What I learned from a road trip

Photo by Ben Brown.

I did a Bicycle Alliance road trip last week. Accompanied by Executive Director Barbara Culp, her husband Andy, and former BAW staffer Kent Peterson, we traveled across the North Cascades Highway to the Methow Valley community of Twisp. We were joined by Ian Macek, WSDOT’s Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator, as we gathered at the Methow Valley Inn to meet with over a dozen individuals to discuss creating Washington’s first US Bike Route—Route 10—across the northern tier of the state.

Folks in the Methow Valley understand the economic benefit of USBR 10. The region is already a destination for recreation, touring and mountain biking. So it was no surprise that Winthrop Mayor Dave Acheson, Twisp Councilmember Traci Day, and local business owners were among the attendees.

After the meeting, Kent unpacked his folding bike and bid us farewell. He pedaled back through the Methow Valley and across the mountains to home, checking out the future Route 10 on a more personal level. You can read his blog post about the ride home here.

It was on to Spokane for the rest of us. Thursday evening we gathered at the Steam Plant Grill with a wonderful group of local cyclists for Hub & Spoke. Spokane has a vibrant and energetic bike culture and it was inspiring to hear about their successes, new ventures and vision for their community. Representative Andy Billig and Spokane City Councilmember Richard Rush also joined us and shared some insights with the group. Both men cycle for transportation and advocate for policies and programs that benefit bicycling.

Councilman Richard Rush  addressed challenges facing Spokane.

We rounded out the trip with a couple of Friday meetings. We sat down with Representative Andy Billig over a cup of coffee at Rocket Bakery to discuss the 20 mile per hour bill, funding for Complete Streets, and more. 

Then we dashed off to the WSDOT regional office to meet with Mike Bjordahl, the East region bike pedestrian coordinator. We reviewed the progress of the Children of the Sun Trail, which is part of the North Spokane Corridor project, and discussed the need to get cyclists’ input early in projects—including rumble strips and chipsealing.

As we headed back to Seattle, I sifted through what I learned on the road trip. First and foremost: we have bright, thoughtful and passionate bike advocates in all corners of our state who are capable of transforming their communities.

Second take away: perseverance and creativity pay off. The dollars don’t always flow as generously in communities east of the Cascades, yet bike advocates are finding ways to build trails, start a Safe Routes to School program in an elementary school, encourage people to bike to work, and make their communities more bicycle friendly. 

Coffee meeting with Rep. Andy Billig.

Third lesson:  meeting with elected officials on their home turf is valuable.  Our meeting with Representative Billig was pleasant and unrushed–vastly different than meeting with him in Olympia during a legislative session.  State and local officials are proud of their communities and are pleased when we venture out of Seattle to visit their part of the state.  It also gives us a chance to see firsthand the on-the-ground successes and challenges in their towns.

Thanks, bike advocates! I return to the office inspired by your work and seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

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