Bit by bit, I am losing faith in Wisconsin. Although I wasn't born or raised here, Madison has been my home for ten years. The roots I have put down here are deeper than any other place I have lived, except maybe Minneapolis. I do not intend to make this a political piece. I'm guessing everyone knows where I stand on that issue. Instead, this post will be on the health of our state--which includes the health of our cycling community and pedestrian community.
When I first moved to Wisconsin I was so pleased by what I saw. I witnessed organic farms popping up everywhere, people enjoying the outdoors by hiking, biking, swimming and boating, money being put into trail systems, funds being allocated for bike lanes and paths, solar and wind energy gaining popularity and people caring about the general health of Wisconsin as a place and as a community. Politicians were making wise decisions, and as a whole, we were moving in the right direction to improve every one's living standards.
To be a healthy state, we need to put an emphasis on education, provide help for those with diseases--including obesity and addictions, work hard at cleaning up the lakes and improving air quality, and provide safe roads/paths for people to bike or walk on. If we neglect these projects, and settle for status quo, we will become sick, depressed and, in the long run, cost the state more to treat illnesses.
In the past few years, I have been pushed to the point of tears. I have come so close to "jumping ship" and one of the main reasons I've chosen to stay was the amazing biking. I tell my friends around the country I have never experienced better cycling than what I have just a few miles from my back door. I'm guessing they don't believe me since I've lived in Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Wyoming and several other beautiful states, however, nothing I have experienced in the past can touch what I have here. Biking here is my form of meditation. It keeps me healthy in body and in mind. When I express my concerns for the health of the state, I have had people tell me "If you don't like it, leave!" But wait. I pay taxes too. Shouldn't my tax dollars have an equal voice? I hardly drive so shouldn't some the money I pay in go towards making it safer for me to bike? Since Walker, Ryan and Fitzgerald often get their way, the answer is "no". In their eyes, cars are king and in some ways, I think they would like to tax me more for not buying gas.
In the past week, all of us involved in bicycle and pedestrian advocacy have been on the edge of our seats. The question looming was not "Will they cut?" but "How much will they cut?" I am sad to say almost all of the funding that was slated to go towards these projects was cut. Walker cut all of the federal and state money he had control over and then, at the last minute, threw us a bone by handing back two million dollars--that will be doled out over two years. Two million is chump change when you look at how much is spent on building highways. I'm not sure we would have even received that measly sum if it weren't for the Wisconsin Bike Fed as well as positive politicians and lobbyists.
So what now you ask? Honestly I have no answers since I'm still in mourning. What I will ask of you is to get involved. #1: Keep biking! Show them you care about your health, the environment and safety for cyclists as well as pedestrians. #2: Spread the word and get others out biking with you. #3: Volunteer. Contact your local bike fed office and ask how you can help or go to your local bike shop and ask how you can get involved in community projects. #4: Donate money to the Wisconsin Bike Fed, if you can. Your dollars go towards education and advocacy. The Bike Fed could not and would not exist without your support.
Together, we can keep Wisconsin moving forward. We MUST stay positive and work together. The health of our state depends upon it.