In 2012, Fitchburg joined the now 488 other communities across the country in the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community program.
In 2015, it improved its status from the lowest level, bronze, to silver, after making improvements based upon their 2012 report card. This year, it earned a silver again despite striving to achieve gold.
When scoring communities, the league focuses on the “six E’s”: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation and planning, equity and diversity and inclusion.
Former mayor and alder Steve Arnold told the Star he and other biking advocates will pore over the new report card, will work on some weak points and try again in a few years.
He noted some needs include paving the Military Ridge Trail and paving a way to Epic.
“There are few ills in society that can’t be solved by bikes,” Arnold said. “Health, air pollution, traffic congestion, climate protection.”
He also noted the ways biking helps to improve Wisconsin.
“Manufacturing, tourism, commerce, economic development, transportation, workforce development and youth retention all benefit from bikes,” he said.
Arnold is an at-large board member of Bike Fitchburg, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit local advocacy organization, which was established as the outside group to help implement these 6 E’s by promoting safety, access and improved infrastructure for people who bike in Fitchburg.
“You can’t get out too far ahead in one area because then that effort is wasted when the other areas hold you back,” Arnold said.
The nonprofit works closely with the state advocacy group, the Wisconsin Bike Fed, which is the country’s largest statewide bicycle organization.
Kristie Schilling, who was the communications director for the Fitchburg Chamber of Commerce in 2012, first applied to the program for Fitchburg, deciding biking was a key part of the city’s identity.
While serving as an alder in 2014, Arnold learned that Fitchburg needed both an official city bicycle committee and an outside, nonprofit bicycle education group to earn a better ranking from the League.
“They were looking for a group within the council and a separate independent group,” Arnold said.
In 2015, as mayor, he helped to establish a committee of Fitchburg bicycle advocates to complete some key tasks on the checklist to help the city reach the gold certification.