The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cloud Creep

I took these pictures on my morning commute in the order I present them below. Notice the clouds slowly creeping in.

Seattle Reflections
Juanita Bay Park, Kirkland, about 6:45 am.

Morning Fishing
David E. Brink Park, Kirkland, about 7:00 am.

Mercer Island, about 7:40 am.

I-90 Clouds
Seattle end of the I-90 bridge, about 8:00 am.

OK, this last one would have been awesome -- the Cascades off to the left, Mt. Rainier dead ahead, possibly some sailboats out there -- except that by the time I got across the bridge, dark ominous clouds had rolled right in and hidden all those pretty views. Instead, I saw an increasing number of bicyclists in neon yellow rain jackets, always a good predictor of rain.

Fortunately, rain doesn't deter Seattle bike commuters. We may come out in droves for the gorgeous, sunny weather that has blessed the region lately, but precipitation and cloudy conditions won't stop us. We just turn on those blinking lights, slap some more reflective tape everywhere, and don our bright-colored waterproof jackets. Autumn, come on -- make our day. We're ready.

Note: The above post was written August 26. The commute on August 31 threw down the gauntlet, presaging the weather to come.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bikes and Buses, Part 2: Bike Parking

Kristin Kinnamon of Community Transit is a bike commuter, bike advocate, and sits on the Bicycle Alliance of Washington's Board of Directors.  She wrote this article for the Community Transit blog and we would like to share it with you:

Bikes and Buses, Part 2:  Bike Parking

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's all about the bike rack

As more folks hop on their bikes to run errands, shop and go places--and Dave Shaw's June blog post clearly illustrates this is happening--the demand for bike parking increases. And the type of bike parking I'm referring to is the basic bike rack.

I'm not talking about those old "wheel bender" bike racks like this one in a school yard

or this one in an urban park.

Although both of these bike racks see regular use due to their locations, neither of them provide adequate support for the wheel and frame, and they are problematic to secure front wheel and frame with a u-lock. (Secure your front wheel to the bike rack if it has a quick release. I've seen way too many bikes missing their front wheels at bike racks.)

The kind of bike rack I'm talking about is conveniently located to my destination and allows me to easily secure my front wheel and frame to the bike rack. This "hitching post" type of rack is located in front of one of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle, and there's always a bike or two or three locked up to it.

This style of rack is popular in busy urban areas. Its slim profile allows it to fit nicely on sidewalks, and it's easy to lock your front wheel and bike frame to the rack with a u-lock.
Secure front wheel and frame to rack.

Good rack but poorly secured bike.
I like the "staple" and "hitching post" racks for their functionality, but they have an industrial look to them. Bike racks can be functional and esthetically pleasing. This bike rack in downtown Redmond has a slim profile, is functional, and beckons the traveling cyclist. Although this bike is only secured through the frame, it could easily have been locked through the front wheel and frame.

Here are two other bike rack designs that are commonplace. One features a "coat hanger" for attaching your bike; the other has an undulating appearance like a snake or ribbon. Since these racks require more space, you don't often see them on sidewalks.

Photo by Eileen Hyatt
Here's an interesting and colorful bike rack at a Spokane pizza parlor. It incorporates old bike frames into the design--recycling at its best! Again, this is a design that supports the wheel and frame, and allows both to be locked to the rack.

This final bike rack sits outside a professional building in Redmond and houses--you guessed it--four dental offices.
If you use your bike for transportation, it's helpful to know what constitutes a good bike rack. Someday, you might find yourself approaching a business or your workplace and asking them to install a bike rack for your use. You can find Bicycle Parking resources on the Bicycle Alliance of Washington's website, including our Shop by Bike Retailer's Guide to Effective Bicycle Parking.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bikes and Buses, Part 1: Bike Racks

Kristin Kinnamon works for Community Transit in Snohomish County.  She is also a bike commuter and sits on the Bicycle Alliance of Washington Board.  She recently wrote this post for the Community Transit blog that we would like to share with you:

Bikes and Buses, Part 1:  Bike Racks

Monday, August 23, 2010

Whose Streets?

