Amtrak now allows riders to take bicycles aboard Hiawatha trains running between Milwaukee and Chicago.
It costs $5 to transport a bike and reservations must be made in advance. The service is limited to 15 bicycles per train.
“There’s a lot of people traveling in the Chicago to Milwaukee area that would love the opportunity just to take their bikes along,” said Dave Schlabowske of Wisconsin Bike Fed. Wisconsin Bike Fed encouraged Amtrak officials for at least five years to offer bicycle transport on the Hiawatha line. Previously, bicycles had to be partially taken apart and shipped in cartons.
“Chicago is such a great city for cycling,” Schlabowske said.
And it’s an easy way to tour a dense metropolitan area known for heavy traffic, he added.
Chicago is rated “silver” for bikers. Madison gets gold and Milwaukee has a bronze rating.
In addition to the Hiawatha line, others in Illinois and around the nation have been adding bicycle racks in storage cars in recent years, reflecting the explosive growth of cycling enthusiasts, Schlabowske said.
He predicted the new amenity aboard Hiawatha trains would increase tourism in Wisconsin, as well as Chicago.
The Bike Fed is the nation’s largest statewide organization of bicycle clubs, with more than 6,300 individual members. The advocacy group has offices in Milwaukee, Madison and La Crosse.
In addition to lobbying for protected bike lanes, the Wisconsin Bike Fed is trying to attract a wider range of biking enthusiasts.
Schlabowske said the stereotypical cyclist is a “50-year-old white guy wearing Lycra,” but “that’s not what my community looks like.”
“So we have a number of programs working on diversity in our city (Milwaukee), from lower-income and older people to the LGBT community,” Schlabowske said. “We’re sort of working in a lot of different areas to broaden what our membership looks like.”
There are thousands of organized bike-riding events in Wisconsin, from the Polish Moon Ride to Santa Cycle Rampage. Bike to Work Week began May 16 and May is National Bike Month.
State Sen. Chris Larson kicked off Bike to Work Week during the weekly Democratic radio address May 12.
“Did you know that active employees are more alert, need fewer sick days and are more productive? And that’s not all, in addition to being beneficial to your health, biking is also great for reducing your carbon footprint, reducing traffic congestion, and saving you money,” Larson said.
Among the upcoming cycling events are:
- UPAF Ride for the Arts. The 35th anniversary event, sponsored by Miller Lite, takes place June 5, beginning at the Summerfest Grounds. Participants can ride or make a pledge.
Pledge prizes include a bike jersey sponsored by Actuant and bicycles from Wheel & Sprocket. Johnson Bank will match pledges totaling up to $25,000.
UPAF, which supports 15 performing arts organizations, hopes to raise $600,000.
- The Wisconsin AIDS Ride. The annual event, which raises critical funds for the fight against HIV/AIDS, is July 28-31. The full ride stretches 300 miles, from downtown Madison to Horicon — and back — in four days. But participants also can choose one- or two-day options.
For more information
For more about cycling and events in Wisconsin, go online to wisconsinbikefed.org.
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