There are more than 1,000 miles of state trails in Wisconsin.
Whether you are interested in biking, hiking or boating, there is likely a trail near you where you can set out on an adventure.
I introduced a bill that became law to include water trails in our state trail system. This way, people can more easily find a water trail that links to their next destination.
I have also been active in another aspect of our trail system. For the last four years, I have served as a member of the Governor’s Bicycle Coordinating Council.
In 1991, Gov. Tommy Thompson created the Governor’s Bicycle Coordinating Council through an executive order, making Wisconsin an early leader in bicycling policy coordination. Encouraging biking was seen as an important part of a balanced transportation system, one that would help alleviate congestion, is energy-efficient, pollution-free and relatively low-cost.
For bicycle transportation to truly be a part of a balanced transportation system, thoughtful planning of how to integrate it into the transportation system would be necessary.
The purpose of the council is to work with state agencies to encourage biking as an alternative mode of transportation, promote bicycle safety, review bicycle programs in different state agencies and suggest ways to make sure the efforts of state agencies are coordinated, and submit reports to the governor and the legislature as needed.
The council is comprised of 15 members. These members include the secretaries (or their designates) of five state agencies; Transportation (which has two members), Natural Resources, Public Instruction, Tourism and Health Services. There are also two state senators and two state representatives. Finally, there are five members of the public on the council.
One of the council’s main activities is to find ways to make biking an integrated part of our transportation system.
More and more, we are seeing public-private partnerships take shape to bring new bike trails to fruition. These partnerships are critical to the development of new trails and projects. The Governor’s Council works hand in hand with local organizations on these types of initiatives.
In many parts of Wisconsin, one of the true joys of summer is riding a bike, especially for children.
Bicycling is more than just child’s play though, it is an activity enjoyed by people of all ages and is an important activity in terms of health, transportation and the state’s economy.
According to a study conducted in 2010 by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, bicycle recreation brings in more than $924 million of economic activity to the state. What’s more, $535 million comes from bicyclists from outside Wisconsin, bringing new money to the state’s economy.
The study found that increasing bicycle tourism from both residents and non-residents by 20 percent could create $184 million in new economic activity and more than 2,500 additional jobs.
Of course, we all know that the benefits of biking are more than just economic. Increased physical activity improves individual health and the simple act of riding a bike to work can reduce pollution. The council works to spread the word about the economic, health and environmental benefits of bike riding through educational seminars, information distributed by state agencies and the efforts of council members.
Wisconsin is fortunate to have a beautiful natural landscape that encourages people to head outdoors whenever they can. Biking to work, for exercise, or as recreation is a great way to enjoy Wisconsin’s natural beauty, so grab your bike, hiking shoes or a canoe and find a trail near you.