Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Going Grassroots

The panel plus Cassandra Habel at the first Choose to Commute workshop at Redamte

There is something quite exciting happening in the Madison bike community.  In the past five years, a bunch of grassroots organizations have popped up trying to improve biking for everyone.  No longer are citizens sitting around waiting for government funds--as we all know, they are almost impossible to obtain unless it's for a highway project.  People now, form all different backgrounds, are coming together to not only celebrate the bicycle, but also educate and motivate others in hopes that they too, will find joy on two wheels.

One of these new groups has been pulled together by Cassandra Habel from Saris Cycling.  Her focus is advocacy and education.  She recently formed a Facebook page called Spoke Haven and along with Tom Klein, from Redamte coffeehouse, she started putting on Choose to Commute workshops.

Fliers set out about upcoming events.  Photo by Cassandra Habel
Monday night, a group of more than thirty gathered at Redamte to hear a panel speak on topics pertaining to bike commuting.  The panel was well chosen and diverse which led to discussions ranging from safety for winter cyclists to dollars saved by commuting by bike to environmental impacts.  Many of the facts were taken from studies done right here in Madison by the great folks at the Nelson Institute.  For some of this information, please see my previous post on Maggie Grabow.

I have to admit, I was a bit concerned this gathering would be like preaching to the choir.  Too often, only avid cyclists show up to these types of events.  I was pleasantly surprised several participants were just beginning to bike commute and needed information.  I'm hoping their questions got answered and they feel a bit more comfortable out there on the roads.

Monday's discussion was only the first in a four part series.  With upcoming group rides and gear discussions, newbies can get a jump on bike commuting before the warm weather season starts.  This series made me really think about what we could do if all of the grassroots groups came together in the near future so that we, as cyclists, could gain strength in numbers.  The only way we can improve the infrastructure and behavior of drivers is to work together.

Thank you to Tom Klein and Cassandra Habel for putting this together.  Thanks also to Kathyrne Auerback, Jessie Lerner, Jim Lorman, Aaron Crandall, Zacarias Barnes and Allison Reitter for taking time to contribute by being on the panel!

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