The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bicycle Commuting Tips

This is a mish-mash of tips, some commonly heard and some less-so, that I have come to over three decades of riding bikes. The intention is to include a mix of tips that might appeal to a wide variety of folks with a broad set of interests, skills and commute routes. Have fun and get out there on your bike.

Be attentive and be safe

--Situational awareness is of central importance when travelling by bicycle

--Look out for turning traffic (in front of you, on-coming traffic and from side streets)

--Don’t ride in the door zone

--Be visible, with good lane positioning and brightly colored gear

--Take the lane when you need to for safety reasons

Keep it fresh, mix it up

--Vary your route. Especially on your ride home extend your ride along a fun or scenic route.

--Ride different bikes. If you have more than one bike, don’t always commute on the same one.

--Wear different clothes, shoes and helmets on different days and in different seasons.

Have a snack

--If you like trail riding, find all the little bits of singletrack anywhere near your commute. In fact, just this morning I snacked on a little stretch of trail as I detoured around a construction zone.

--Stop and smell the flowers along the way. Take a deep breath at a scenic vista. Practice tai chi at the local park. Or meet your friends for coffee en-route to work.

Be imaginative

--Create your own mythologies for inspiration…just remember to NOT really believe in them

--A healthy fantasy life can help your psych to ride. For example, when you mount your bike you might become a bicycle/human cyborg or a two-wheeled centaur whose mission is to ______________. Just don’t explain that one to your boss, the police or your significant other.

Be well-equipped

--Have the right gear for the job. Carry a pump, tube, patch kit and mini tool and know how to use them

--If you are riding in Minneapolis in the winter, studded tires might be in order

--If you are commuting through a Pacific Northwest winter, you really ought to have fenders

--In Honolulu or Houston hydration and sun protection are key

Get better

--Learn more about bicycle mechanics so that you are more self-reliant on the road

--Improve your handling skills. For example; learn how to bunnyhop so you can more safely and easily avoid road hazards.

--Learn traffic law for bicycles and follow the rules. Become a better bicycling ambassador

--Take a safe cycling skills course

Get hooked

--Keep riding when the fall and winter weather rolls in. If you ride through fall and winter it is much easier to ride in the early spring too. We readily adapt to the gradual changes in weather as we ride daily throughout the year. Inertia plays an important role in our habits.

--Get multi-modal on it. Use transit and bikes together where possible to extend your “cruising range.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Planning for 2012 Legislative Agenda Underway

The Bicycle Alliance’s Legislative & Statewide Issues Committee gathered at REI corporate headquarters in Kent in late June to begin planning for the 2012 legislative session.

Nineteen individuals representing bike clubs, bike groups, and partner organizations with shared interests participated in this meeting. Cascade Bike Club, Skagit Bike Club, Tacoma Wheelmen's Bicycle Club, and the Vancouver Bike Club, were among the clubs in attendance. Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, Foothills Rails to Trails Coalition, Transportation Choices Coalition, Washington Coalition Promoting Physical Activity also had representatives participating in the meeting. The geographic representation included Anacortes, Bremerton, Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, and Yakima.

The group reviewed the results of the 2011 session, then discussed possible legislative priorities for 2012. Among the potential legislative and statewide priorities that emerged were:

  • Continue to push for the passage of HB 1700, which would offer additional design standards as a complement to Complete Streets.
  • Continue to pursue the passage of HB 1217, the 20 mph bill.
  • Supporting the transportation funding package that shakes out of Transportation for Washington campaign.  The Bicycle Alliance is a member of this coalition.
  • Seek funding for the Complete Streets program that was passed in 2011.
  • Use 2011-2013 to see if there is support for a 3- to 5-feet safe passing bill (no intent to resurrect the Mutual Responsibility Bill).
  • Work on the US Bicycle Route System (USBRS) in Washington State.
  • Revise Department of Ecology’s stormwater rules that currently inhibit widening shoulders or adding bikes lanes due to the creation of additional impervious surface, ability to mitigate, and cost.

