It’s a new year for Madison Bikes, and with a new year come new board members. Our organization started in November 2015 around Grant’s dining room table: The group of people assembled around that table felt that there was an opportunity to improve local bike advocacy in Madison. Riding a bike in Madison was pretty good already, but there was no local organization working on making things even better.
As expressed in our vision statement, our goal is to make riding a bike a viable transportation option for people of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities. We aim to have infrastructure that supports comfortable bike riding for a child, as well as her grandparents. We want this low-stress bike network to extend into all parts of the city, not just the downtown area or in affluent neighborhoods.
To make that all happen, we founded Madison Bikes. Our website went live in Spring 2016; we finalized our incorporation as a non-profit that summer; and in the fall we had a kickoff party at the High Noon Saloon.
Since then we have written over 120 blog posts, organized events such as the Winter Bike Fashion Show, Winter Bike Week, and Madison Bike! Bingo, and we have mobilized the community to make their voice heard on street construction projects such as Monroe, West Wilson, and East Johnson Streets. We have also worked behind the scenes with city officials and other advocates to improve winter bike facility maintenance, to improve counting of people on bikes, and to improve the way the city thinks about public outreach. At the end of 2017, we also rolled out a formal membership program.
Much of that board was and continues to be done by our initial board members, and awesome ad-hoc additions. At our 2017 annual meeting, we elected the first cohort of new members to join the board since our founding. Before I introduce the new members, let’s say thanks to Emily Sonnemann and Chuck Strawser, who stepped down from the board. Emily, who chaired our events committee, and Chuck will continue to work with us on our various committees. Thank you for the work you have done. Also thanks to everyone who applied as a board member but wasn’t elected: It was a great problem to have more highly qualified candidates than open board seats!
Now let’s get to our new members. I’m excited to introduce:
Pepe grew up in a big city far south of Madison. Santiago, Chile watched him grow and experiment with all kind of adventure sports to end up attracted by the steep mountains and the Downhill Mountain Bike competitions he used to attend with his friends. While being a strong bike commuter in the wild streets of Latin America he traded adrenaline for advocacy and studies. While becoming an industrial engineer he traveled all throughout Chile helping to grow environmental awareness by cycling. He spent the last 5 years developing social-emotional skills in several public schools in different regions of Chile and in 2016 he happily got married in Milwaukee and worked the warm season as a Mobile Bike Repair Coordinator for Wisconsin Bike Fed. In October of 2017, Pepe, his wife and their fat cat moved to Madison and they all hope to be helpful to the city and its growing bicycle community by creating and supporting spaces where everyone can feel safe, confident and gather as a big family, no matter your origins or beliefs.
Baltazar De Anda Santana
Baltazar is an immigrant who grew up in Mexico and came to the United States when he was 23 years old (He is now 41). Because of biking and a healthy life style, Baltazar lost 95 pounds and reversed a pre-diabetic diagnosis. Some years ago, when Baltazar’s drivers license expired (and because of his immigration status he was not able to renew it) he started using biking as his main means of transportation. Baltazar is now able to get a drivers license (he became a Legal Permanent Resident in 2016) but he has chosen not to buy a car and continue using biking as a main means of transportation. In the short time that Baltazar has been biking in Madison, he has found that unfortunately there is a bike racial disparity and bike inequity in the city of Madison. Baltazar does not want to be one of the few Latinos who bike. His goal is to bring more people from the Latino/African American/Hmong communities into biking. As more people bike, there is going to be a yet higher need for better biking infrastructure in Madison. Madison is currently a great place for biking. Unfortunately it is only a great place to bike for just few members of the community. Baltazar believes this can change.
Liz grew up in Madison and after college moved to the Washington D.C. suburbs for several years, followed by a ten year stint in Sheboygan, WI. However, it was only after moving home to Madison in 2015 that she truly began to appreciate the city’s vibrant bicycling culture. She is now a year-round bicycle commuter (eight miles round trip), but also enjoys recreational road riding and bicycle camping/touring during the warmer months. Liz works as a science outreach specialist/educator at the UW Biotechnology Center and is an active member of the UW-Madison Science Alliance, a science outreach advocacy group on campus. She lives on Madison’s near-west side with her husband, Ben, and their two adorable rescue dogs.
Originally from Columbus, GA, Becky earned her BFA in digital media from the University of Georgia where she first began her love affair with bicycles. At the end of her time in Athens, she heard the rumor that you could bike everywhere in Madison, WI. It was on this rumor alone that she, and Hero the cat, relocated to the Midwest. Becky has been an avid Madison cyclist since 2008. Earning her MS in Urban and Regional Planning from UW-Madison in May 2017, strengthened her love and advocacy of sustainability and accessible mobility. She currently works for The Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life as their development associate.
Raj is a family dude, Madison-lover and sometimes-radical environmentalist. To him, a bike means less pollution, less stress, more health, more pocket change and more chances to hear the birds sing. He works as Executive Director of River Alliance of Wisconsin and chairs the Sustainable Madison Committee, a city advisory council that works toward environmental goals. Raj and his wife can be found chasing their three young children around their near west side neighborhood, through Madison’s beautiful parks and into the occasional ice cream shop.