My thanks to Tom Huber

* Over the next 4-8 weeks you will notice some changes on OTB as it transitions from my personal blog to Over the Bars in Wisconsin, a blog for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.  There are many exciting new features to come in the coming months that will make this a greater resource for all things cycling in our great state.  Stay tuned and keep reading.

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 riding one of his beloved English speeds through an old neighborhood in Madison.

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.


About daveschlabowske

Cyclechic advocate from Milwaukee
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6 Responses to My thanks to Tom Huber

  1. Kiapita says:

    Tom is a great guy. Thanks for bringing people’s attention to him. We should throw a big party for him, if he’s into that sort of thing.

    On another note … It looks like the Bike Fed staff’s email signatures are still referring people to the blog. Will you be redirecting the existing Bike Fed blog to this site, or feeding this site into it? Will they become one site, or will the Bike Fed have two blogs? Curious minds want to know.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Thanks for the comments and questions. The Bike Fed is in the process of updating the entire website, blog, flickr, Facebook, etc.I won’t have administrative access to those until Monday. As soon as I get that access, I will begin cleairng out the dead wood. In the short term there may be some duplication. Hang in there and excuse our mess for a month or two. I promise a much more user friendly and genuinely useful website soon!

  2. Kiapita says:

    I guess my other concern is that the blog will lose your personal voice if you have to speak for the Bike Fed in it and avoid offending any of its constituencies. I like your voice but am not so interested in reading press releases from the Bike Fed.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I will try to be sensitive to that given I do have quite a few regular readers. I will be adding a bit more from around the state rather than just Milwaukee, but try to keep much of the same tone. Keep following and if you find yourself loosing interest in the overall content, let me know via comments. I can’t promise I will be able to keep every reader from OTB Milwaukee, but I hope the content will stay vital and pointed enough to keep most of them while attracting a wider audience from around the state.

  3. Alan Selk says:

    I hope you can move the Bike Fed away from their bike helmet propaganda. It certainly isn’t helping get more folks on bikes by pushing the idea that bike use is so dangerous that it requires a helmet. How about showing some photos on the site of normal people on bikes not wearing helmets. That might go a long way in promoting bike use. I bit less lycra might also help.

    • daveschlabowske says:

      Alan, if you go back into my archives and read a bit more from my previous posts, you will see that I rarely wear a helmet for regular urban riding (though I always do when racing, training fast, mtb riding or riding in the exurbs). I have been researching bicycle safety for more than 11 years and I have come to the conclusion that riding a bicycle in an urban environment is safer than driving a car if you follow the rules of the road and learn a few basic conflict areas in which to be careful. You will also see that I typically ride in vintage clothing, including suits and ties or normal casual wear. My blog has also dealt with the statistics of helmet use. I am not anti-helmet, but I agree that pushing helmets, hi-vis yellow, and lycra severely limits the appeal of riding a bicycle for most people. If people think they have to put on special socks to bike to the custard stand, they will drive. I think that philosophy is already prevalent in the majority of the current Bike Fed staff. I am big into cyclechic movement. I have many friends in Copenhagen and view their philosophies as the best strategy to get more people riding. This blog will continue to reflect those beliefs. I hope you keep reading and perhaps share some things I write that you like on your blog roll.


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