Representatives from the partner organizations briefed the committee on what their upcoming priorities were likely to be. Transportation Choices is interested in potential tolling revenue changes and promoting mileage-based insurance to reward those who drive less. Washington Coalition Promoting Physical Activity continues to be interested in Complete Streets and Safe Routes to School. They and the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition want to increase community access to physical activity through joint use agreements for facilities like schools.

Many thanks to REI for the use of their facilities and their ongoing support of bicycling and bicycle advocacy and to the individuals from around the state who serve on or participate with the committee. Additional thanks to Ralph Wessels and Brian Foley, who co-chair the committee, and to our lobbyist Michael Temple for his guidance and work on our behalf. The committee will reconvene in September to make a final decision on what priorities to move forward for 2012.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Winners: Saris Bicycle Poster Contest

Saris Cycling Group sponsored a national bicycle poster contest for fifth graders earlier this year and the Bicycle Alliance coordinated the contest effort for Washington State.  Here's a link to an earlier blog post about the contest.

More than 5000 students from 17 states submitted posters centered on the theme, "Bicycling is fun...and healthy too!"  The winning poster for Washington, pictured here, was created by a student at Orca K-8 in Seattle.  The student winner will receive a bike, bike light and helmet and the school will receive a Saris bike rack.

The winning national poster came from a student in Oklahoma.  You can view the winning poster here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Broaden Your Horizon on Northwest Rides

Today's post was written by guest blogger Kristin Kinnamon of Marysville.  Kristin is a member of the RAPSody organizing committee, BIKES of Snohomish County and the Bicycle Alliance. 

Photo by Carla Gramlich
Not all people who ride bicycles consider themselves bicyclists. Not all bicyclists participate in bicycle events. Yet it seems everyone who sees me on a bike asks, “Did you do the STP?”

Yes, I have ridden the Seattle to Portland, and it is indeed the quintessential Northwest bicycle ride. But just as I only read even the best books only once, I have moved on from STP to enjoy the many other wonderful bicycle events hosted around the state.

Bicycle events provide a festive atmosphere, food stops, safety in numbers (from cars – but watch out for fellow riders!) and a chance to ride somewhere you’ve never been on routes organized by people who have your enjoyment in mind. In addition to the social aspect of events, there’s also a degree of competition – whether it’s against your own limits (can I ride 100 miles in a day?) or to catch up with that person in the pink jersey or pull the peloton up the next hill.

Bicycle events are organized to raise money for children’s charities (Courage Classic and 8 Lakes Leg Aches), to support local bicycle clubs (TRYBR by Capital Bicycling Club, Tour de Kitsap by West Sound Cycling Club) and, appropriately enough, as a fundraiser for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (Ride Around Pugest Sound -RAPSody).

Bicycle events – like parades, car rallies, and certain family vacations – rely on free and safe access to public roads. The Bicycle Alliance maintains essential relationships with the Washington State Department of Transportation, our state legislature and local jurisdictions to ensure we all can ride on public roads and highways – whether by ones, twos or occasionally twenties.

If you’ve done STP this year, 10 times, or never, I encourage you to consider riding some of the other events that bring bicyclists – and people who ride bicycles – together for summer fun. And eat a bagel for me.

Check the Bicycle Alliance ride calendar to see all rides that support our advocacy and education efforts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stickman Knows: New Safety Campaign Launches in Spokane County

You know Stickman.  He’s the figure you see on pedestrian crossing signs.  Sometimes you see him riding a bicycle on trail crossing signs.  Stickman knows a lot about traffic safety and he’s been brought to life for a safety campaign aimed at all road users (motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists) in Spokane County. 

The Stickman Knows educational campaign was launched this month by the Spokane Regional Health District and it’s designed to help residents understand how they can help reduce the number of pedestrian and bicycle collisions.  According to SRHD, an average of 20 pedestrians and cyclists are hit each month in Spokane County.

In a press release announcing the Stickman Knows campaign, Sergeant Eric Olsen of the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Target Zero Task Force said:

“Safer transportation is about more than just infrastructure. If our residents aren’t accountable for understanding the laws—or choose not to pay attention to them—it makes it that much more difficult for us to improve the overall biking and walking experience in Spokane.  Stickman Knows addresses so many of the reasons police see these collisions occur, that’s why we’re optimistic it will achieve its goals in reducing collisions.”

