Bike Intelligencer » Advocacy http://bikeintelligencer.com All bike, all the time Mon, 20 Jul 2015 21:20:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mountain Biker’s Prayer http://bikeintelligencer.com/2015/01/mountain-bikers-prayer/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2015/01/mountain-bikers-prayer/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 19:17:00 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=5281
God grant me the serenity to walk what I cannot ride,

The courage to ride what I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

(Apologies to Reinhold Niebuhr.)

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Mountain Biking at UC Santa Cruz: No more “don’t ask, don’t tell?” http://bikeintelligencer.com/2014/01/5168/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2014/01/5168/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 21:56:13 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=5168


The mountain–biking boom in Santa Cruz has created a delicate PR situation for the mtb community:

Do we come out of the shadows and lobby for more trails, more access to existing trails, and more recognition of our sport?

Or is it better to stay obscured in the twilight zone between authorization and illegitimacy? In other words — don’t ask, don’t tell?
CougarWarning
For years the University of California at Santa Cruz campus has served as the dilemma’s classic case history. A world-class network of unauthorized but increasingly popular trails has provided ample opportunity for everything from cross-country to big-hit riding. On any given day you can find families, XC racers in team colors, club rides, groms in full-face helmets riding coil shocks and triple-crown forks, and weekend warriors all enjoying the multiple varied singletrack loops on campus.

Occasionally you even run into Big Heat — pros like Steve Peat, the British World Cup champion and arguably the best downhill racer of all time, visiting Santa Cruz Bicycles headquarters nearby. Peaty and pals were ripping it up just a month or so ago on a trail called Mailboxes.

The thing is, they’re all “illegal” — a word, incidentally, we don’t care for. Because there’s little case law on trail use, and in fact unmarked or “gray” trails are for the most part not even posted, “illegal” is in most cases an overstatement. “Unauthorized” or “closed” are typically more accurate, and less inflammatory as well. (There are exceptions, e.g. the New Paradigm and Split Rock trails in Marin.)

Anyway, a dad and mom with two toddlers enjoying flowy campus singletrack on a sunny weekend morning are hardly what you would call scofflaws. In many cases they don’t even know they’re doing something wrong.

This was a point underscored by a recent survey conducted by Hilltromper, a Santa Cruz outdoors Web site. The survey of more than 300 respondents found that fully a third of riders did not realize the trails are closed to bikes. (An estimated 1,000 riders use the trails each week, a number we consider on the conservative side.)

So you have a situation of trails that shouldn’t be there and riders that shouldn’t be on them, but with no one particularly complaining. Why not let sleeping dogs lie, as often happens in these situations?

Hilltromper convened a panel discussion at Stevenson Events Center on Wednesday evening with hopes of answering that question. The two-hour event drew a polite crowd of 200 that included officers of Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz (MBOSC), a leading advocacy group, and Save Upper Campus, a coalition of local groups concerned about university plans to add 3,500 students, new roads, dorms, classrooms, faculty and staff by 2020 at a time when water supplies are reaching red-zone depletion.

Several points were raised at the gathering: Rider safety, trail stewardship, environmental concern, preservation of the Ohlone tiger beetle.

But for us, the most compelling was simply: Mountain biking has really come into its own as a mainstream activity. The tenor of the meeting was that mountain bikers want to ride responsibly while helping land stewards take care of the environment.

All-day riding on campus

UC Santa Cruz trail network


We’ve been to scores of meetings like this in the past and have come to expect heated opposition from hikers and other trail users. That was notably absent in Wednesday’s session. Instead there was a feeling of solidarity from all contingents. Mountain biking is just too popular to dismiss with the outdated canards about erosion, trail conflict and ecological sanctity — at least, in Santa Cruz.

And why not? It turns out that mountain bikers are a trail’s best friend. We’re the user group most actively building new trails. The trails we do build are expertly crafted toward maintaining ecological sustainability and minimizing erosion while still providing the best possible riding experience. And then we come back season after season to repair, improve and otherwise keep the trails in good condition.

