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Bridging the biking gap in Madison: Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison set to host first annual South Side Slow Roll

Students from Madinah Muslim School loving their bikes. (Photo: Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison)

Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison is getting ready to host the South Side Slow Roll, a 3-mile bike ride through south-side bike trails and neighborhoods designed particularly for those who have never participated in a group ride before. This will be the first annual bike ride and will take place on Saturday, Aug. 5, starting at Free Bikes 4 Kidz headquarters at 354 Coyier Lane on Madison’s South Side.

The event is about biking inclusiveness and helping people access trails they’ve never ridden before, Kristie Goforth, executive director for Free Bikes 4 Kidz, tells Madison365.   

“So many people who didn’t either grow up biking here or don’t have a large circle of biking friends — and a lot of them are BIPOC — don’t know about this great bike trail network that exists in this city. They don’t know how to access them,” Goforth says. “We want to help bridge that gap … especially the community we serve on the South Side of Madison which is just a five-minute bike ride from downtown.”

Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison is geared toward helping children ride into a happier, healthier life by providing bikes to historically excluded communities in Dane County. According to their website, the organization has given away over 9,800 bikes to new bike owners who may have never had the opportunity to experience the joys of owning their own bikes. 

“We serve mainly children. We serve a lot of families. It’s often a single mom with two or three kids. They want to bike and they want to participate. But that can be really tough sometimes,” Goforth says. “I think of one young mom who came out to our bike giveaways this spring, and I taught her son how to ride and she was so excited. And then she was like: ‘Do you think I could get a bike?’ and I was like, ‘Absolutely!’ We want biking to be a family affair.”

Goforth says she often calls biking “moving meditation.” 

“What’s a better way to model that than doing it yourself and with your kids? It’s just so fun, and it’s one of the best ways to see the city … through these amazing trails,” she says. “If you don’t have access to these trails, you are missing out on some of the premier views of our beautiful city and county.”

Happy FB4K bike recipients (Photo: Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison)

The South Side Slow Roll is for everybody… those who are inexperienced bikers who may be a little intimidated about biking in a group on the city bike paths and those who are more seasoned cyclists who can provide support and encouragement to bikers who are new to cycling. 

“So the nice thing was Dane County Parks partnered with us, as did the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), so we don’t have to have state trail passes. They’ve sponsored that, so everybody gets to use the trails for free that day,” Goforth says. “It’s a 3-mile distance … really, really doable for a family with kids, even young kids. It’s a group ride, so that will be fun. A lot of these folks have never been on a group ride. There’s so much positive energy and you’re just drawing off the energy of others, and three miles will feel like one mile.”

Participants are encouraged to decorate their bikes or wear a costume to make it a little more fun and light-hearted, or just come as you are. 

The ride begins at the Free Bikes 4 Kidz workshop at 354 Coyier Lane and ends at The Village on Park Street at 2300 South Park Street. All registered riders will receive a free food voucher from one of the four food carts at the after-party celebration.

Madinah Muslim School student excited to have her first bike (Photo: Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison)

“We want kids to go home with full bellies and the parents to not have to cook that night,” Goforth says, speaking of the free food vouchers. “And we expect to arrive in the lot probably around 4 p.m. So the after party will be from 4-7 p.m. and we’re going to have a lot going on …. including a blender bike there. So kids can make a smoothie, chucking some food like fruit and yogurt and blend smoothies.”

At the end of the ride, a community celebration will be held in the parking lot of The Village on Park Street with DJ Mr. Alexis and street artist Dani RAD, who will be doing airbrushing. There will be food carts, and activity tents with the DNR, Van Holten Pickles, Fire Light Group, and others. 

Cinnaire is the presenting sponsor for the South Side Slow Roll and additional support is being provided by the City of Madison, Virent, TruStage, UW Health, Capitol Bank, Slow Roll Cycles, Go Mini’s Portable Storage, Premium Waters, and Olbrich Botanical Gardens.

“We’re gonna be rolling slow and easy and just having good conversation as we ride and take our time and enjoy the view. We just really want it to be an inclusive community-building opportunity for folks that have never thought of going on a group ride before,” Goforth says, adding that she plans on inviting local biking groups like Black Girls Do Bike Madison and Black Men Cycle to the event. “There are some beautiful slow rolls that happen all over the country and we’re going for something like that. If people are looking for a group ride that’s safe and at their own pace, and slow and family oriented, this will be a good option for that.

“We’re going to be almost exclusively on paths. We’re taking the Cap City Trail and then we’ll be hooking up with Wingra Creek and then we’re going to go down Baird Street and then we’ll cross and we’ll enter at Buick Street,” Goforth adds. “Then we will finish up at the north end of the lot there. We’ll have a huge tent there.”

Beyond the food voucher, all riders will also receive seed bombs from Olbrich Botanical Gardens and a South Side Slow Roll bag. For those who need a quick tune-up on their bikes, Goforth says that they will be doing free wrenching services for about 45 minutes starting at 2 p.m.

“Starting at two o’clock, Wheels for Winners will have their tent out there and we’ll have our tent and people can come in and get minor work done … if they don’t have if their brakes working right or they need some kind of very minor adjustment, we can take care of that.”

The ride is free, but online registration is required. You can also register on the day of the event in the parking lot at Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison. For more information, click here.