While citizens in Seattle launch their Streets for All campaign, a Vancouver resident is pushing a Take Back the Streets initiative which would prioritize city streets for motor vehicle use.  According to The Vancouver Voice:

East Vancouver resident Mike Grosenbach is seeking help to start a "Take Back Our Streets" petition for an initiative prioritizing city streets for motor vehicle use.  Key aspects of his draft initiative include requiring pedestrian and cyclists to yield right-of-way to motor vehicles at all times and prohibit converting on-street car parking to any non-car parking use. Sandt
 Grosenbach goes on to vent his anger about cyclists--that they take up more than their share of road space and funding.  He claims that bicyclists are "basically stealing everyone else's right to the road."  Read Marcus Griffith's full post.

Sound familiar?  Feel like deja vu?  Just as President Obama's religious views (he's Christian) and citizenship (US citizen) are regularly questioned, we as bike advocates must routinely defend our right to the road.

Bicycles are Vehicles

Bicycles are recognized as vehicles in Washington State, and have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles on the road.  This means that, with few exceptions, you and I have a right to travel by bike on our roads and, if necessary, take a lane of traffic for our safety.  This also means that we are expected to stop at stop signs and red lights, yield to pedestrians, and ride with other traffic--not against it.  You can find more information about laws related to biking on the Bicycle Alliance of Washington website.

Everyone pays for Roads

This may come as a shock to the anti-bike crowd, but most bicyclists also own and/or drive motor vehicles.  (We own a car in my household.)  That means most cyclists are paying road fees too! 

More shocking news:  Americans pay for roads whether or not we own or drive vehicles!  Registration fees, gas taxes, tolls and other user fees don't cover the costs of building and maintaining roads, so we subsidize our roads with other funds.  An analysis by Subsidyscope reveals that in 2007, road user fees and taxes covered only 51% of the costs.  The other half is subsidized by non-user tax sources and borrowing through bond measures.

Most shocking:  Bicyclists and pedestrians pay a disproportionately higher amount for our share of the road!  According to Todd Litman's report for the Victoria Transport Policy Institute:

On average, local and regional governments spend $300-$500 annually per automobile in general taxes on local roads and traffic services, averaging more than 6 cents per mile driven on local roads.  Only 0.7 cents of this is paid through vehicle user charges, meaning that driving is subsidized through general taxes by about 5.6 cents per mile.  Automobiles also impose other external costs, including parking subsidies, congestion and crash risk imposed on other road users, and environmental damages.  Pedestrians and cyclists tend to impose lower costs than motor vehicles and bear an excessive share of these costs, particularly crash risks, because they are unprotected.  A shift from driving to bicycling and walking reduces external costs, providing benefits to society, such as road and parking facility savings, reduced crash risk and congestion delay imposed on other users, and reduced environmental impacts.  This indicates that non-drivers pay more than their share of transportation costs.

Please take the time to read the reports cited above so you understand the information.  The next time someone tells you that cyclists don't belong on the road or don't pay their fair share, you will be equipped to respond objectively.

Now let's take back our share of the streets.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mr. Smith Goes to Olympia

Bicycle Alliance Board Adopts 2011 Legislative Agenda

In the classic 1939 Frank Capra movie about politics in the other Washington, an idealistic Jimmy Stewart bests the establishment with a heart-rending Senate floor speech that shames the cynics and wins the day.

Oh, if only it were that easy.

Affecting the outcome of the political sausage-making process in the real world takes time, planning, advance work, coalition building and plenty of patience. So even though the legislature doesn’t meet again until next January, the Bicycle Alliance has been working on its 2011 legislative agenda since last spring. If you’re interested in helping to create a more bike-friendly Washington, we welcome your support.

The legislative agenda, adopted by the Bicycle Alliance Board at its August meeting, calls for passage of five primary pieces of legislation, as well as support of other legislation to make cycling safer and more convenient.

Priority legislation includes bills that would:

Traffic safety education—require that the driving schools attended by motorists who have received a traffic ticket teach the Department of Licensing’s approved curriculum for safe driving around cyclists and pedestrians. Such legislation was introduced during the 2010 session, but died without final action.