Panelists and audience members agreed that if everyone cooperates in good faith, trail conflicts can be diminished and ecological balance maintained. Regarding the tiger beetle, Alex Jones, campus reserve steward, pointed out that slowing down to 5 mph gives beetles a chance to elude bikes. Five mph is not much faster than walking, but then again, only limited portions of trails are used by the beetle for migration. When riders are informed about the beetles, both panelists and audience commenters noted, compliance is high.

Some other takeaways:

No one complained about user conflict. We ride up on campus all the time and seldom encounter hikers. When we do, we find they’re cheerful and accommodating (they often step aside or wave us through even though we signal a willingness to yield). It was surprising not to hear a dissenting word against mtbers. (Note: Especially since news blurbs on the meeting drew some nasty comments on Facebook and newspaper Web sites.)

Support for mountain biking is community-wide in Santa Cruz.
Although held on campus, the event drew as much from the public at large as from student communities.

The university “tolerance policy” is likely to continue. Although university officials declined Hilltromper invitations to attend, Chris Wilmers, a UCSC biology professor, said “there’s no budget” to fund enforcement. (Given the university’s grandiose plans for expansion, we wonder how well finger-pointing at mountain bikers would go over anyway.)

What’s next? Hilltromper’s aim with the session was to start a conversation. The terms of discussion are now clear. If anyone wants to raise the issue at UC Santa Cruz, what’s obvious is that rather than being part of the problem, mountain bikers want to be part of the solution.

Further reading:

Mountain biking survey
UC Santa Cruz expansion
Ohlone beetle preservation
Hilltromper report on meeting
Santa Cruz Sentinel report (note crowd size is incorrect; 200 people attended)
Film “Pedal-Driven”
Film “Freedom Riders”

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“Pedal-Driven” Bikeumentary Debuts at Sea Otter! http://bikeintelligencer.com/2011/04/pedal-driven-bikeumentary-debuts-at-sea-otter/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2011/04/pedal-driven-bikeumentary-debuts-at-sea-otter/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2011 15:26:31 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4989 The Northwest-focused mountain biking documentary “Pedal-Driven” will make its international premiere Friday, April 15, in conjunction with the Sea Otter Classic bike festival in Monterey.

The showing will be at 7 p.m. in the Goldenstate Theater, 417 Alvarado St. in downtown Monterey.

Pedal-Driven, Join the Ride! from Howell at the Moon Productions on Vimeo.

Washington and B.C. riders will feel right at home with the film’s depictions of high-country riding in the Leavenworth area and Seattle-area haunts like Duthie Hill and Colonnade mountain bike parks.

The story line has to do with clashes between trail builders and regulatory authorities, mostly the U.S. Forest Service. If you want a clear understanding of the passion and principle driving both sides of the equation, you need to see “Pedal-Driven.” A full page of trailers for the film at here.

Movie premieres at Sea Otter always bring out the best crowds in biking culture, and “Pedal-Driven” promises to stoke the folk as much as past hits like “Freedom Riders” and “Follow Me.”

“Pedal-Driven” was put together by Howell At The Moon productions in Wenatchee and boosted by donations from Kickstarter. Sponsors also include IMBA, Specialized and Shimano.

Come on out at Sea Otter, or otherwise watch for a screening near you!

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Mickey Gendler Adds Another Victory for Cyclists http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/mickey-gendler-adds-another-victory-for-cyclists/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/mickey-gendler-adds-another-victory-for-cyclists/#comments Thu, 25 Nov 2010 18:45:10 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4925
On Thanksgiving Eve, Seattle attorney and paralyzed cyclist Mickey Gendler won again in court — in a case that could have ramifications for others seeking justice in transportation-related accidents.

The Washington State Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a Thurston County judge’s ruling giving Gendler, injured in a 2007 mishap when his bike wheel wedged in a too-wide gap on Montlake Bridge steel grating, access to information on previous bicycle accidents there.