The Stickman Knows campaign will be visible in many ways—on the internet at and Facebook, TV commercials, billboards and bus advertisements.  The campaign will also participate in community events in schools and neighborhoods, especially those in high collision areas.  Funds will also be used to conduct law enforcement emphasis patrols, bicycle helmet distribution, and bicycle and pedestrian safety education in schools.

The Spokane Regional Transportation Council funded the Stickman Knows campaign via a $200,000 Transportation Enhancements grant provided by Washington State Department of Transportation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Remembering Gary Strauss

Gary in the Tulips.  Photo by Arnold Chin.
There is sadness in the bicycle universe this week as many of us mourn the passing of Gary Strauss.  He died peacefully surrounded by his family on Monday after a three-year battle with cancer.

Gary was passionate about bicycling.  Not only did he enjoy biking himself, but he took great pleasure in introducing others to the activity.  Gary was the ultimate ride leader, and many of us had the pleasure of joining him for a bike ride through the tulips of Skagit Valley, the climb up to Sunrise at Mount Rainier, or one of his other famous rides.  As a fellow West Seattleite, I would occasionally see Gary on my bike commute.  He never hesitated to slow down to my turtle pace for a few minutes to chat, revel in the day and depart with a smile.

But Gary did more than ride his bike.  He advocated for safe places to ride and he served several terms on the Bicycle Alliance’s Board of Directors.

“Gary was a one of a kind powerhouse—a unique combination of a skilled bicyclist and a passionate and articulate advocate,” recalled executive director Barbara Culp.  “He took charge and helped direct one of our strategic planning processes, which helped hone our focus on safety and education.”

Gary and daughter Marika at 2008 Ride of Silence.
 Generous in many ways, Gary also joined us for Transportation Advocacy Day in Olympia, hosted a Life Member party at his home, staffed tables for us at outreach events, solicited for auction donations, and introduced dozens of his friends to the Bicycle Alliance and our annual auction.  As the day of the event neared, we would receive calls from people asking if they could sit at Gary Strauss’ auction table!

Gary was a friend and inspiration to so many folks, and his Facebook and Caring Bridge pages are filled with loving comments.  Appropriately, a “Tour de Gary” ride has been organized for Thursday evening and is timed to arrive at his memorial service.  Details can be found here.

Thank you so much for being a part of our community, Gary.  We will miss you.  Pedal on, dear friend.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Alert: Federal Biking/Walking Programs Under Attack!

We're passing along an urgent call for action from our national partner, the Alliance for Biking and Walking.  The programs under attack benefit bicycle and pedestrian projects and Safe Routes to School projects all around our state.  Please take action today!
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DEDICATED FUNDING FOR BICYCLING AND WALKING HAS BEEN CUT in the House's Transportation proposal. Chairman Mica would eliminate critical Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails Programs, programs that he referred to as “not in the national interest”. Chairman Mica’s statement that these uses remain “eligible” for funding is worthless; without dedicated funding for these three programs they are effectively eliminated.

Things on the Senate side are not much better. Senator James Inhofe, a lead negotiator in the Senate debate, declared that one of his TOP THREE priorities for the transportation bill is to eliminate ‘frivolous spending for bike trails.’  This is in direct conflict with Senator Barbara Boxer’s commitment to maintain dedicated funding for biking and walking.  However, the Senate is working towards a bi-partisan solution – and Senator Inhofe’s comments mean funding for bicycling and pedestrian programs is at risk of total elimination.

Not in the National Interest?

Biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips in the US – even as funding for biking and walking projects only account for 1.5% of the federal transportation budget. – that’s more than 4 billion bicycle trips and 40 billion walking trips a year- including trips to work, school, shopping and for recreation and tourism.


Bicyclists and pedestrians are the victims of reckless highway design, accounting for 14% of all traffic related deaths. Two-thirds of all pedestrian deaths are on federally funded highways.   Bicycling and walking programs build sidewalks, crosswalks and bikeways, improving accessibility and saving lives.

