Bikes have been a big part of Chippewa Valley culture for decades – but nothing like we see today.

It’s hard to nail down exactly how important a strong biking community can be to a place like the Chippewa Valley. This is because there are so many different ways to bike, so many different kinds of bicyclist, and so very many different benefits to be found when a city supports biking culture in all its forms.

From weekend enthusiasts to everyday commuters, from off-road trail blazers to on-road racers, from kids with streamers to retirees on recumbents, biking can serve any walk of life at any stage of life – and that’s exactly what we see in the Chippewa Valley.

“Biking brings people together and provides an outlet for people to connect,” says Sue Mcdonald, who’s active in the Chippewa Off Road Bike Association, frequenting the wooded trails in Lowes Creek and Pinehurst Parks. She’s also a coach for the Eau Claire Youth Cycling team.

“Between organized group rides, social rides, winter fat-biking, skill courses, and getting the youth involved, I think we’re on track to continue the growth we’ve
already started.”

“The social aspect of biking is huge – people get out and about,” she says, “I believe riders are much more apt to participate in community events when they can easily access them by bike.”

A 2015 report from the University of California – incorporating over 520 studies from 17 countries – suggests that cities whose residents ride (as well as run and walk) see increased economic growth compared to areas with more sedentary citizens. Bike-friendly communities also have higher levels of mental health and well-being.

Eau Claire City Council President Terry Weld believes biking can form a strong thread in the fabric of Eau Claire. He says, “An active biking community brings so many benefits, including promoting a healthier culture, broadening the reach for those without vehicles, prompting tourism dollars, and reducing our carbon footprint.”

“All of this and more,” Weld says, “makes us a stronger community. A happier community.”

Aaron Salmon became addicted to the ease of bike commuting when he lived in Chicago. Since moving to Eau Claire five years ago, he’s become the chair of the city’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee. An active biking advocate, he says, “Bike infrastructure tends to increase nearby property values, helps create safer streets, and helps foster a stronger sense of place for neighbors in our community.”

So, were could we go from here? Jeremy Gragert, who represents District 3 on the Eau Claire City Council says, “We need to get more butts on bikes, particularly for environmental reasons, as the transportation sector is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.” A lifelong bicyclist, Gragert has been involved in bicycle advocacy for over 15 years.

Meanwhile, Salmon says, “I’d love to see our city commit to building more streets that are safe and comfortable for all ages and abilities – only about 10% of cyclists feel comfortable riding in painted bike lanes and mixing in with traffic.”

Sue Mcdonald is excited for the future. She says, “I think at this point in time biking is just exploding in Eau Claire. Between organized group rides, social rides, winter fat-biking, skill courses, and getting the youth involved, I think we’re on track to continue the growth we’ve already started.”


Places & Resources

Biking Toward Inclusion

From safety to social dynamics to clothing and equipment – women in biking have it different

Here’s a list of things that Jenn Bast, who has been biking in the Chippewa Valley for almost 10 years, considers when she goes out for a ride. It’s not comprehensive, by any stretch, but it’s representative...

Bike + Bus = Best

Take the bus with your bike!

The Eau Claire Transit System runs a fleet of 22 buses throughout residential, medical, and retail areas in the city – and all of them are equipped with bicycle racks that hold up to two cycles.

Everything has a Purpose

a bike embellished with repurposed materials keeps people happy

Every once in a while around Eau Claire, you might see aBa, a professor of mathematics at UWEC, riding a pretty flashy bike. aBa got his bicycle, nicknamed the “boy bike,” in 2008 when he was studying at the University of Iowa for his Ph.D.

Biking to Work: How & Why to Give It a Try

Despite the sweatiness, a two-wheeled commute is great. Here’s some locals that do it.

Have you ever thought about biking to work? This year, I started biking to work every day that I can, and I wanted to share a few stories of some others who bike to work, why they do it, and some tips they have for getting started.

Not Just for Anybody - Just for You

there’s a new bike shop on the block

Whatever it takes, Eric Johnson can provide it at his new shop, Not Just Anybody’s Bikes & Books (416 Gray St., Eau Claire).

Group Rides 101

Tired of pedaling solo? New to the game and want to get some good experience? Want to dive in to the local biking community? Try a group ride!

Marked Up & Ready to Roll

bicycle signs and traffic laws

A community that bikes requires a bit of infrastructure to keep traffic moving smoothly where cyclists, pedestrians, and automobiles share space.

The Kids Are on Wheels

youth cycling program starts ‘em young

In 2017, Eau Claire Youth Cycling’s first year, there were 16 members. Two years later they have reached their (current) maximum capacity with 90 members, 38 coaches, and a waitlist.

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