Gendler, 58, who in a separate suit won an $8 million settlement from the state over the accident, sought the records to show that the state had known of the danger since 1999, when it was created during a seismic retrofit of the bridge. Even before the retrofit was finished, a cyclist suffered a similar — although not as injurious — accident in the same gap.

The state argued it was prevented from turning over accident records by federal law financing gathering and analysis of accident data but barring the information from being used in lawsuits against the state.

The Appeals Court disagreed:

The WSP [Washington State Patrol] claims that federal law, 23 U.S.C. § 409 (2005), prohibits it from disclosing the records to Michael Gendler unless he agrees not to use the information in litigation against the State. Because RCW [state law] 46.52.060 imposes a duty on the WSP to create and provide such public records, and because the federal privilege applies only to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) not the WSP, we affirm. We also award Gendler his attorney fees and costs for this appeal.

As attorney Mike Schechter puts it in the Local Open Government blog, the ruling means “that the State Patrol cannot hide behind a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with the State Department of Transportation (“WSDOT”) and WSDOT’s federal privilege under 23 U.S.C. §409, barring use of collision data in lawsuits.”

Beyond Gendler’s case, the ruling has ramifications for any citizen seeking to show that faulty construction or maintenance of roadways contributed to an accident. In that sense, Gendler’s victory is a win for us all.

As Schechter further notes:

The federal privilege is intended to allow WSDOT to compile and analyze accident data to better implement highway safety measures funded by the federal government without concern that such analysis would be used to support lawsuits against the State.

While we understand the thinking behind such a provision — the state’s “analysis,” after all, could certainly be faulty or biased — we are pleased that the court drew its distinction. Raw data, collected with taxpayer funds by public agencies, should be available to the citizens who footed the bill in the first place. And on principle in a democracy, government information should be transparent in all forms.

Another reason to give thanks on this holiday of 2010.

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The Lauren Ward Mystery: Was cyclist struck by protrusion from truck bed? http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/the-lauren-ward-mystery-was-cyclist-struck-by-protrusion-from-truck-bed/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/the-lauren-ward-mystery-was-cyclist-struck-by-protrusion-from-truck-bed/#comments Tue, 23 Nov 2010 01:57:55 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4875

UPDATE: On January 18, the California Highway Patrol investigated what it characterized as “new information” on Lauren Ward’s death. The CHP, which in December officially determined that Ward made an “unsafe turn” into the flatbed truck, indicated that the new information did not necessarily signal that its original determination would be invalidated. Following the original determination that Ward was at fault, her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the big-rig company.


More than two weeks after the death of cyclist Lauren Perdriau Ward, who was crushed by the wheels of a 26-wheel big rig on a popular cycling route near Palo Alto CA, her case still remains fogged by mystery.

Normally in a vehicle-and-bicycle mishap, it’s fairly easy to re-enact the accident scenario. There may be debate over who was at fault, but reconstructing the collision itself usually is straightforward.

Lauren Ward

In the case of Ward, an experienced 47-year-old cyclist, trained nurse and a “go-getter” mother of two, even the basics remain unclear. Lack of witness input, the hazardous nature of the intersection, the logistics of a big rig negotiating to approach a freeway on-ramp and the star-crossed driving record of a truck operator who has been involved in three fatal accidents over the past 7 years — all have served to complicate the post-accident investigation and leave cyclists scratching their heads about how the incident actually happened.

In addition, police are withholding their reports on grounds that publication could influence potential witnesses. So far, they say, no one who actually saw the accident has come forward.

This is particularly puzzling, given the mid-afternoon, sunny-day conditions and busy nature of the intersection. Last week Bike Intelligencer visited the scene at the same time of day, with similar weather conditions.

Site Well-Marked

The site was easy to find. Flowers marked the spot and painted police outlines of the accident were still visible on the pavement.

Lauren Ward memorial at Alpine Road.

The “AOI” — area of impact — was on a slight incline in the west-bound lanes of Alpine Road following a stop sign just before an underpass for Interstate 280, a major freeway between San Jose and San Francisco. The big rig reportedly was headed for the northbound southbound on-ramp for 280, just past the underpass.