Mutual courtesy and safe passing—clarify the laws that define safe and courteous behavior for cyclists and motorists, including legislation governing how much space motorists should give cyclists when passing alongside them.

Complete streets—create a framework for a grant program to create incentives for communities that adopt a “complete streets” policy to ensure that their streets are designed and built to accommodate cycling and walking. A “complete streets” bill was introduced during the 2010 session, but died without final action.

Lower speed limits—Give communities broader authority to lower speed limits to 20 miles an hour in neighborhoods with high pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Studies in Europe have shown that lower speed limits sharply reduce injuries and death.

Liability—Impose reasonable limits on the liability of communities that sign bicycle routes or produce bike maps. Currently, some communities don’t mark or map routes at all because they fear they will be found liable for injuries suffered by cyclists who use the routes.

In addition to its main priorities, the Bicycle Alliance will also support legislation to better protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, require the State Dept. of Transportation to include the external costs of driving when assessing the costs and benefits of its projects, and provide adequate transportation funding for cycling and walking.

The priorities will be fine-turned as the legislative session advances. For more background and up-to-date information, visit the Bicycle Alliance legislation and issues page, accessible from our home page at

If you have questions or would like to help advance our legislative agenda, contact Bicycle Alliance Policy Director Dave Janis at 224-9252, extension 302, or at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Abounding Volunteer Opportunities!

Boy do we have a lot of pans in the fire these days -- and that's exciting. But we need you, our loyal bicycling supporters, to help us make all these things happen. Here's how you can help.



Reach Out to Bike Racers

Interested in bicycle racing, or are you a bike racer yourself? All racers benefit from the Bicycle Alliance's efforts, but very few even know the Bicycle Alliance exists. Help us rectify this sad state of affairs. On August 29, we need 6 people (3-hour shifts of 2 people each, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm) to help staff a Bicycle Alliance table at the Seward Park Season Ender race. Helpers will actively work the crowd, going out and engaging racers in conversation about the Bicycle Alliance, soliciting for memberships and additions to the email list, and passing out Bike Alliance literature (Share the Road license plate postcards, the newsletter, and brochures). Some volunteers will also help staff a booth for the Bicycle Alliance, doing all of the same activities above and giving out healthy snacks and freebies. If you're interested or for more details, email volunteer [at] by August 20. Some training is required.

Say "Thank You" to RAPSody Finishers

We need help saying "Thank you" to all the bicyclists who participate in Ride Around Puget Sound (RAPSody), a two-day ride put on by 5 bike clubs to raise money for the Bicycle Alliance. We need one or two more people to help give out free ice cream and and educate riders on the Bicycle Alliance's activities at the finish line at Tacoma Community College on August 29 from 2:15 pm to 4:30 pm. If you're interested or for more details, email volunteer [at] by August 20. Some training is required.

Give and Get For the Bike Alliance

Interested in having a big impact in just a couple hours? Hand out cue sheets and solicit riders for donations and memberships at the start of the Perimeter Ride of Seattle (PROS), a Bicycle Alliance fundraiser put on by the Cyclists of Greater Seattle. The ride takes place on September 6, and the start line runs from 7:30 am to 9:30 am at the North parking lot in Discovery Park. If you're interested or for more details, email volunteer [at] by August 27.

Feed Hungry Cyclists

Love to feed people? On September 6 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am, indulge yourself by helping run a rest stop to feed bicyclists at the Tukwila Community Center, 25 miles into the PROS ride. To volunteer for this opportunity, click here or email volunteer [at] by August 27.

Adopt Your Bike Shop

You love your bike shop and go there at least twice a month. You know all the employees' names and sometimes stop by just to shoot the breeze. Bike shops benefit from the Bicycle Alliance's work, which puts more bicyclists (bike shop patrons!) on the road. Consider adopting your local bike shop for the Bicycle Alliance. All you do is set up and maintain a little display of Bicycle Alliance literature, restocking it when materials get low. It's just another excuse to stop by the shop. This is an ongoing opportunity that requires a little bit of training. Contact volunteer [at] or click here for details.

