What does bicycle advocacy look like? There are thousands of answers to that question. Each month the Downtown Madison, Inc. (DMI) Bicycle Committee meets to receive updates on what’s happening in the Madison bicycling world. The goal is to communicate what needs to happen to move bicycling related projects forward, assign tasks, and make sure our efforts are well represented.
DMI is an association of business leaders and citizens with the shared goal to make downtown Madison a “regional economic engine that offers best-in-class quality of life for businesses, residents and visitors.”. Sitting around this table are bankers, lawyers, engineers, city and county staff, software developers, bicycle industry professionals, insurance salesmen, developers, and non-profits.
This last week we started with an update from the new Dane County Safe Routes To School (SRTS) program managers Marcia Morales and Baltazar De Anda Santana.
Dane County is implementing SRTS at two 100% low-income schools on the north and south side of Madison, far from downtown. Now, why would a bunch of bankers and lawyers care about schools on the edge of town? We recognize that we are all in this together. All routes lead to downtown Madison. If some people cannot or choose not to come to the downtown, all residents’ and businesses’ lives are diminished.
We learned that the SRTS program is funded for two years by grants to address health outcomes in low-income families. This dictated that SRTS start in the poorest schools in Madison. That’s great! The affluent parts of Madison have, on average, much better social and transportation infrastructure. As an example this allows most of the people around the table above to ride bike paths and small streets from home to work. Poorer neighborhoods have, on average, lower quality biking and walking experiences.
Having SRTS be solely dependent on a program targeted toward low income residents would prevent SRTS from spreading to all schools and neighborhoods throughout Madison. We need to figure out how to move SRTS funding from sources focused on a small part of our residents to sources that serve the entire city. As a group we discussed this issue and identified how to move, over the next two years, to a broader source of funding for the SRTS program.
Marcia and Baltazar are good advocates, they didn’t miss their chance ask meeting attendees for financial support.
In addition to the SRTS school presentation we received quick updates from the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin (mobile bike repair is coming to Madison!); the Platinum Working Group (Signature routes are the next major project) and the City of Madison Traffic Engineering (city-wide, mopeds are banned from bike parking)
If you live in a vibrant community, chances are there’s already a variety of bicycle advocacy meetings happening. If it’s currently under the radar, it might be worthwhile to gather folks together on a regular basis to share what is going on. It’s a great way to find allies and get energized.