The Online Voice of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington

Thursday, May 26, 2011

8+ Fabulous Reasons to Bike

At a staff meeting this week, we discussed our favorite reasons to bike to work. I developed the following list, and encourage you to add to it:

1. FRIENDLY & Fabulous
2. ACTIVE & healthy activity outdoors
3. BEAUTIFUL bodies
4. UNDERGROUND out of the rain 24-7 parking
5. LOSE weight
6. ONE LESS CAR on the road
7. UTILITARIAN -- combine with bus
8. SHOP by bike, SAVES time and gas

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Go by Bike: Safe Bicycling Education for Adults

Go by Bike (GBB) is the newest addition to the Bicycle Alliance of Washington’s family of Safe Routes to School (SRtS) programs. This program complements two ongoing SRtS programs run by the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, one that runs programs statewide and another that is focused on King County. The GBB program will work with schools in the central Puget Sound region. 
I am the newest staff member here at the Alliance and I am excited and enthusiastic to be the program manager of GBB. This program will run for two years and includes two major programs. In one of the programs I will work directly with parents of students at two elementary schools (Suquamish Elementary in the North Kitsap School District and Pioneer Elementary in the Auburn School District) to teach them safe bicycling, encourage bicycling and encourage them to bicycle with their children. 
In the other program, I will be working with four colleges to help them develop safe cycling courses. This will include collaborative curriculum development, assisting with institutionalizing bicycle education programs at each college and mentoring the teachers who will teach the courses. I have made initial contacts with each collaborating school, and have had more detailed conversations with some of the more eager collaborators. This past weekend I completed my League of American Bicyclists instructor certification seminar.
In the Fall of this year we will have course offerings in each of the six collaborating schools. In 2012 we will have Spring and Fall courses at each school and the final round of courses will be in the Spring of 2013. I will also be developing an online forum for instructors participating in the GBB program; which will serve as a venue for information sharing, collaborative team-building, brainstorming and planning future programs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

USBRS: Never Alone

Today's blog post was written by Seattle bicyclist Kevin Henderson. He shares a reason why the US Bicycle Route System (USBRS) is important to him.

In the summer of 2009, I embarked on my first long distance bike tour, alone. This had been something I'd dreamed of since I was a teenager in the 70s, and one day something finally clicked in me that said "you need to do this, this is the year."

My destination, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, made sense to me, since I was born there and have great childhood memories of many visits with my extended family during visits over summer vacations. The only problem was, how do I get there? What's a good route? Browsing the internet, I was lucky to find blogs of some others who had traveled along routes that I could make use of, at least in part, to get where I was going. Bike travel has some different considerations than motorized travel. For example, it's good to plan your travel time to be off the road by the time the hottest summer sun is beating down. In order to make the day's travel segment work out, it really helps to be able to predict what lies ahead.

I pieced my route together with combinations of local city and state bike maps, and with the help of selections from Adventure Cycling's library of route maps. I was happy to find that I could make use of portions of both the Lewis and Clark and TransAmerica routes.

In retrospect, I have to say that traveling on a route planned for and by cyclists makes a world of difference. In a sense, though I was making this trip by myself, being on an Adventure Cycling route helped me feel like I was never really alone. The things you care about when you're on a bike like "where's the next available water, or restroom, lodging, or even, how much further will this uphill last" are all readily apparent.

By virtue of the work of all the people that went into making the route, I felt connected to those who came before me. In the best way, I was never really alone. The concept of a U.S. Bicycle Route System appeals to me, because it shouldn't take planning on the order of a lunar expedition to get out and see our country in the best possible way: on a bike!

 Building the USBRS is an ambitious undertaking and the Bicycle Alliance is working with Adventure Cycling to create USBRS routes in Washington State.  A fundraising campaign for the USBRS is underway during the month of May.  A donation (as little as $10) through our Team Washington page ensures that a portion of your contribution will be dedicated to efforts in our state.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Planting a tree for Susie Stephens

Last week was Bike to Work Week and it was the perfect time to remember Susie Stephens and celebrate her life.

Anyone who ever met Susie Stephens would remember her.  Her personality was that vibrant.  Susie was the second Executive Director for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, the first ED for the Thunderhead Alliance (now the Alliance for Biking & Walking) and a bicycle advocate extraordinaire.  She was killed in 2002 as she legally crossed a street in St Louis.