Apply for the Outreach Corps

If you perk up at opportunities like the Reach Out to Bike Racers, the Outreach Corps may be for you. This group of highly-trained volunteers speaks for the Bicycle Alliance at transportation fairs, bike rides and races (like RAPSody, PROS, and Cycle the Wave), and fun bike events (like Tour de Fat and Bike Expo). Outreach Corps members significantly increase the Bicycle Alliance's effectiveness by increasing public awareness of our efforts and collecting donations and memberships. This is an ongoing opportunity that requires training. Contact volunteer [at] for details.

Obama's words to me: Keep up the good work, bike advocate!

President Obama made a whirlwind visit to Seattle on Tuesday and I managed to catch him for a quick powwow over a cup of java in Pioneer Square.  What an opportunity!  Here's a synopsis of my conversation with the President of the United States (POTUS):

Me: Sir, we need a national Complete Streets mandate. Not only is traffic congestion contributing to global warming, but it's ruining the livability of many of our communities. We can't build our way out of this. We only make things worse when we try.

POTUS: Good point, Louise. May I call you Louise?

Me: Yes, sir. May I call you Mr President?
POTUS: Of course. What else is on your mind?

Me: Sir, I'm concerned about our national obesity epidemic and the health of our children. For a variety of reasons, our young people are leading more sedentary lives. We need to find ways to engage them in a more active lifestyle. Incorporating biking and walking into their daily lives is an affordable solution and Safe Routes to School helps us do this.

POTUS: Believe me, this is on my radar screen. Michelle is tackling this issue and she's all over it. Anything else?

Me: One more thing, Mr. President. Your Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, he's a keeper.

POTUS: Thanks. I like Ray too. I've gotta get moving. Patty Murray is waiting for me.
"Keep up the good work, bike advocate!"
And with that, President Obama hopped into his waiting vehicle and waved good-bye. "Keep up the good work, bike advocate!" he said as he was whisked away.....

What--you don't believe me?  Well, maybe it wasn't quite like that, but I assure you it was close.  I mean, I'm sure that's how it would have been had the President and I actually met. 

Ok, so I was walking to the coffee shop Tuesday morning when I noticed dozens of motorcycle cops and hundreds of onlookers lining the street.  I walked over to check it out.  Unimpeded, I stepped right up to the intersection just in time to see the President's motorcade approach. A rousing cheer went up from the crowd as his vehicle rolled by and President Obama waved to the bystanders, including me! 

And I swear I heard him say, "Keep up the good work, bike advocate!"

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

RAPSody Deadline is This Friday

If you're planning to ride RAPSody: Ride Around Puget Sound but haven't registered yet, make haste and sign up because the deadline is this Friday, August 20.  The ride is on August 28-29.

RAPSody offers two days of bicycling the scenic back roads through five Washington counties.  Starting and ending in Tacoma, riders pedal across the Narrrows Bridge for 170 miles of rolling hills and classic Northwest vistas.  The ride is organized by five Puget Sound bike clubs:  BIKES of Snohomish County, Capital Bicycling Club, Cyclists of Greater Seattle (COGS), Tacoma Wheelmen Bicycle Club and West Sound Cycling Club.  All proceeds from RAPSody benefits the Bicycle Alliance of Washington's advocacy and education efforts.

RAPSody is a fabulous and well-supported bike ride, and features live music at the overnight stop in Shelton and at the finish line in Tacoma.  But don't just take my word for it.  Eric Shalit has ridden RAPSody twice and is about to ride it a third time.  Read Eric's post about his RAPSody experience.

Check out this You Tube video of 2009 RAPSody.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Lose 2,000 Pounds

You probably already guessed how: Ditch your car.

Now, before you say, "That's impossible" and start listing the reasons -- you're a real estate agent who has to drive clients around; you work 50 miles from home; you have to arrive at your destination clean and coiffed; you're a contractor who has to haul 100 lbs of bulky tools -- check out the following video.

