Speaking from the experience of biking hundreds of times from Madison’s east side to Centro Hispano, Urban League, Omega School, Penn Park, Genesis Center, Fountain of Life Church, Boys and Girls Club and other places on Madison’s south side, it’s not an exaggeration that you take your life in your hands every time you make your way around not particularly bike-friendly Park Street and Badger Road.

Baltazar de Anda Santana has noticed that, too. Southside bikers have a huge issue with connectivity, access to bike paths, places to fix their bikes.

“Madison has been recognized as a platinum-level biking city, but, unfortunately, Madison has failed our community when it comes to biking infrastructure and bike safety on the south side. Madison has failed our community when it comes to bike safety,” De Anda Santana, Dane County Program Director, Wisconsin Bike Fed, tells Madison365.

“It’s been a problem where only the voices of the people who are more well-off in Madison are heard when it comes to infrastructure and we have forgotten about the south side,” he adds. “But we are taking steps to fix that now.”

Baltazar de Anda Santana
(photo by Darryl Jordan)

A big step was taken last night at Centro Hispano of Dane County in the heart of Madison’s south side as the Wisconsin Bike Federation’s JUST Bikes coalition unveiled the last of four Fix-It Bicycle Stations. The projects are made possible by Madison Community Foundation’s 75th Anniversary Year of Giving grant “Mad About Bikes.”

“I live and I work near a bike path and I biked here today and I have to tell you that the experience was not comfortable, not fun and not safe … and I’m really glad that I did it because I understand now the need for more bike access on this side of our community,” Madison Community Foundation’s Brennan Nardi told the crowd that gathered at Centro Hispano’s Mercardito. “So, thank you, Baltazar. Thank you, Planet Bikes. Thank you, Wisconsin Bike Federation. Thank you, Just Bikes, DreamBikes, Wheels for Winners, and the City of Madison Transportation Department.”

Madison Community Foundation’s $84,200 grant included a 1,100-bicycle giveaway in March, as well as the installment of public fix-it stations, bike repair internships for community youth, starter bicycles for beginning riders, safety education and repair training for riders of all ages, and an electric-assist bicycle outfitted as a repair vehicle that travels throughout the city. If you prefer a leisurely ride, it is now possible to get an ebike with throttle enabling you to explore without pedalling! The other fix-it stations are now installed at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, Bayview Community Center, and Lussier Community Education Center.

“We could not do the work without the people who are actually doing the work,” Nardi said. “It’s easy sometimes to give money; what’s hard is to make important, unique, innovative things happen … and partnering with these people is making that happen. So, the Madison Community Foundation would like to thank you for everything that you do to make our community a better place to live in.”

Pepe Barros, a program coordinator at Wisconsin Bike Fed, works on a bike outside Centro Hispano.
(photo by Darryl Jordan)

The event was also a chance to recognize graduates of the Mobile Bike Repair internship program – Bradley Hazlewood, Illia Nepomniashikh and Veniamin Nepomniashikh.

“Pepe Barros, our program coordinator, is the person that made this happen. He is an amazing guy who did a great job with our graduates who went through 15 hours of training to seek mechanic skills,” De Anda Santana says. “They joined the bike mobile repair and went around the community and fixed over 150 bikes for free. These young people really love the mobile bike repair. The most important thing is that we’re developing leaders and new employment opportunities for some of these folks.”

With the new bike station at Centro Hispano, there will be opportunities for the thousands of Latino families that use Centro Hispano’s services to be able to use their bicycles, too. People will now be within walking distance to bike repair and help with your bike deep in the heart of Madison’s south side. They may also book a mobile bike repair service if they live far from the bike repair shop.

“This fix-it station has a tire pump and 7-9 different tools that will help people to make some basic repairs,” De Anda Santana says. “In the next few weeks, they will be getting a bike rack that has room for 10-15 bikes. Now some of the youth in the area will be able to use their bikes and park it there.”

And, yes, De Anda-Santana adds, Latinos do bike!

“We do bike but we bike with not the best bikes. I see many folks of color biking on the south side with no helmet and no light,” he says. “I always tell people, ‘Of course, Latinos bike.’ But we bike in very unsafe conditions sometimes on some unsafe streets.

“So this will help,” he adds. “I’m very happy this is happening. This is just the beginning, I hope. It’s a good step.

“This is not just about having a fix-it station there or having bike racks,” he continues. “I think we will also be implementing some education to teach community members how to use everything. We will be leaving different bike parts at Centro in case this breaks or that breaks. We don’t just want to build this and leave it there, and forget about it. The commitment with the partners is that we will continue that relationship.”