The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Monday, December 27, 2010

Clark County Passes Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan

Today's post was submitted by Brendon Haggerty, who regularly bike commutes from his home in Portland to his job in Clark County.

The Clark County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, recently passed by a unanimous vote of the Board of County Commissioners, represents the county’s first coordinated effort to plan for bicycles and pedestrians.  Included in the plan are proposed policy changes that would help the county become more supportive of bicycle and pedestrian transportation.  Also included are proposals for promotion and encouragement programs, such as temporary street closures that provide a car-free environment for residents to meet their neighbors and enjoy physical activity.  An advisory committee worked with the county to identify a prioritized network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in unincorporated Clark County.

A unique feature of the plan is that it makes special consideration of the health impacts of cycling and walking, whether for recreation or transportation.  In prioritizing projects, planners worked with staff from Clark County Public Health to identify projects that are likely to increase physical activity among residents.  As part of the planning process, Clark County Public Health prepared a Health Impact Assessment to highlight the health benefits of physical activity and to help prioritize actions that enable more Clark County residents to enjoy opportunities for physical activity in their neighborhoods.  The plan and health impact assessment can be found at .

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to make a year-end donation to the Bicycle Alliance

(Thanks to Development Director JoAnn Yoshimoto for compiling this list!)

10. We help to educate every new generation of motorists by ensuring that traffic safety education courses include information on safely sharing the road with bicyclists and pedestrians.

9. We have a seat at the table of the 2008-2027 Washington State Bicycle Facilities and Pedestrian Walkways Plan, and we continue to monitor its progress.

8. We developed and actively promote the Share the Road specialty license plate to raise awareness of bicycling and support safety education.

7. We are working in 2011-2012 to introduce Safe Routes to School bicycling and pedestrian education in 35 school districts throughout Washington. Thousands of school-age children will learn safe bicycling skills.

6. In 2011 we will propose a change for lowering speed limits in designated areas because we believe that saving lives is more important than saving a few minutes.

5. In the upcoming legislative session we will work for passage of the Mutual Courtesy and Safe Passing Act to clarify mutual responsibilities, define the minimum safe distance, help bicyclists and motorists to be better informed, reduce collisions and conflicts.

4. We will work to pass the Active Community Transportation Act to create a grant program for communities to build biking and walking networks.

3. We work tirelessly to make roads and trails safer and more enjoyable for you all across Washington.

2. We wisely and prudently utilize your generous financial support to advance and pass laws that protect cyclists!

1.      A strong and effective Bicycle Alliance of Washington to better serve you and your loved ones in 2011 and beyond.

Ready to donate now?  Follow this link!

Thanks for supporting a bicycle-friendly Washington!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Great Helmet Debate Burden
Do you wear a helmet when you ride? Should you wear a helmet when you ride? Should the government poke its nose in with helmet laws? Do helmets really improve safety or, more importantly, crash survival?

The recent Grist article "Helmet Wars: A gripping account of the great bicycle helmet campaigns" begins to explore some of the sides of this issue, and provides a number of links to excellent resources on both sides. Check it out, and tell us where you land on the helmet issue.

Whether you think bicyclists should or shouldn't wear helmets, make sure to follow the law in your area. Washington has spotty mandatory helmet laws, which vary by region. Check this WSDOT list if you aren't sure whether you're in a mandatory helmet region or not. And if helmets strike you as oh-so-uncool, you can always follow Momentum Magazine's instructions for how to turn your helmet into two different kinds of mohawks (zip tie or fuzzy).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Staff Transitions: Hellos and Goodbyes

John Vander Sluis
If you’ve phoned or dropped by our office recently, you’ll know the Bicycle Alliance has had some staff transitions.  We are pleased to welcome John Vander Sluis and Jay Steingold as the new kids on the block.

John joined our staff in September as the manager for our King County Safe Routes to School project.  Funded by the King County Department of Public Health, John’s project targets underserved communities in the south county area where barriers to walking and biking are high.

A graduate of the University of Washington Urban Planning and Public Administration programs, John has held positions with the City of Seattle, King County, and the Snoqualmie Sustainability Team.  He spends his spare time mountain biking, camping, and climbing with his wife Anu.

Jay Steingold
2010 has been a year of milestones for Jay Steingold.  He got married in May, graduated from the University of Washington in June, did a cross-country road trip for two months, then landed at the Bicycle Alliance office last week.