These two normal guys in Arlington, VA, gave up their cars for 30 days in a Car-Free Diet challenge. It takes quite a few repetitions to develop a habit, but apparently a month is long enough. By the end of the month, both guys found that they could live perfectly happily 2,000 lbs lighter.

But what about all those good reasons people don't want to give up their cars? There are so many options, it's really hard to know where to start.
  1. Xtracycle, Madsen, or similar cargo bikes. Equipped with a Stokemonkey, even fully-loaded you can tackle those humongous Seattle hills with ease. It's fun and it's doable, as you can see from these pictures:

    Xtracycle Box Haul 5

    The End!

    If those pictures don't convince you that a cargo bike -- capable of carrying up to 200 lbs, including another person -- could be a good option, check out the Tacoma Bike Ranch, which documents a Tacoma dad's car-free ways. He moves his kids by Madsen and Xtracycle.
  2. Electric-Assist Bikes. Already popular in Europe, e-assist bikes make living life by bike achievable for normal non-athletes. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn rides an e-assist to City Hall (a number of other prominent Seattle politicians and Spokane City Council members also opt for two wheels over four). Many mainstream bicycle manufacturers have begun producing e-assist bicycles, along with quite a number of lesser-known manufacturers, as discussed here and there on the web. Electric Bikes Northwest offers a fairly comprehensive discussion of the beauty of e-assists.
  3. Trailers. Coupled with an electric-assist, a cargo trailer can haul hundreds of pounds -- or a double-bass -- by bike easily. Burley, BOB, and innumerable other manufacturers offer cargo trailers for bicycles. Fortunately, Bikes at Work provides a handy-dandy bicycle trailer guide to help shoppers sort out the details. For specialized items, Haulin' Colin in Seattle custom-builds legendary trailers.
This list is by no means a comprehensive discussion of car-alternatives. It doesn't go into multimodal bus/bike options or give any serious how-to details, as numerous other websites (Way to Go Seattle, for example) already cover those details. Instead, I hope that this post will remind you to "Be the change you want to see in the world." Advocacy helps, which is why we do advocacy. Education helps, so we educate motorists and bicyclists. But most of all, making the change in your life that you want to see in the world will move us from vision to reality.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! (And they’re riding bicycles!)

Washington bicyclists may have to contend with poor infrastructure, aggressive motorists, an automobile-oriented transportation establishment and sometimes-unsympathetic elected officials. But things could be worse.

Take the state of Colorado, for instance, where the Denver Post reports that gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes has warned darkly that Denver’s efforts to boost bicycling in that City “are converting Denver into a United Nations Community.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes said.

Maes told the Post that he once thought that the City’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental issues were harmless but now realizes that “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

“This is bigger than it looks on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms,” said Maes. He explained that Denver’s bicycling program and other environmental policies “…are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by the United Nations…”

In a later television interview Maes back-pedaled, so to speak, explaining that he had been trying to draw a contrast between himself and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, another candidate for governor. Maes said that the Post had taken his comments out of context. The bike program was fine, he said, but what concerned him was “what’s behind it all.”

One wag noted that perhaps the UN had traded its black helicopters for red bicycles, the color used in Denver’s bike-sharing program.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Say "Kudos" on the Road

As the green Toyota Prius passed me, the driver honked twice.

With a bicyclist’s instincts, I flinched, wondering what had I done wrong. I completed a quick mental rundown of my status: Riding a reasonable, safe distance from the right side of the road – check. Maintaining predictable line of travel – check. Following all applicable rules of the road – check. Clothes, bike, and panniers all behaving as expected – check. Sometimes people honk for no reason. I had just decided this was one of those cases when I noticed the driver’s friendly hand-wave. I waved back (extra friendliness never hurt anybody), then wondered who I had waved at. Did I know anybody who might drive down Lake Washington Boulevard at 8:00 on a Thursday morning?

