By Candice Wagener | Photo by Hillary Schave
Transportation equity is always on Kristie GoForth’s mind. As executive director of Free Bikes 4Kidz Madison (FB4K) and a member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, GoForth is committed to providing access to the bicycling community for everyone.
Since taking the helm in April 2020, GoForth has transitioned FB4K into a year-round operation to amp up its visibility and worked to increase the sustainability of the organization.
Their Slow Roll event in August was a highlight. Hosted on Madison’s south side, the goal was to educate the community on the bike paths in their area and help them feel supported in navigating that space. They had 250 participants, mostly people of color.
“Many of our recipients are still first-generation [bike] owners which, in 2023, is very hard for some people to fathom — but it’s also very telling of the industry,” says GoForth. “Underserved communities often don’t have bike infrastructure [like] bike lanes [or] bike racks … we’re really working to address that.”
GoForth’s passion for biking grew as she faced her own personal traumas. As a biracial person, she never felt like she fit into either group. She looks white, yet carries the traumas of Native heritage instead of white privilege, and she is not brown enough to be accepted by Native people. When she came to UW–Madison, she needed her bike more than ever.
“My time at UW was probably one of the lonelier times of my life. It’s amazing that I was able to stick it out. And you know how I did? Living on my bicycle. I would spend hours and hours just riding my bicycle through the countryside of Wisconsin, because I didn’t have a community, and I never really fit in … [but biking] felt very comfortable.”
On a visit this past summer to the Lac du Flambeau reservation, GoForth was inspired to expand FB4K’s outreach.
“I only saw one person on a bicycle [on the reservation], whereas in Minocqua and Boulder Junction, I saw a ton of bikes. The inequity was very glaring and shouting out at me [to do something],” says GoForth.
She worked quickly to plan a bike donation drive in partnership with Minocqua Brewing Company and she hopes to host a bike giveaway in the near future on the reservation. Eventually, she endeavors to reach the entire state and all 12 of its reservations.
“I’m not the type of leader who waits for opportunity,” says GoForth. “I seize any opportunity I can find, because our work is important.”