Road markings on Alpine Road.


That course would have put the rig on an angular path from left to right across the outside lane of Alpine Road. In most traffic situations, that would put Ward to the right of the truck, the outermost area of clearance. But Ward, like many cyclists familiar with the intersection, apparently preferred to be on the left of traffic headed for the on-ramp to avoid conflicts with crossing vehicles.

Part of the problem is that the intersection contains no clear line of passage for cyclists. Observing it for more than half an hour, we saw cyclists adopting at least three different strategies for negotiating traffic. One was to ride between the two lanes of traffic to avoid cars angling to the freeway on-ramp. Another was to ride on the far right, next to the curb, and merge left while avoiding cars bound for the ramp. A third was to get up and ride or walk a sidewalk, then cross the on-ramp itself to re-enter Alpine Road.

None looked particularly safe. Even dismounting the bike left cyclists vulnerable and running for their lives to avoid speeding traffic entering the on-ramp.

Why No Witnesses?

What struck us and two other cyclists reviewing the accident scene is that no one has stepped forward with information about the accident. It’s impossible to imagine, on the front end of a Thursday-afternoon rush hour, no other drivers being around. The junction is a deafening jumble of cars and trucks traversing Alpine and the various on and exit ramps of 280.

It may be that in the din and congestion of a busy intersection, no one actually noticed Ward and her pink Trek being pulled beneath the truck. What seems more likely is that witnesses for one reason or another are not coming forward. Police presumably continue to hold out hope someone will have a change of heart.

Police reports may contain information about precisely where Ward struck or was struck by the big rig — a flatbed tractor-trailer carrying heavy equipment on a rear trailer. Under normal circumstances, however, the impact should not have happened.

Ward should have been easily noticeable on the left of the rig — whether the two started from the stop sign at the same time or, more likely, Ward was ahead. If the two were at the stop sign simultaneously, Ward would have easily pedaled ahead of the heavy rig and been in front, to the left. If the rig for some reason were ahead of Ward, e.g., she came to the stop sign after the rig began pulling away, she would have been easily seen in the driver’s mirrors.

The blind spot truck drivers worry about is on the right, said Eric Slind, a Teamster driver for more than three decades.

“The driver was probably looking more to his right to make sure he wasn’t cutting off anyone,” Slind said.

But that wouldn’t explain why, moving left to right, he would present an obstacle to Ward.

A tie-down block or other apparatus extending from the truck bed may have clipped Ward as the truck passed her, Slind speculated.

A photo published in local newspapers (see link below) shows what “looks like a large hi-lifter with a bucket, something used for working on high power lines or tree topping,” Slind commented. “It appears to be over 8 feet wide and would hang over the edge of the trailer, and the securing mechanism would protrude even further.”

It’s also possible that Ward for some reason lost control of her bike and crashed into the truck. Finally, a careless vehicle may have tried to pass Ward on her own left, “pinching” or even knocking her into the big rig’s path. The last scenario might explain why no witness, fearing culpability, has come forward.

A history of accidents

Absent police data on the accident, reports have focused on the problematic record of the big-rig driver — about whom at the very least it can be said he has a propensity for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Gabriel Manzur Vera, 44, a driver for nearly two decades for the demolition firm Randazzo Enterprises, struck and killed a 25-year-old Santa Cruz cyclist in a classic “right hook” three years ago. He was not charged in the incident but his employer later settled a wrongful death lawsuit by the family for a reported $1.5 million.

In 2003, Vera’s rig was struck head-on by a car that crossed the center line. Vera was not cited in that incident. Vera was involved in three other accidents between 2003 and 2007, and cited for speeding in 1998 and driving a commercial vehicle in a fire area in 2008.

Proper driver screening would have prevented Vera from being behind the wheel, said John Feder, a San Francisco attorney hired by the family.

Although Vera was not found at fault in previous fatalities, Slind said he is surprised Vera’s company’s insurer would allow him to keep driving.

“Normally the insurer would look at the driver’s record and a whole lot of red flags would go up,” Slind said.

