Community Highlight: Steve Arnold & Bike Fitchburg
Updated: Mar 30
This month we are highlighting Steve Arnold, a local leader who has worked tirelessly for decades to implement bike-friendly programs and infrastructure in his community. In November, I had the great fortune of meeting Steve for coffee and learning more about his story, his passion for biking, and his role in making Fitchburg, Wisconsin a bike-friendly city. Fitchburg has been recognized as a WAT (Wisconsin Active Together) community since 2018; you can read more about why Fitchburg stands out here.
Fitchburg stands out for its rolling hillsides, business-friendly climate, and of course its bike/multi-use trail network. Fitchburg boasts six different recreational trails covering dozens of miles. (Visit OpenStreetMap and search for “Fitchburg WI” to see detailed bicycle infrastructure such as trails and bike parking overlaid on a map of the city.) The trails meander through scenic countryside and provide access to essential services like bank branches and health clinics along the Fish Hatchery Road corridor.
Good bicycle infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight, however. It takes years of planning and advocacy from dedicated people who are willing to put in the time and effort and navigate complex local politics in order to see projects through. Steve Arnold is one of those people.
Steve Arnold’s interest in land use and infrastructure began in the early 2000s. A long career in IT eventually landed him a job at the UW-Madison campus. He was in the habit of riding the bus to get to work until 2006, when Bike to Work week inspired him to start commuting by bicycle. Over time, Steve acquired equipment like studded tires to commute year-round. In 2012, he led a group from South Madison on bike-to-work day at the DNR.
Leadership skills come naturally to Steve. He served as an alder on the Fitchburg council from 2005-2015 and was mayor of Fitchburg from 2015-2017. After his mayoral term ended, Steve joined the boards of Wisconsin Bike Fed, CNU (Center for New Urbanism) Wisconsin, All Aboard Wisconsin, and Bike Fitchburg where he currently serves as treasurer.
Bike Fitchburg is a bicycle education group that provides information and sponsors events for Fitchburg residents. Bike Fitchburg was established in 2015 during the re-application process to designate Fitchburg as a bike-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists; they were awarded Silver status in 2016. (Fitchburg first received the designation in 2012, when they were awarded Bronze status.) Steve was on the committee putting together the application, and discovered through his research that the city needed both an official bicycle committee and an outside nonprofit bicycle education group.
Bike Fitchburg provides bicycle education and runs events for the city’s residents. The organization also works with city staff and elected officials to implement programs and infrastructure that makes biking and walking safe, easy, and fun for everyone. Bike Fitchburg reviews public works projects for bike friendliness and collaborates with the city to host bike rodeos such as National Night Out, an event sponsored by the police department.
Bike Fitchburg has accomplished an impressive amount in their nearly seven years, but the work continues! The group is always looking for ways to expand engagement with the public and increase their reach on social media. Additionally, they are focusing on three priority areas: 1) improve connectivity by completing the greenway system, closing gaps in the trail (especially in traditionally underserved areas of the city) and adding signs for wayfinding; 2) upgrade bicycle parking to be APBP (Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals) certified, which includes working with local businesses and schools; 3) increase involvement with the Public Works department to ensure that all arterial roads have buffered bike lanes and multi-use side paths as standard design elements.
Steve’s advocacy and involvement, and the work of Bike Fitchburg, are an inspiration! To learn more about the organization, visit their website: Bike Fitchburg.