Marc Mims of Spokane Valley had never been involved in local politics and admitted he couldn’t name the mayor or any of the city council members. But in May, when comments printed in the Valley Voice section of the Spokesman Review came up several times in conversation with fellow cyclists, he had to read them for himself.
Some citizens opposed to an already approved, funded and scheduled safety project on Broadway Avenue were speaking out, urging city council to scrap it. Known as a road diet, the project will reduce Broadway from 4 lanes to 3 (a travel lane in each direction with a continuous center turn lane), add bikes lanes and make upgrades to the sidewalk.
Marc wondered why there weren’t comments in favor of the safety improvements, so he recruited a fellow cyclist to attend the next city council meeting with him. He heard the all too often “Bikes don't belong on the road." It was clear that political support for this project was waning. Ironically, during this period of anti-bike rhetoric, Spokane Valley held its first Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan Workshop.
“It was clear that unless we could get citizens in support of the project to the final council meeting before the vote to suspend, we would likely lose this valuable project. So, I turned to Facebook, Twitter, and email---the social networking tools at my disposal,” recalled Marc.
After starting a Facebook page to save the Broadway Avenue safety project, Marc contacted bike advocates, members of local bike and racing clubs, bloggers, and cycling friends. He amassed nearly 100 "fans" on his Facebook page within a couple of weeks. The Bicycle Alliance of Washington and others dispatched action alerts, and posted info on our web site and to our Facebook page to reach Spokane area cyclists.
On June 29th, Marc and friends arrived at a packed city council meeting armed with facts. When it was time to comment, people lined up to speak about the Broadway Safety Project. Marc didn't recognize many faces and he was worried.
"For. For. For... Although I didn't know their faces, I recognized many of the names as 'fans' of our Facebook page,” Marc related. "Thirteen of us spoke in favor and only one person spoke in opposition," he added.
Then the vote to suspend was called: 2 in favor, 4 opposed. Victory! The project will move forward.
Marc is buoyed by his success and is now partnering with the Bicycle Alliance to organize a Pedal with the Politicians ride in Spokane Valley sometime in August. Stay tuned for details.