Jay will be managing Bike Port and the King County Metro bike lockers, as well as provide operations support.  A Kirkland native, Jay previously worked at Richard Hugo House and Artist Trust.  He has a degree in Creative Writing.

And we bid a fond farewell to Every Day and Katie Ferguson.

Katie Ferguson
In November, Katie Ferguson completed her AmeriCorps internship with us.  Katie developed a Volunteer recruitment and management program for us.  Since the completion of her internship, Katie has done some contract work for the Bicycle Alliance.  You can read Katie’s blog post about her year with us.

Every Day
After three years with the Bicycle Alliance, Every Day is moving on to new adventures.  She has professionally managed and improved the Bike Port bike parking facility during her tenure with us. Early next year, she will set off on a nomadic adventure and test her entrepreneurial skills.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Go by Bike: Bicycle Boulevards

Berkeley bike boulevard.
During a visit to the San Francisco Bay area in 2006, I spent a transformational day traveling around Berkeley on bike boulevards. It was my first experience using an interconnecting network of bike boulevards and I was hooked.

Bike boulevards are city streets—usually residential streets with low and slow traffic-- that have been modified to give bicycle travelers priority. Berkeley clearly marks its bike boulevards with large pavement markings and easy-to- spot directional signs, making it pretty easy to navigate my way around town. Syed

The real appeal of bike boulevards for me--and I suspect for many other folks--is that they are pleasant places to ride.  I traveled all around Berkeley using quiet residential streets and passing through interesting neighborhoods. I visited parks, small business districts, the college campus and the bay following the bike boulevard network.

Cars must turn but bikes can go straight.
Although the bike boulevards used streets that are open to all, techniques are employed to discourage through traffic except bikes.  Berkeley's bike boulevard streets have diverters that direct motorized vehicles off the street every few blocks.

At an arterial intersection, cars were again directed to turn right but I queued up in a bike lane that allowed me to continue forward.  A pavement marking shows where to position your bike to ensure that the traffic signal detects you.
Cyclist waits in lane to cross arterial.
Bike boulevards are gaining traction across the country.  Besides Berkeley, you can find these facilities in Portland (OR), Madison (WI), Tuscon (AZ) and Wilmington (NC) to name a few.  In Washington State, the cities of Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma have identified bike boulevards in their bike plans.

Info on Berkeley's bike boulevard network can be found on the City's website.  Check out this StreetFilms video about Berkeley's bike boulevard network.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Show your support for cycling: Attend Transportation Advocacy Day on February 10 in Olympia

Question: What’s the best thing you can do on a Thursday in February?

Answer: Come to Olympia with fellow cycling advocates to make a difference.

It’s not too early to mark your calendar for one of the upcoming legislative session’s most important days for supporters of bicycling, walking, transit, and the environment: Thursday, February 10, Transportation Advocacy Day.

That’s the day that the Bicycle Alliance and other groups promoting transportation choices beyond he automobile will travel to the state capital to meet with lawmakers, attend legislative hearings, and learn more about the transportation policy issues that face our state.

Operating under the umbrella of the Transportation Choices Coalition, those participating in the day’s lobbying and other activities also include organizations such as Futurewise, the Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, the Cascade Bicycle Club, Feet First, and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Association.

The 2011 legislative session will be tough, with the state facing a continuing budget crisis and interest groups across the board clamoring for attention and money. In politics there’s strength in numbers, and it’s important to show legislators that there’s a strong constituency supporting cycling, walking and transit.

Among other things, Transportation Advocacy Day will be a good opportunity to promote the Bicycle Alliance’s 2011 legislative priorities. The priorities were developed by our Legislative Committee, made up of representatives from supporting bicycle clubs and communities from around the state.  As adopted by our Board, the 2011 lobbying priorities include:

·      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.
·       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.
·      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 also supports legislation to better protect vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians, require the State to include the external costs of driving when assessing projects, and provide adequate funding for cycling and walking.

Come to Olympia and make a difference! You can sign up for Transportation Advocacy Day by visiting the Transportation Choices Coalition website. You can also learn more about legislative issues important to cyclists by visiting the Bicycle Alliance’s legislative issues webpage, which includes regular updates and action alerts during the legislative session.

In the meantime, cycling advocates can get a jump-start on the session by contacting their legislators to introduce themselves and ask for support of the Bike Alliance’s legislative priorities.

(From Kevin P's Flickr photostream)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cars and the Holidays: Bah, Humbug!

The Holiday season is upon us, and with it one of my least favorite December traditions: harried drivers circling around shopping mall parking lots and downtown streets, looking for a place to park.