On a sunny morning last week, the Bicycle Alliance staff gathered on Seattle's Burke Gilman Trail near Golden Gardens to plant a tree in her memory.  We were joined by City Councilmember Richard Conlin, Susie's mother Nancy MacKerrow, and a group of friends who had known Susie.  We shared memories of Susie, laughed and shed a few tears, and wrote messages - treegrams - that were attached to the scarlet oak that was planted in her memory.

Nancy explained that she chose to remember Susie by planting a tree in her memory every year.  The idea caught on and others who knew Susie or knew of her also planted trees for her and, before long, a Susie Forest was growing.  This forest is Nancy's living legacy to her daughter.

Planting a tree at this location felt bittersweet to me. In 1994, shortly after Susie took the helm of the Bicycle Alliance, we led a community walk along the railroad corridor in Ballard and encouraged folks to envision the Burke Gilman Trail making its way through their neighborhood on its way to Golden Gardens Park. That walk launched the formation of the Friends of Burke Gilman Trail. Although a missing link of this trail still exists, the segment of trail where we planted the Susie tree was not around in her lifetime.

Happy trails, Susie.

You can read a previous post about Susie here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

USBRS: A Tale from the Road

Today's guest blogger is Phyllis Counts of Seattle, who is sharing a tale from her cross-country bike trek in 2010.  Phyllis is supportive of the US Bicycle Route System and our efforts to create routes in Washington State.  We hope you'll support our effort as well with a $10 donation to our USBRS Team Washington fundraising page.

Fred and Barb. 

Just two examples of why this U.S. bicycle route system is a good idea. And they're not even from here … Egads, they're FOREIGNERS!

Last summer when I was pedaling across the country with my friend Jerry, we had the pleasure of meeting these two colorful, happy, and vigorous souls … a 77-year-old couple from Melbourne, Australia. Fred and Barb are retired sheep ranchers, who, until around the time they both turned 70 and hopped on their first touring bikes, were simply hard working Aussies, raising kids and grandkids and keeping their ranch running. When Fred retired from sheep ranching, he became a contractor, building and remodeling homes. Barb retired from her university position as an accounting professor. 

Somewhere around that time, they were given a tandem, started bicycle touring, and haven’t looked back. They have toured in Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada and completed two tours in the United States, the first using the Adventure Cycling Pacific Coast route, and then fulfilled their long time dream of riding across the country, coast to coast on the classic TransAmerica route.
Fred and Barb touring Yellowstone National Park.
It was our good fortune and sheer delight to meet and travel with them for weeks while they pushed and pulled their fully loaded Co-Motion tandem through the Appalachians, the Ozarks, the Rockies and finally the Cascades. They infused our days and nights with great humor and Aussie insights, delighting in sights, sounds and historical monuments that we mostly take for granted.

Barb and Fred are only two of the many amazing adventure cyclists we met coming across from Virginia to Oregon.

My point to this reminiscing is that our trip and our lives were enriched by meeting and traveling with these people, folks we most likely would not have met had it not been for the detailed route and map system established by Adventure Cycling Association that we were all following. If we had all been on different highways and backroads, we might never have bumped into each other.

In our cross country bicycle journey, having common routes made the difference — whether it was to borrow a pump or spare tube in a crashing rainstorm, soaking up companionship and stories after a climbing three or four mountain passes in one day, or getting into a pickup game of tent-sack football in a small city park — it made the entire trip a richer experience. 
Fred and Barb on their Co-Motion tandem in the high plains of Colorado.
To Fred and Barb we say thanks for being our new friends, and for the invitation to come do a little bicycle touring in Australia. And, thanks to Adventure Cycling Association for mapping fabulous routes and continuing to be a great cycling resource, and source of inspiration to travel by bike.
Adventure Cycling is leading the national effort to create the US Bicycle Route System and the Bicycle Alliance is their partner in Washington.  A USBRS fundraising campaign is happening during the month of May.  If you make a contribution through our Team Washington page, a portion of it will be dedicated to the work here in our state.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Should the Ride of Silence be silent?

It began in 2003 as a bike ride in Dallas to remember a cyclist who was hit by a mirror on a passing school bus and killed.  Today it has evolved into an international event, with 250 rides scheduled in nearly 20 countries.

The Ride of Silence was created to remember cyclists who have been killed or injured on our roadways, to raise public awareness that bikes belong on our roads, and to encourage everyone to share the road.  This year's ride occurs on May 18 and five Washington communities are hosting Rides of Silence:  Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver and Wenatchee.  Ride details can be found on the ROS website.