The police investigation is expected to continue for two to three months. In the meantime, Silicon Valley cyclists can only speculate on how Lauren Ward got beneath the wheels of a 26-wheel big rig on a beautiful fall day along Alpine Road.

For further reading:

San Jose Mercury News photo of big rig

Lauren Ward a “go-getter”

Lauren Ward’s letter to the editor pleading for “more respect and understanding” between cyclists and drivers

MTBR.com forum discussion on the accident

Lack of witnesses hinders the investigation

Gabriel Manzur Vera’s driving record

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The Mickey Gendler Story: A paralyzed cyclist’s indomitable spirit http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/the-mickey-gendler-story-a-paralyzed-cyclists-indomitable-spirit/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/the-mickey-gendler-story-a-paralyzed-cyclists-indomitable-spirit/#comments Fri, 12 Nov 2010 19:16:50 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4866
Any experienced cyclist knows we’re just a split-second encounter away from tragedy. Most of the time, we manage to avert it. We dodge the car, avoid the pothole. We get up after the spill and bandage the road rash to ride another day.

Three years ago, on Oct. 28, 2007, a tragedy of a more irreversible nature befell Mickey Gendler. The prominent Seattle environmental attorney was riding over the Montlake steel bridge when his front tire caught in a gap in the metal grating. Gendler went over the bars, cracked his helmet in two, and was instantly paralyzed from the shoulders down.

As fate would have it, the very next day Gendler won big in court. A city hearing examiner, persuaded by Gendler’s incisive logic, ruled that a huge parking garage planned by the Woodland Park Zoo in Phinney Ridge was illegal, bringing to a close a bitter three-year citizen battle.

The accolades poured in, but the celebration had a somber undercurrent. Mickey could smile and talk but — confined to a bed at Harborview Medical Center — do little more. His injury was at the C3-C4 vertebrae, making him a quadriplegic or in the current lexicon a person with tetraplegia. On the positive side, his spinal cord, although severely injured, was not severed, holding out the possibility of recovery that to this day keeps Gendler motivated in physical therapy.

Thrown from your bike one day, a lawsuit winner the next. You don’t have to be a lawyer or cyclist to know that is how a flip of fate’s lever works.

Except that it wasn’t just fate that paralyzed Mickey Gendler.


Seattle Times article a breakthrough

The gap in the bridge grating had been a hazard to cyclists known to transportation authorities for years — almost from the day it was created by a Department of Transportation “seismic retrofit” in 1999.

The flaw came to light after The Seattle Times ran an article on Gendler’s mishap and other cyclists came forward with stories of similar accidents caused by the same gap. That led Gendler to seek accident records from the state, which balked due to a federal law funding states to do data collision analysis but exempting the analyses from public disclosure. Gendler argued he did not want the analyses, just the data. The Thurston County judge in his suit sided with Gendler and his lawyers, Keith Kessler and Charlie Wiggins.

It turned out that even before the bridge modification was completed, a cyclist suffered a similar accident and reported it to the state Department of Transportation. But nothing was done. The cyclist did not suffer injuries as severe as Gendler’s, and DOT authorities considered the risk low because cyclists typically used the sidewalk to cross the bridge. (Cyclists have the legal right to ride the grating, however — a point Gendler also clarified in court.)

It took nearly three years of legal persistence for Mickey Gendler to prove his point — and win greater protection for all cyclists in the process. The state settled, awarding Gendler $8 million for an entirely preventable cycling accident. That’s a lot of money and will pay for the care required for Gendler, 58, to get through his days — for the foreseeable future, at least.

There’s just one problem: Mickey can no longer ride his bike.


No ordinary cyclist

Calling Mickey Gendler a cyclist is like calling a marathoner a jogger.

Among notches in his belt is one of the most challenging amateur road rides in the nation — the Markleeville Death Ride in the northern California Sierra, an endurance feat covering 129 miles with 15,000 feet of elevation gain. Few cyclists can do the Death Ride at all. Mickey’s done it twice — including July, 2007, just three months before his injury.