Eventually I figured out that yes, I have a friend who works in Seattle, owns a green Prius, and would most likely take that route to work. A couple hours later, her email arrived in my inbox:
Subject: Hope I was not too startling

I assume it was you in a pink shirt with your streamers biking down Lake Wa Blvd that I honked at and waved at this AM on my way to work. I was hoping that didn't make your teeth clench and raise your adrenaline not knowing what I was about.

One author I read pointed out that while cars and drivers have recognized ways of communicating disapproval to others on the road whether it be people, bicyclists or other cars, we don't have a recognized means for communicating approval...
Chalk it up as one mystery solved before 10:00 am.

The larger mystery that my friend brought up, of how should people express approval on the roads, remains unsolved. Honking, fist-waving, and angry shouting provide us with abundant means of expressing displeasure, but what happens when somebody wants to express friendly or positive feelings on the road? Usually drivers (of cars or bikes) employ the same methods of communication – honking, waving, and shouting – and their intentions are all-too-easily misconstrued. This is your chance to offer some clues to solve this mystery. How should motorists communicate approbation to bicyclists, and vice versa?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bicycling is fun(ny)

Just for fun:
If there isn't a source then it's a joke from a friend or original wit.

Knock knock
Who's there?
Isabell who?
Isabell required on your bike?

You know you're addicted to cycling when you have more bikes than the days of the week.

Q. Do you know what is the hardest part of learning to ride a bike?
A. The pavement. (source)

Q. Why did the lion chase the cyclist?
A. He heard that bikes are good for you. (source)

"I've really had it with my dog: he'll chase anyone on a bicycle."
"So what are you going to do - leave him at the dog's home? Give him away? Sell him?"
"No, nothing that drastic. I think I'll just confiscate his bike."(source)

Q: Why did the boy take his bike to bed with him?
A: He didn't want to walk in his sleep.

You know you're addicted to cycling when the surgeon tells you need a heart valve replaced and you ask if you have the choice between presta and Schrader.

Q: Why don't bikes stand up by themselves?
A: They're two-tired!

You know you're addicted to cycling when you catch your self using turn signals while navigating the grocery store isles.

Anyone else have a good bicycle related joke?

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Bike: Jon Snyder

Jon Snyder of Spokane is the founder and owner of the publication Out There Monthly, a family man, and he rides his bike for everyday transportation.  He also happens to be a member of Spokane City Council.
Photo by Ben Tobin.

Working two jobs and raising two young kids does not give Jon much time for recreational pursuits, which is why he likes to use his bike for transportation.  He believes Spokane is a great city for cycling and he rides his bike year round in all sorts of weather.

"Biking keeps me alive and it's a funny thing to say since I do almost all of my cycling in traffic on urban streets that many folks think are dangerous," Jon commented.  "But as a city councilman and small business owner, the more dangerous choice is not being healthy and not being in touch with my surroundings."

Jon helped champion the passage of the City's Complete Streets resolution earlier this year.  He's a member of the Bicycle Alliance and proudly sports Share the Road license plate number 230 on his vehicle.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You Can't Keep a Good Bike Advocate Down

After taking a week off for her daughter's wedding, Bicycle Alliance of Washington's Executive Director Barbara Culp was looking forward to returning to the office last Monday.  She donned her new summer dress, mounted her bike and pedaled out of her driveway.

Barb makes her way to her office.
Less than two blocks from her home, Barb encountered street construction and moved to the sidewalk to get around it.  As she made her move to return to the street, she hit loose gravel from the construction and went down.  (You can read an accounting of it in Publicola's Morning Fizz.)  The result was three hairline pelvic fractures for Barb and doctor's orders to stay off her right leg for three months.

But you can't keep a good bike advocate down for long.  After ten days of house rest, Barb has returned to the Bicycle Alliance on a part time basis.  Our office is ADA accessible so Barb can negotiate her way around with crutches and a walker specially equipped by the staff and JRA Bike Shop with a water bottle cage, basket and Hello Kitty bike bell.

Barb's tricked out walker.
"This is an exciting time for the Bicycle Alliance and I'm delighted to be back in the office," said Barb.  "We're bringing Safe Routes to School to six King County school districts under a Public Health grant and expanding our Mobility Education curriculum to up to 30 school districts around the state."

