Located along a magnificently hilly and scenic stretch of the Mississippi River is the charming city of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Once largely known for being the home of G. Heileman Brewing (and the world’s largest six-pack – see below) and of Trane Corporation, the La Crosse metropolitan area deserves special recognition and this writer’s kudos as one of the most bicycle friendly places in America, when measured by the number of bicycle friendly organizations identified by the League of American Bicyclists on a per capita basis.
Fourteen organizations, including public, non-profit, and private entities in metropolitan La Crosse have earned bicycle friendly or honorable mention status from the League of American Bicyclists. That is the equivalent to roughly one bicycle friendly organization for every 9,600 people in the community (134,000/14). By comparison, the Twin Cities, which has the most bicycle friendly organizations in the Midwest has a ratio of 1:114,000. San Francisco, CA; Portland, OR; and Washington, DC; Sacramento-Davis, CA; Ann Arbor, MI; and even nearby in-state rival Madison, all well-known bicycling enclaves, do not even come close to La Crosse’s ratio of 1:9,600. Granted this is just one measure of the extent of bike friendliness, but it sure is an impressive figure to tout.
One only need to briefly visit La Crosse area websites to see the attention that is being given toward promoting bicycling. Here are some examples:
- Not only is the city’s well-earned Silver Award displayed, but the news and announcements section includes a public meeting on 2012 Bicycle Pedestrian Plan, which heartily welcomes all participants. The meeting will even offer valet bike parking for attendees. We have that service available at most festivals here in Greater Lansing, but I have never seen valet bike parking offered for public forums and meetings. What a great idea!
- The city also has a regularly scheduled “Bike Barn” program where stolen bicycle owners may come and search for their stolen/missing bicycles.
- The city’s transit system, La Crosse MTU has bike racks on their entire bus fleet and lockers available for rent at its Grand River Station.
- The city has adopted a Green Complete Street Ordinance which focuses on those streets that have the highest pedestrian and bicycle accident rates and all areas where corridor improvements are taking place.
- The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has a bicycle rental program available to the general public.
- The La Crosse County Health Department in conjunction with the Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition conducts an annual bicycle count.
- The Driftless Region Bicycle Coalitionis very active and successfully
interrupted Minnesota DOT’s design plans for its segment of a new I-90 bridge over the Mississippi River in order to insure that space is allocated for bicycle/pedestrian lanes linking on the structure linking Minnesota and Wisconsin.
- The area economic development council actively promotes the La Crosse area’s bicycle friendly status, its new sustainability commission, and the Driftless Region Bicycle Coalition. It even has a pagelink dedicated to bicycling La Crosse.
- A bicycle collective/coop has been established in the La Crosse area to help introduce cycling to those who may not be able to afford a bike.
Needless to say, metropolitan La Crosse has a lot going for it when it comes cycling, including a fabulous setting. While it is certain that there is room for improvement, no one can deny the community-wide success that has occurred to date. Congratulations to everyone who has helped the La Crosse area become an important bicycling focal point and best wishes for continued growth and success in the future.