He rode STP — the near-200-mile Seattle-to-Portland ride — three consecutive times from 1989 to 1991. All one-dayers. He’s done RAMROD, the punishing Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day — five times.

Then there are his assorted European monster rides, up the Alps and Pyrenees along routes familiar to the world’s top cycling pros in the Tour de France and other Grand Tours. One memorable route took him up 13,000 feet of elevation gain over 66 miles. Gendler owned two elite custom bikes — one from renowned Seattle bike builder Glenn Erickson and the other a $5,000 titanium Serotta, which he was riding at the time of his accident.

Gendler’s cycling exploits in part explain why he was confident about riding over metal grating. He’s done it hundreds of times — more on the Fremont Bridge than Montlake, but he knows how to negotiate grating even in rainy weather. Grating “is nerve-wracking at first because of the way it looks, but it’s no different from riding on the road,” he said. At least, under normal circumstances it isn’t.

So ingrained in cycling is Gendler’s consciousness that he even thinks of his legal cases in biking terms. When we discussed one of his court victories, Gendler recalled Lance Armstrong’s stirring comeback in the 2003 Tour de France — “the one he almost lost.”

Commentators wrote off Armstrong, suffering from dehydration and losing time, after rival Jan Ullrich pulled away from him early on the brutal Col du Tourmalet, a penultimate climb in a decisive stage. Armstrong came back to win and was later asked when he knew Ullrich was in trouble.

“When he attacked on Tourmalet,” Armstrong answered. The subtext: Lance knew Jan was desperate. If Ullrich had been confident, he would have waited till later in the stage to put the screws to Armstrong. Instead, Ullrich hoped his early move would break Lance’s spirit and lay him under.

Gendler kept the Armstrong strategy in mind time and again in pivotal cases where his side seemed doomed to failure. It’s not a bad philosophy for life, for that matter.


What $8 million buys

Under terms of the settlement, the state admits no guilt. That’s what $8 million buys you these days.

The other thing $8 million buys is the assurance that Gendler’s accident won’t happen again — not on the Montlake Bridge, and hopefully not anywhere. Although it took nearly two years, the state finally filled the “Gendler gap” on the Montlake Bridge with epoxy. One can assumed that DOT now has a “Gendler specification” in place for inspecting and maintaining grating that protects against the kind of accident he suffered.

What $8 million does not buy, of course, is the ability to ride a bike again. Gendler has made impressive progress since his accident, to the point where he can walk short distances with a walker. But most of the time he is confined to his wheelchair, and life’s simplest procedures are a laborious exercise.

Gendler has a puckish sense of humor that along with a natural buoyancy has kept him from being bitter about the accident, and he has been chronicling his recovery for family and friends in a series of remarkably moving and inspirational email installments. As tragic as his mishap was, a lot of positive has come out of it because of who Mickey Gendler is and what he represents.

So the next time you feel the wind in your face, the next time you climb a challenging hill … the next time you ride your bike just for the sake of going out for a ride, think about Mickey Gendler and be thankful. Because even though he can no longer ride, it’s the cycling spirit in riders like Mickey that has made, and will continue to make, the world more hospitable to — and safer for — bicycles.


Further reading ————————

Seattle Times coverage of settlement.

SeattlePI.com article on settlement.

Seattle Weekly blog post.

“Breakthrough” article from Seattle Times.

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Mia Birk Has a Message for Seattle Cyclists http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/mia-birk-has-a-message-for-seattle-cyclists/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/mia-birk-has-a-message-for-seattle-cyclists/#comments Sun, 07 Nov 2010 15:47:09 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4835
Portlander Mia Birk will bring her new book “Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet” and her cheerful cycling evangelism to REI at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday for an informative and entertaining evening. Try to go, you won’t be disappointed.

At a time when cycling advocacy is in Seattle’s political crosshairs, Birk has just the right message to the bike community: Don’t get defensive, hold your ground and push ahead, because in the end even your opponents will come to appreciate the progress you make.

