6. Casey Foltz says:

    Count me in, and March 2nd works. As far as a location, I would suggest somewhere downtown based only on it’s central location. I wonder if we’d be able to reserve the side room of the Swinging Door, or the Milwaukee Ale House?

  7. Keith Holt says:

    Count me in.

  8. Barry Mainwood says:

    You’re right d’Andre we’re on that already. The official name is Milwaukee Business by Bike or MB3 and our kick off meeting is at Discovery World on March 1st. We’re honored to have John Burke from Trek speak at this kick off event. I encourage all of you to attend and help us promote bike commuting and biking in Greater Milwaukee.
    We have had a few small meeting before but want to really get and keep the movement going this time. Please join us and pass on the invite to others. As we can see, now is a crucial time to organize.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Barry, thanks for the response. I was holding MB3 back as a trump card. I was planning on talking about it a bit just before the meeting (which I have posted on the OTB in Milwaukee Google Calendar) as well as writing covering the event for OTB. Perhaps it warrants a quick post tomorrow.

  9. Dave Reid says:

    @Dave No Taylors is just a hipster hang out:) I was thinking of a new place I think it is called Serum… Only been in once, but if I remember correctly might even have some bikes mounted on the wall. But Swinging Door is a bike hang out as well downtown… Might be a good spot too.

  10. Russell says:

    In – Wednesdays are the best for me, location is unimportant as all spots are reachable by bike.

  11. Dave Steele says:

    I am so there.

  12. Dave Steele says:

    One suggestion I have is to make a special effort to include folks represent all parts of the city AND surrounding inner-ring suburbs. As a cyclist-for-transportation I frequently cross municipal boundaries, and a common vision of cycling for Milwaukee, Tosa, Shorewood, ‘Stallis, et al could be very powerful for making cycling “make sense” for Milwaukee.

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