The Facts

Biking and walking are important forms of transportation, and dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvements is a very efficient use of federal transportation dollars.  Portland, Oregon built a 300-mile network of bike lanes, multi-use trails, and bike boulevards for the cost of one mile of highway.

These projects also create jobs, and build local economies.  Building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure creates 46% more jobs than building road-only projects per million dollars spent.  Cities that invest in bicycle and pedestrian projects turn downtowns into destinations, and capitalize on increased business activity.

Finally, shifting 1.5% of transportation spending has no impact on the federal budget, but instead, decreases transportation options for American families in a time of rising gas prices and an uncertain economy.

Help Protect Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails. Contact
your Representative and Senators, and tell them to reach out to Senators Inhofe, Boxer, and Congressman Mica to urge them to continue dedicated funding for these important biking and walking programs.  We need every Senator and every Representative to speak out for walking and biking. 

Alert: Planned Tree Removal will Destroy the Greenway Feel of the Interurban Trail

Today's post is written by Lance Young of Shoreline.  Lance is a cyclist, concerned citizen, and the Director of the Outing Club.
Seattle City Light is planning to remove all the trees under the power lines along the Interurban Trail north of N 145th Street this summer rather than continue to prune them every few years to cut their costs of doing business. The natural barrier provided by the trees may become a man made barrier of wood and cyclone fences, as it has in other sections where the natural greenery has been removed.

This is what the trail corridor looks like today:

This is what it may become:

 The power company claims they will be replacing the matrue evergreens they remove with low growing bushes like this section of the trail.

It is of course important for the power company to maintain the transmission lines and electric service to the many customers they serve. According to the representatives from the the power company, one of the primary concerns of Seattle City Light is to lessen the work required to come out every few years and prune or top the trees, and it may well be less costly in the long run for them to just remove the trees entirely.  

However, this corridor is also a greenbelt with a prominent regional pedestrian and bike trail.  The interests and well being of these many users should be an important consideration in any decisions made here. Currently and over the past many decades this vegetation has been pruned and maintained to preserve the shade, the wildlife habitat, a weather barrier, and sound and visual barrier between the adjoining commercial and residential communities.  These benefits should be maintained and enhanced, not removed.

The trees along the trail provide wildlife habitat for local woodland creatures including: squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, owls, and several other species of birds including flickers, finches, Steller's jays, blue herons, hawks, and many others. These trees provide shelter not only for wildlife but local residents and greenway users as well. Though the Interurban Trail is just a short distance from Aurora Avenue these many trees provide a significant sound dampening effect for the neighborhood and trail.  They also provide a significant moderating influence on wind and weather blowing through the area. Further, the removal of the trees at the street end of 149th would open up the access to this undeveloped street right of way to trail traffic which is better directed to the 148th street access.

For all of these reasons these trees should really be maintained rather than removed. In addition, removal of these mature trees will change the character of the neighborhood and the trail, and the natural barrier between the commercial properties along Aurora Ave and the residential neighborhood. The greenway view would change from mature evergreen trees to apartment units, businesses and light industrial. These many mature trees have become such an important part of the community in this area, that their removal would truly be a great loss.

The power company says they will be setting up community meetings, but that the purpose of these will be only to tell everyone what they are going to do, not to solicit suggestions or input. The plan is to remove the trees sometime this summer (August-September 2011).

What to do

If you appreciate the trees along the Interurban Trail and would like to comment on this project, below are several contacts:

Seattle Mayors Office
(The power company is accountable to the Mayor)
600 4th Ave  #7
Seattle, WA 98104

Shoreline City Council
(Shoreline has the Interurban Trail right-of-way)
Brian Breedon (public works, nice guy)

Seattle City Light
(planning the tree cutting project)
Brent Schmidt
700 5th Ave  #3300
Seattle, WA 98104

8/19/2011 Update:   The City of Shoreline has asked Seattle City Light to hold a public meeting regarding the planned removal of trees along the Interurban Trail corridor.  The meeting will be August 23 at 6:30 pm at Pacific Learning Center, 14550 Westminster Way N.