Birk has the wherewithal to talk. She was bicycle program manager for Portland through the 1990s and shaped the foundation for Portland’s bike-friendly reputation today. She then joined Alta Planning + Design, expanding it to more than 100 employees and the nation’s leading firm specializing in bike and foot planning, design and implementation. Using a winning smile and political savvy, Mia has fought battle after battle for the things we take for granted today: Bike lanes, bike paths, bike parking, bike culture.

“Joyride” chronicles the behind-the-scenes battles that Birk and bike advocates engaged in to bring progress to Portland and turn it into the nation’s No. 1 cycling city. It’s easy to forget that before Birk’s tenure, Portland was a cycling also-ran. Portland didn’t have a lot of bike facilities, “and people didn’t ride,” she notes.

What the years of trench warfare taught her was that “it’s never easy,” she said.

“The first reaction (to bike progress) is always, ‘That’s a little scary’,” Birk said in a phone interview. “Change is hard.”

There can be resistance and even anger. But eventually “people figure out that life goes on, and everything we do to enhance cycling is good for the life of the city.”

So when you bring up the midterm elections, where some key cycling advocates were defeated … or when you think about how Cascade Bicycle Club is suffering internal tension over how to approach cycling advocacy … or when you hear the terms “bike backlash” or “war on cars” — to all those things, Birk says hey, “Welcome to the bike world, it’s always been this way. We’re making progress, so there’s a perceived threat.

“We’re driving a cultural shift where you trade off motor vehicle space for bike lanes. This is deep, fundamental change. It’s not like just adding a bike lane and Boom, you’re done.”

There’s always a few outspoken business owners who oppose cycling interests — while getting mischaracterized as “the business community” in general. Many leading cyclists in any city also belong to “the business community,” Mia notes. A great strategy is for “cyclists who are business owners to get involved in business groups as business owners.” Over time, they can work their cycling agenda into the business community through organizations like downtown associations, chambers of commerce, business alliances and other key outlets.

“You just have to keep emphasizing the message that cycling transportation works,” Birk said.

Another strategy is simply to get associates out for a ride. “I can talk sometimes till I’m blue in the face without making any dent,” Birk said. “But when you get people out on a bike, things start to change.”

As for the elections, Birk is not as cowed as some within the cycling community appear to be.

“We lost Jim Oberstar but still have Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and a number of leaders,” she said. “I don’t see we’re going to roll back any of the progress we’ve made.”

The midterms may have impacted bike policy at the national level, but that’s not where most of the key initiatives are being made, Birk noted. Federal money can help fund projects but does not carry thumbs-down weight. If local communities want to build more bike infrastructure, they can come up with dollars from other sources.

Seattle is a shining example, she said:

“It’s very impressive the amount of fundraising Seattle has done at the local level for bicycle projects. You’re already ahead of the game.”

Birk also has some penetrating wisdom to share regarding turmoil at Cascade Bicycle Club (Portland’s Bicycle Transportation Alliance went through similar contortions in firing a popular director, Scott Bricker, a year ago), the future of the “Missing Link,” how cycle paths and bike access create opportunities for business development, and how elected leaders can expand bike infrastructure.

“Joyride” is available through local bookstores and Amazon.com, and Mia will have copies on hand at her REI appearance. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. at REI, 222 Yale Ave. N. More about Mia at her Web site. Mia also posted at Cascade’s blog.

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Overall Election Results a Mixed Bag for Cyclists http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/overall-election-results-a-mixed-bag-for-cyclists/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/overall-election-results-a-mixed-bag-for-cyclists/#comments Thu, 04 Nov 2010 16:40:01 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4792
A rundown of perspectives on how cycling fared in Tuesday’s midterms suggests a retrenching for the coming two years. Most advocates acknowledge that support for climate and transportation legislation will find tougher slogging while also pointing out that their constituencies may get re-energized, rather than taking it for granted that elected leaders are working in their favor.

Our earlier (and updated) piece on Washington State.

BikePortland.org: National leaders weigh in.