The Holidays bring with them great joy, but undeniably bring stress as well--what with shopping, entertaining, and meeting other peoples’ expectations. But add to that the inevitable road and parking congestion that accompanies it all, and it’s enough to drive some people over the edge.  This was brought home to me several years ago on Christmas eve, when a young man with whom I’d crossed vehicular paths in the supermarket parking lot jumped out of his beater Mercedes sedan and began banging his fist on my driver's-side window while screaming obscenities. Merry Christmas to all, indeed.

Is there another way?  Yes. While eliminating the stress of the Holidays is a tall order, there are ways to decrease it, and feel better about yourself and the rest of humanity. Step one: ride your bike.  Bundle up and set aside some time to enjoy the outdoors on two wheels when the weather permits.  Savor those endorphins.

While you’re at it, why not run some Holiday errands by bike?  I tried it at a local mall on a recent Saturday. And while negotiating 100 acres of asphalt on my vintage Trek was a little daunting, I have to admit to having felt a little smug as I left to take the back roads home, looking out at the slow-and-go traffic on I-5.

Finally, make a New Year’s resolution to be an active bicycle advocate. Then maybe we can give each other the best gift of all—future Holiday seasons where travel by car is a choice, not a necessity.  The Dutch and the Danes have figured out how to do it. We can, too.

If you need some inspiration, take a look at this video from European blogger David Hembrow and see how Dutch kids and their parents greet St. Nick.

 (Cargo bike photos by Mikael Colville-Andersen.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tree Number 105: Remembering Susie Stephens

Nancy MacKerrow (L) spearheads the tree plantings.

On a chilly morning in November, I joined some Spokane folks to plant a commemorative tree at the new trailhead for the Fish Lake Trail. This wasn’t just any tree planting and this wasn’t just any tree. We were there to celebrate the on-the-ground progress that bike and trail advocates have made in recent years in Spokane--particularly the development of the Fish Lake Trail—and we were there to remember Susie Stephens.

Susie Stephens was a legend in her own time. A Spokane native, Susie was a past Executive Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. Her first major task as the brand new and untested ED was hiring me, and she was fond of telling folks that hiring me “was the best decision she ever made at the Bicycle Alliance.” Hey, how could I not be fond of this woman?

Councilman Jon Snyder participated.
Susie became a bright and shining star on the national bike and pedestrian advocacy scene, loved and known by many. She was hired as the first ED for Thunderhead Alliance—now known as the Alliance for Biking and Walking. But as the fates would have it, Susie was struck and killed by a bus as she legally crossed a street in St. Louis at a national pedestrian training in 2002. In the blink of an eye, she was taken from us.

But Susie has not been forgotten. In 2003, her mother Nancy MacKerrow, planted several trees in her memory in Spokane. Today, the Susie Forest now exceeds 100 trees sprinkled around the globe and continues to grow.

“Trees mean life,” states Nancy, and each tree not only stands as a legacy to Susie and the livable communities she advocated for, but they also commemorate other people, events and milestones. When we planted tree number 105 at the trailhead that November morning, we were also celebrating the progress bike and trail advocates made with the Fish Lake Trail.

In May, the Bicycle Alliance staff plans to plant a Susie tree in Seattle. We’ll share the details as they emerge. If you’d like to plant a Susie tree in your neck of the woods, contact Nancy to arrange for one.

If you don't like where you are, pedal.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bellingham Tweed Ride

On Sunday November 14 cyclists in Bellingham stepped back in time. A group of about 70 riders dressed in their finest vintage threads to ride their cruisers through town in the first annual tweed ride. The ride, which was organized by Collen Milton, owner of Bellingham's Black Market Boutique was just an idea a month ago. She managed to pull off an amazingly fun and well attended ride in just a few short weeks.

The rain held off for most of the afternoon, however we did have a light drizzle towards the end. We rode about 10 miles through town, touring historic neighborhoods, new trails and parks. All were welcome to ride, kids and adults, costumed or not. We even had a City Councilman join us!

All in all it was a fun day. I have heard of other tweed rides throughout the Country, but had yet to experience one. It has given me ideas for other rides we could do: a plaid ride, a hippy ride, and as one friend suggested, a cape ride. I can't wait for next years tweed ride, I'm already planning my outfit. For more pictures check out this Facebook photo album.

What other types of themed rides have people gone on? Does the idea of dressing up inspire you to ride?