Milwaukee neighborhood bike ride encourages healthy choices

A project that started a decade ago, meant to curb outdoor air pollution, now has Milwaukee neighborhoods making lifestyle changes one bike ride at a time.

Getting folks in gear for a 3.5-mile ride, mechanic Anthony Casagrande is changing not just parts, but lives.

"I pretty much have a full shop here so I can do brakes, cable chains I can do shifters, do a lot of pedal replacements," Casagrande said.

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Casagrande, with the Wisconsin Bike Fed, is fixing bikes for riders like Kourtlyn Guy who are ready for an escape during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It gives me a lot of freedom," Guy said. "Usually, I go to McGovern Park, and we just ride around. It just feels good just to get away out the house."

10th annual "Get Wheelin' in Westlawn" community bike ride event

Though the reasons for riding may be different from what riders do and see along the way, the benefits are the same.

"Being healthy together, and want to just exercise together and fellowship and communicate," said Sally Yeldell, community ambassador with Westlawn Partnership for a Healthier Environment. "More conversations about being healthy."

Yeldell helped organize the 10th annual "Get Wheelin' in Westlawn" – which she said is meant to promote activity and build community. The event provided physical and nutritional health opportunities.

"We got an apple tree, grapes, watermelon – you need it, we have it in this garden," Yeldell said. "From the dirt to the table and having that conversation, we did this so we learned about how the seed grows in the dirt, and what it takes to grow it, and nurture."

10th annual "Get Wheelin' in Westlawn" community bike ride event

Feeding bodies and minds, combining resources and recreation, the initiative kicked off weeks ago with local figures – including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Common Council President Cavalier Johnson.

"It makes me feel happy," said 11-year-old Eli Morris. "Sometimes it makes you feel exhausted, but you just gotta keep pushing on."

The Wisconsin Bike Fed holds free tune-up events in areas that don't have easy access to bicycle shops. Next week, the organization will be at Columbia Playground, and Merrill Park the following week.

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