Thousands of bicyclists are drawn to this somber ride because they know someone who has been killed or injured on our public roads, or they themselves have been injured by a vehicle collision.  I have ridden several Rides of of Silence--to remember friends who were killed and to remember my own collision with a vehicle.  It can be an emotional experience. You can view a video of a past Ride of Silence in Seattle.

In spite of its popularity, not all cyclists are comfortable with the Ride of Silence.  Some believe that it places too much emphasis on the dangers of riding a bike.  Others don't like the fact that participants are supposed to ride in silence--how can you educate curious onlookers and passing motorists why you're doing the ride if you must be silent?  (If you watch the video of the Seattle ride, you'll see one of the riders speak to a pedestrian--no doubt explaining what the Ride of Silence is.)

Some Ride of Silence organizers have chosen trails and residential streets as their ride routes.  Again, this seems to undermine the visibility and public awareness potential of the ride.  It also doesn't speak to the bicyclists' right to use public roads.

Have you ridden in a Ride of Silence?  How do you feel about this event?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bike to Work (and School) Day!!

National Bike to Work Day is the third Friday in May. In 2011 it falls on May 20th.
Communities across the Nation will be celebrating the day by providing treats and prizes to people on two wheels.

For the most part, you can look for a 'celebration station' or 'commuter station' depending on what your community calls it. These stations are typically stocked with yummy treats like bagels, scones, fruit or cookies. You can also find small prizes like patch kits, stickers, and other bicycle related swag. Cheering, cow bell ringing volunteers will great you with a smile and perhaps a hot cup of coffee. Like I said, it varies by community, so check out what your town is doing and be sure to bike on May 20th.

Bellingham-Whatcom County
Celebrate Bike to Work & School Day on May 20 with more than 30 public celebration locations around the county and 35 school based celebration stations. Check out their website for locations and more information
West Sound Cycling Club is organizing a commute station near the Washington State Ferry terminal for Bike to Work Day on May 20.
Snohomish County
Snohomish County Bike to Work includes Bike to Work Day celebration stations on May 20. Check the Bike to Work Month page at Community Transit website.

Spokane Bikes is celebrating on Wednesday May 18 (6:30 – 9am): Morning Energizer Stations locations can be found here.

Seattle-King County
Cascade Bicycle Club and F5 bring you Bike to Work Day check out their website for information and locations of their commute stations.

Thurston County

Thurston County is celebrating Bike to Work and School Day. Go to their website for more information.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My drive train is supposed to be silver?

Not black? Oops.

I will be the first to admit I am not very good when it comes to chain maintenance. Although I know better, often I forget to wipe down my chain after a rainy ride (which is about 90% of my rides), worse yet, I am really bad at lubing my chain. Let this be a lesson to you: remember to take care of your bike, your bike is good to you, it carries you mile upon mile across town or across the country.

These may be incriminating photos on my part, perhaps when I'm up for reelection on the BAW board these will surface, "But how can she possibly be on the board? She doesn't even take care of her chain?" I'm willing to take that risk, and first, admit I have a problem, then try to change it.

Here are two before pictures:

Yes, very black with 'street muck' as I like to call it. Gross really. And is that hair in the derailleur? Oh boy....

I don't own a bike stand, so to clean my bike I simply flip it over like so:

This makes for relatively easy access to the drive train. As you can see I took both the wheels off as well. Armed with some
Simple Green, an old toothbrush, a rag and some chain lube
I cleaned it up! The Simple Green and some elbow grease works
great, in fact, that is what my local bike shop recommended
I use to clean my drive train years ago.

After about an hour or so of cleaning and scrubbing my drive train was back to a nice silver color.

Like I said before, I know better.
I know that if I don't clean and
maintain my chain it can lead to
more problems, like having to
replace the cassette. I can already see that some of the cogs are

Take my advice, a little care in the short term can save you a lot of time and money in the long term.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Volunteer Work Party

Every fourth Thursday of the month I get together with a group of volunteers for what we call a “work party”. It may sound like an oxymoron and, when it was first explained to me, I assumed the word “party” was thrown in to confuse potential volunteers into free labor.

However, after spending several months folding and stuffing renewal letters and creating bike map packets I have come to understand it as an opportunity to connect with fellow cyclists, trade trip stories; dish about the construction on Dexter, the diet on Nickerson, battles lost and won in Olympia and the climate for cyclists in Washington State. Now I am, admittedly, not nearly as bicycle-to-the-core as many of my regular volunteers, but the nice thing is we have that in common as well as the desire to make Washington a safer place for cyclists.