The Bike Alliance is also planning a Hub and Spoke event in Walla Walla, some outreach efforts in the Tri-Cities, and a Complete Streets meeting with Whatcom County bike advocates--all in September.

Welcome back, Barb!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Faces of Volunteerism

Jennifer Kogut
Whenever you read The Advocate, our quarterly newsletter, you're reading a product that Jennifer Kogut has had her creative hands on. An editor by profession, Jennifer--a Seattle native--has edited our publication as a volunteer for over six years.

Six years.  That's a chunk of time to devote as a volunteer to the Bicycle Alliance--and we are so appreciative of Jennifer's generosity with her time.  We are also very fortunate that there are others like her who give us many hours over a span of years.

For instance, there's Dave Shaw.  Dave has donated his time as our database guru for many years, is a current contributor to our blog, and has served on our Board of Directors.  There's Rebecca Slivka, another Seattle native.  She has been our volunteer webmaster, among other things.  Or David McCulloch of Port Townsend, who has helped us advocate for signed bicycle routes, bike imrovements to the Hood Canal Bridge, and served on our Legislative & Statewide Issues Committee.  You can read about these good folks and others featured under the Volunteer Spotlight section of the our website.

Tour de Fat volunteers.
Not everyone can devote hours to bicycle advocacy. Many volunteers choose to help the cause through occasional letter writing to elected officials, attending Transportation Advocacy Day in Olympia, or helping us with special events--such as Tour de Fat or our annual auction.  Their efforts are invaluable to us and many repeat their volunteer roles for these events for several years.  We tip our helmets to them as well.

2009 Board & Staff photo

Some volunteers rise to the top as leaders for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington--our Board of Directors.  These committed individuals create our vision, set our agenda, and ensure that we have adequate human and financial resources to accomplish our work.  They are passionate about our work and many devote an extraordinary amount of time to the organization.  Saying thank you seems inadequate, but it is a sincere thank you!

Are you inspired to give some time to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington? Perhaps you'd like to help us at one of our month end work parties at the office.  Contact Donna Govro for more information.  We are also recruiting volunteers for our recently launched Outreach Corps.  Would you like to contribute articles to our blog or newsletter?  Contact Louise McGrody with your story ideas.  Maybe you have your own project idea in mind or you'd like to help us out with an event.  Please contact us--we'd love to hear from you!

Volunteers attend Mariners game.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Red Lights: What About “Stop” Don’t You Understand?

Red-Light Camera Haters and Scofflaw Cyclists Should Both Get a Grip

Opponents of red-light cameras are mad as hell—apoplectic might be a better description—and they’re not going to take it any more.

Their descriptions of the automated cameras—used to identify and ticket red-light runners—range from a relatively mild “unfair” through “extortion” and worse. The cameras represent “Big Brother.” They're apparently a threat to liberty. They're unsafe. Initiative promoter Tim Eyman, employing his usual penchant for understatement, says the cameras are “all about the money” and are “the crack cocaine” of City leaders. Eyman has even sponsored a City of Mukilteo initiative that could ban the cameras.

This being the age of the Internet, the cameras have also spawned a host of websites with names like and Ban the The latter website explains that its purpose is to "combat the abuse of power" that the cameras represent.

Another site, “,” has a map that pinpoints the locations of red-light cameras around the country; the map is surrounded by a changing array of ads. Some are for lawyers who will help you fight your DUI or speeding ticket. Another ad that appears on the site invites you to buy an “invisible license plate—easy application makes your plate completely invisible to cameras!”

What kind of motorists tend to run red lights, anyway? Granted, it could happen to anyone occasionally. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a non-profit group financed by insurers, compiled information based on actual driver behavior at one Arlington, Va. intersection. According to the Institute, red-light runners tended to be younger, less likely to use seat belts, and have poorer driving records than drivers who didn't run red lights. They were also three times more likely to have multiple speeding convictions.