Bicycle Retailer: A strong advocate meets defeat.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Will Republican wave wash out bike lane?

BikingBis: Bike advocates shift to defense.

Cyclelicious: a potpourri of election day news results.

BikesideLA updates Cyclist Bill of Rights.

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Update: Elections May Change Bike Legislation Strategy in Washington State http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/bike-friendly-candidates-do-well-in-washington-state/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/11/bike-friendly-candidates-do-well-in-washington-state/#comments Thu, 04 Nov 2010 00:48:03 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4783
Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club’s endorsed list of bike-friendly candidates fared well in Tuesday’s election, a preliminary rundown indicates. Despite the fact that most were Democrats in a supposedly Republican sweep, the majority won by healthy margins well above 50 percent.

But some key losses, plus Republican gains and the tenor of the election overall, may put bike advocates in a more defensive position.

“We’ll be in the position of defending good state laws as opposed to advocating new legislation,” said David Hiller, Cascade’s advocacy director and cycling’s key point person in the Olympia legislature. Cascade will still work to persuade the State Legislature to adopt vulnerable-user legislation — which made considerable progress while falling short of approval the past two years — in the new legislative session, Hiller said. But “it’ll be more of an uphill battle,” he admitted.

The state senate, always more of a roadblock, particularly “presents a difficult picture,” Hiller said. “We will really miss Senators Randy Gordon and Eric Oemig.” Other key supporters in the loss column included Reps. Roger Goodman (45th District) and Geoff Simpson (47th). Goodman “was a big fan of vulnerable-user legislation.”

In the meantime, our incomplete (and early) tabulation showed 35 Cascade-endorsed candidates winning and just six coming up short. (Cascade endorsed 50 candidates overall; some returns have not been reported as of this writing.)

Hiller said Cascade is waiting on 10 races still too close to call, with six trending favorably.

Big winners included Joe McDermott for King County Council (68 percent), Rep. Jay Inslee (not on Cascade’s list but a big club booster), at 56 percent, State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (82 percent), Rep. Eileen Cody (79 percent) and Representatives Bob Hasegawa, Sam Hunt and Maralyn Chase, among others.

Other supporters cited by Hiller included Senator Adam Kline, an overwhelming victor at 87 percent in the 37th District, and Reps. Joe Fitzgibbon (34th) and Marko Liias (21st).

Additional Cascade-backed candidates who appeared to be turned away included Rep. Tom Campbell (2nd District), Sumner Schoenike (26th District), Jake Fey (27th District) and Senator Chris Marr (6th District).

Further reading: Around the nation, cycling candidates faced varied success.

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Katy Trail Invokes Renton’s “Trail Calming” http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/10/katy-trail-invokes-rentons-trail-calming/ http://bikeintelligencer.com/2010/10/katy-trail-invokes-rentons-trail-calming/#comments Wed, 06 Oct 2010 14:23:01 +0000 http://bikeintelligencer.com/?p=4618 Are slower speed limits on multi-use trails frequented by bicycles the right solution?

Much soul-searching is going on after a 28-year-old Texas jogger was struck by a bike and later died. The woman was wearing “headphones” (earbuds?) and turned quickly in the path of a bike whose rider apparently was trying to warn her of passing.

Now the East Dallas blog, citing Renton’s speed reduction on the Cedar River Trail following the cycling-caused death of an elderly woman earlier this year, wonders if similar curbs should be placed on the White Rock Trail.

Our experience is that trails self-regulate pretty well, as in the case of the Burke-Gilman and Green Lake bike-pedestrian paths. But with more people cycling and using bikes for transportation as much as recreation, conflicts are bound to keep growing. Renton’s 10 mph speed limit pretty much consigns commuter and transportation bikes (along with experienced cyclists of all stripe) to alternate routes, which the city should speedily provide.

At Green Lake, conflicts were greatly reduced by ringing the lake with on–street bike lanes that faster cyclists could use instead of the bike path. More thoughts from Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org:

Yes, it’s important for path users to share, but the larger issue here is that there are simply not enough non-motorized corridors…

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