Conversation and cycling community aside I have been making some incredible sandwiches for the occasion. Last month’s were mushrooms in a white wine sauce with spinach and a slow-roasted pulled pork tenderloin with South Carolina BBQ sauce, both on Sourdough. On the menu for next month are a Caprese (Mozzerella, Tomato, Basil) and a pressed salami and gouda cheese, both on Foccacia bread. I hope you can make it sometime.

Info on month end work parties can be found here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

USBRS: You can double your donation this week!

May is Bike Month, so what better time to raise money for the US Bicycle Route System (USBRS)!  AdventureCycling Association, the lead to create the USBRS, is running a fundraising campaign this month for the USBRS and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington is participating as Team Washington.

What is the USBRS?  Imagine an interstate highway system for bikes…mapped, signed and officially recognized network of routes crisscrossing our country and created with the bike traveler in mind.  This network of bike routes would connect urban centers, parks, landmarks and other popular destinations, and travel through some of the best scenery that America has to offer.

Why is the Bicycle Alliance involved?  We have partnered with Adventure Cycling to create the planned bike routes for Washington State.  We’re already working with Washington State Dept of Transportation (WSDOT) on USBRS Route 10, the northern route across our state.  If you make a donation to the USBRS campaign through our Team WA fundraising page, a portion of the money raised (20%) will be dedicated to the USBRS efforts in our state.
And thanks to AdventureCORPS, you can double your donation if you make it this week!  AdventureCORPS is offering to match $1000 in donations made this week.  This is a great week to give to the campaign and double your support of the USBRS.

Please make your donation today.  Just go to our Team WA fundraising page and make a contribution to the USBRS.  You can donate as little as $10 to qualify for the match from AdventureCORPS.

Build it. Bike it. Be a Part of It.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Bike to Work Week - May 16-20

You should know by now that May is Bike Month. With that comes a whole slough of activities, most are crammed into one momentous week - May 16-20, often referred to as Bike to Work Week. This post will highlight some Bike to Work Week events taking place around the state - at least those events we know about. If something is happening in YOUR community - let us know! We'd love to post it on our calendar.

I'll be writing a separate blog JUST on Bi
ke to Work Day, which is on Friday, May 20th, 2011, so stayed tuned for that. I also wrote a previous blog highlighting Bike Month events, look for that in the blog archives.

Cowlitz County
Cowlitz on the Move is organizing Cowlitz County Bike to Work Week, they will be holding free bike safety checks, free community workshops and if you register at, you can be entered into a prize drawing!

Spokane Bikes is hosting a week of Bike to Work fun May 16-20. Create a user profile on their website and look for fun bike related activities taking place all week!

Most of the communities listed in the Bike Month blog have events taking place during bike week as well. Check out their websites for up to date information.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

USBRS: Check out the Map

In a previous blog post, we kicked off our month of May fundraiser for the US Bicycle Route System.  The USBRS is a major undertaking by our friends at Adventure Cycling Association to create a mapped, signed and officially recognized network of interstate bike routes.

The Bicycle Alliance has stepped up to work with Washington State Department of Transportation to develop the USBRS bike routes in our state.  We are currently working on USBRS Route 10, the northern route that will connect to Alaska (via the ferry) to the west and Idaho to east.  Check out the USBRS National Corridor Map to get a feel for the national plan.  You can see that six bike route corridors are planned to travel through Washington State.

Please make a donation to the USBRS effort through our Team Washington page.  Twenty percent of the funds raised through our team page will be dedicated to the USBRS efforts in Washington State.

Build it. Bike it. Be a part of it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Time for an Insurance Check-Up

Today's guest blog post was submitted by Mimy Bailey, a bicycle attorney practicing in Seattle.  She handles cases involving collisions and roadway defects.  She is a member of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.

Spring is upon us (supposedly), so now is a great time to review your insurance coverage as you get ready to spend more time on your two-wheeler (yay!).

If you've never taken a close look at your auto coverage, be thankful, because it means you've probably never been hit on your bike.  That's right, your auto policy provides coverage if you are hit by a car while riding.  Of course you hope that the driver is adequately insured, but you can only hope for that.  There are a couple coverages that will ensure you're taken care of if the unexpected occurs.

