Yesterday at work I had a question I could not answer so I made a call to Tom Huber, the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation State Bicycle Coordinator. For the first time in the countless similar lifeline calls I have made over the last 11 years that I have been working in bicycle planning, I did not get a helpful response from Tom. Instead I got this voicemail message: “You have reached Tom Huber, I am now retired. You have the following options …”
Tom has been Wisconsin’s institutionalized bicycle advocate at the WisDOT since 1992, when state bike ped coordinators were mandated by Federal law as part of ISTEA. Before anyone really knew what it meant to be a State DOT bicycle coordinator, Tom methodically defined that role with his good work. The State of Wisconsin sits 3rd in the League of American Bicyclists ranking of bicycle friendly states largely because of the work of Tom Huber.
Tom brought a deep passion for cycling, a tremendous knowledge of best practices, along with a positive, problem solving persistence to every highway project he reviewed. That combined with his ever-pleasant demeanor have been enough to win over many a traditionally trained, car-centric traffic engineer. It takes a special kind of person to remain an agent of change in a large bureaucracy like a state department of transportation.
Tom had more than a knowledge of planning guides and manuals. His experience living in the Netherlands for a couple of years, traveling extensively by bicycle in the most bicycle friendly places in the rest of Europe and the US, as well as his daily commute from home to office gave him a deep personal knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. I will miss having such quick access to him as a personal ready reference and sounding board for my ideas.
When I actually got to talk to Tom on the phone, he told me that while he has retired from public service, he will still be working to make Wisconsin a better place for cycling. He has joined Toole Design, one of the preeminent bicycle and pedestrian consulting firms in the US. I and the rest of the staff at the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin wish Tom all the best in his semi-retirement. I hope we can still get him to MC a session or two at our Wisconsin Bike Summit, or I will miss hearing his famously dry ice-breaker jokes finished with a Cheshire grin.