Red-light running is also very common. A Fairfax, Va. Study cited by the Institute and based on observations made at several busy intersections without red-light cameras showed that, on average, a motorist ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection--more often during peak travel times.

Statistics compiled by the group also show that red-light running is a deadly problem in the United States. In 2008, 762 people were killed and an estimated 137,000 were injured in crashes involving red-light running. About half of such deaths involve pedestrians and people in vehicles hit by the red-light runners. (I didn’t find separate statistics on cyclists killed by red-light runners. But cyclists, as a vulnerable-user group, obviously face risks similar to those faced by pedestrians.)

If you still think the problem is overblown, then take a look at this video, which records an actual crash and starkly illustrates the havoc that a red-light runner can cause. Even more graphic videos are available if you care to peruse YouTube.

In light of the deadly results red-light running, the high death rate on American highways, and the fact that strained law-enforcement budgets will never support a motorcycle officer at every intersection, it’s a little hard to swallow the victim mentality that seems to pervade the anti-camera movement.

Big brother? An invasion of privacy? Hardly. Driving a car is not a personal act between two consenting adults. You’re out there on a public highway for the world to see, and your behavior can have deadly consequences for those forced to share the road with you. When you look at the real technology-related privacy threats we face, with everyone from Google to the U.S. Government vacuuming up our personal data, concern about red-light cameras seems weirdly misplaced.

The Insurance Institute’s data also debunks camera-opponent’s clams that the cameras actually increase accidents. To the contrary, concludes the Institute, the cameras tend to decrease both crashes and red-light violations.

A word to those who may doubt the Institute's data because of its ties to insurers: Say what you will about members of the car-insurance industry, they are generally very good at evaluating the risks upon which their bottom lines depend. You can rest assured that if red-light cameras increased accidents (and claims), insurance companies would oppose them.

Now a word to those cyclists who may be nodding their helmeted heads in agreement with this post: Red lights apply to you, too. It’s true that a bike and cyclists weighing a total of 200 pounds or less pose a much smaller threat than say, a Chevy Suburban. In fact, if you run a red light on a bike, the person most likely to end up dead is you. If that prospect doesn’t concern you, then consider the way that cycling scofflaws irritate other road users and give ammunition to anti-cyclists. It may be unfair for them to paint us all with such a broad and negative brush, but it happens. If you break the law, it hurts us all. You may be able to come up with all kinds of reasons why cyclists should be able to run red lights, from safety to convenience to bad road sensors to moral superiority. the New York Times Ethicist even approves of it under some circumstances. But none of those reasons changes the fact that it’s against the law. If you decide to do it and get a ticket, don't complain.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tour de Fat Features Bikes, Folly and Fundraising

Tour de Fat, New Belgium Brewing Company's traveling festival in celebration of bikes, rolled into Seattle on Saturday--and what a celebration it was!  Around 4000 revelers, many in costume, participated in the festivities at Gasworks Park.

Tour de Fat brings bikes, beer and entertainment together to raise money for bicycle advocacy and education.  This year's Seattle event raised nearly $14,000, which will benefit the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and Bike Works

A special thank you to the 60+ volunteers who helped the Bicycle Alliance run the beer garden and staff our info booth.  You guys rock!

Missed out on this year's fun?  Here's a synopsis:

Hundreds of bicyclists of all ages gathered at Gasworks Park Saturday morning to participate in the bike parade that launched Tour de Fat.

And they're off to ride through the streets of Fremont and visit the Troll!  Check out this YouTube clip of the parade

Bicycle Alliance volunteers checked IDs of visitors entering the beer garden,

and sold beer tokens...lots of beer tokens!

Bike Alliance volunteers were busy pouring and serving beer.

Volunteers staffed a water station, our info booth, and helped with set up and tear down.

Tour de Fat featured wacky folks in wacky costumes,

wacky bikes to try out (a You Tube video shows them in action),

and a Car for Bike Trade (also captured in a video clip).

And the festivities ended with a group hug from Tony Danza!

Need more Tour de Fat?  Check the coverage on Tubulocity, the Seattle Bike Blog, and Bikejuju.  And more pics on our Facebook page!