What the Elections Mean for Cycling

What is in store for bicycling given the overwhelming victory for conservative Republicans?

The Democrats took a beating on Tuesday at every level from the U.S. Senate to governor’s races right down to state legislatures.

Here in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was reelected and the Republicans expanded their majorities in the state Senate and Assembly. They now hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate and a whopping 63-36 majority in the Assembly.

What implications does all this have for our work? Well, to be blunt the Republicans are generally harder for us to work with. They tend to have more caucus members who just don’t like cyclists from a cultural perspective. Last session Governor Walker cut funding for bicycle projects, but on the other hand it was Republican legislators who restored some of it. Unfortunately, one of our best Republican allies in that fight, Sen. Mike Ellis of Neenah, retired.

So, we have our work cut out for us. But there’s no reason cycling should be a partisan issues and we know from personal conversations that many of our Bike Fed members vote Republican. Besides, bicycling is big business in our state. Cycling is a nearly $2 billion industry, accounts for 14,000 jobs in Wisconsin and make our state more competitive with our neighbors. Millions of Wisconsinites are at least casual cyclists.

So our response to the election will be threefold.

First, work harder than ever to get the word out about cycling’s benefits to our economy, to tourism and to public health.

Second, build relationships with legislators at the local level. That’s where you come in. Anything you can do to contact your legislators, meet with them, even get them out for a bike ride would be crucial. We’re happy to assist you in making that happen. Just email me.

Third, the Bike Fed must work even harder at the local level. Cities, villages, towns and counties are making great progress on biking issues. They tend not to get caught up in the ideological debates at the state level. Local officials are practical. They just want to get things done. So, we can help them write bike plans, bolster them with information and encouragement and support local advocates on the front lines.

Our job at the Bike Fed is to work with the political players we’re dealt and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.


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About Dave Cieslewicz, Director Emeritus

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

7 thoughts on “What the Elections Mean for Cycling

  1. What is your analysis of the passed amendment re: use of transportation funds? Media reports seem to indicate the net result will be a larger pool of money in the transportation budget. Does Bike Fed intend to tap this to increase funding for bicycle infrastructure. As to selling to republicans, emphasize personal choices for commuting (why should the government force me to drive a car to work by only building roads) and health benefits that lower gov’t health care costs

    • T.Barber, The transportation amendment should have no effect on bicycle funding as long as bicycle funding remains in the transportation budget. Some in the majority have suggested they would like to move it and transit funding to the general fund.

  2. I think if enough people who ride bikes show an interest in a project, it has a much better chance of succeeding. The city of Appleton is run by a lot of conservative Republicans and just look at all the things that city has done this year for bicyclists. It’s wonderful and I’ve made use of many of these successful projects. Appleton is really becoming a model city for the entire state in just about every area of government. The friendliness of community leaders is so nice to see there and many of these leaders do ride bikes, too. Communication and cooperation and love for one another goes a long ways intstead of an antangonistic approach that characterizes Washington.

    • Gregg,

      You couldn’t give a better example of why the Bike Fed staff feel we can be more effective working at the local level. Green Bay is a similar example, and there are many others. As an organization with limited resources, we have to focus our efforts where they will be most effective. Sometimes that means losing a battle elsewhere. Working with municipalities has the potential to make the biggest change since most bicycle issues are local.

  3. It’s true that bicycling shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but climate change and common core shouldn’t be partisan issues either. I fear that the Republicans will take some actions against bicycling as a cheap shot in the culture war. And, of course, they’re sure to look for a way to punish Trek.

    • I don’t think they’ll punish Trek. For one thing, I don’t know how they’d do that and for another it would be too obvious. I agree about the bike and culture wars. That’s our essential problem. Mainstream Republicans don’t have a problem with bikes and they understand the jobs connection. But for Tea Party Republicans the bike is, in fact, a weapon in the culture wars that they won’t give it up. It explains why the vulnerable users law was gutted last session. Fourteen of the 18 member GOP senate caucus would have voted for it. But a handful of Tea Party Republicans stood in the way.

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