Two coverages are especially important for cyclists.  I'll go through each coverage is, explain why it's important, and provide general advice on a coverage amount.  Of course, insurance polices can vary, and coverage can get complicated, but I'm boiling this down to make it easy to see whether you need to make changes.

Personal Injury Protection (aka PIP)

What?  PIP pays for medical and other expenses, such as wage loss and household services.  PIP is no-fault coverage, so it does not matter who caused the collision, your bills will be paid.  The bills are paid as they are incurred (similar to health insurance).

Why?  PIP is vital if you don't have health insurance.  Without it, you'll be personally responsible for 100% of your medical treatment costs.  If you do have health insurance, it's still important.  PIP pays approved bills at 100%.  There are no copays or deductibles.  PIP will also cover a limited amount of wage loss and household services.

How much?  PIP is usually offered at $10k, $25k, and/or $35k of coverage.  If you can afford it, purchase one of the higher levels.  With a trip to the ER potentially costing $5k or more, you want to make sure there's enough coverage to cover all of your treatment.

Under/Uninsured Motorist Coverage (aka UM/UIM)

What?  Liability coverage is mandatory in Washington, but some people drive without insurance and others carry the minimum ($25k).  UM/UIM coverage will provide insurance if you are hit by someone who is uninsured or whose coverage is inadequate to cover your damages.

Why?  Without this coverage, if you are hit by a driver who is uninsured, there will be no recovery.  You can still get your medical bills paid under your PIP, but you will not be compensated for your general damages (pain and suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, etc).

How much?  Unlike PIP, that's just covering your medical bills, this coverage may need cover the kitchen sink – medical bills, wage loss, and general damages.  Seriously consider coverage that's at least $75k.

If you have other questions about insurance or some of the information provided is unclear, send me an email and I'll be happy to clarify

Mimy's website is at and her Twitter handle is SeattleBikes.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Get out of my bike lane!

Does this look familiar?  I regularly encounter parked vehicles that take a portion of the bike trail.  I spotted this particular offender last summer on Seattle's Waterfront Trail.

Or maybe you've come across a vehicle or two--or five!--parked in your bike lane.
If you have your cell phone handy, you could call and report the violator and hope justice will be served.  Or you can snap a photo, record the location details and the license plate, and post it on a website called My Bike Lane for all the world to see.

New York City tops the list with over 6000 bike lane violators posted, and the top offender is a UPS truck with 28 recorded violations.  Seattle and Spokane are represented on My Bike Lane, with 32 and 56 recorded violations respectively.  I don't know if any of the reported violators on My Bike Lane get their just dessert as a result of this public outing, but I suspect that the individuals who report them feel some satisfaction by reporting the scofflaws.

If you live in Spokane, you have another course of action available to you.  Snap a photo of the offending vehicle, then email it along with license plate number and location details to the Spokane Police Department at  The police send a letter to the violator informing them that they are not allowed to park in a bike lane.  Repeat violators are supposed to receive a citation.

Bradley Bleck of the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board reported several bike lane violators using the system.  He received one email confirmation from the police department confirming that they sent a warning letter to the violator, but he doesn't know if there was follow up on his other reports.

Although there may some inconsistencies regarding follow up, the Spokane Police Department demonstrated a willingness to work with local bicyclists by establishing a reporting system.  How do you report bike lane violators in your community?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Help us make the US Bicycle Route System a reality in Washington State

Imagine an interstate highway system for bicycles…officially recognized and signed bike routes that crisscross our country.  This network of bike routes would connect urban centers, parks, landmarks and other popular destinations, and travel through some of the best scenery that America has to offer.

This is no pipe dream.  I’m talking about the US Bicycle Route System (USBRS), an ambitious project led by the Adventure Cycling Association.  Two official routes are already on the ground and more are on the drawing board.

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington is partnering with Adventure Cycling to create the routes in our state that will be part of the USBRS.  Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is working with us on this effort and we hope to have our first officially recognized US bike route in a few years.

Adventure Cycling is doing a fundraising campaign for the USBRS during the month of May.  We are participating as Team Washington and we hope you will make a donation to our team.  Twenty percent of the money that we raise as Team Washington will come back to support the local effort.

Use this link to our fundraising page to make a contribution to the USBRS and Team Washington today.  Everyone who makes a donation to our team will be eligible for a drawing for some cool gifts, including a Share the Road jersey.

Build it. Bike it. Be a part of it.