Paul Andrews

Archive for the ‘Bicycle advocacy’ Category

Right Rider for the Job: Tribute to Jon Kennedy

In Bicycle advocacy on February 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

Jon Kennedy getting it done on the trail as well as off

When he became acting executive director of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance last fall, Jon Kennedy inherited an organization that had lost its balance and was heading for a tumble. As it turned out, Kennedy was the right guy for the job. Anyone who has watched Jon guide a bike on a skinny or over a drop can see he knows how to regain balance and ride a tricky section out. That’s what he did for Evergreen.

Last week Evergreen announced that Kennedy is leaving. On Mar. 1 he will take over as marketing manager for the resurgent Diamondback Bicycles conglomerate (with Raleigh) based in Kent. Ironically the commute from his West Seattle home will be about the same as it was to Evergreen HQ at north Green Lake in Seattle. Which is fortunate, because Jon expects to maintain close ties to the club he helped guide back from the brink.

“I love Evergreen, I love the organization, the people and the agenda,” Jon said by phone after the announcement. Any rumor mill suggestions that he is leaving out of disenchantment would be “absolutely wrong,” he added.

Jon was recruited by Diamondback after working with its brand manager, Mike Brown, on Evergreen sponsorships that resulted in a bike giveaway and $2,500 commitment to the club. The compensation package offered by Diamondback, which is seeking to re-establish itself as a leading name in mountain biking, was too good to pass up.

At 35, “I have my family to think about,” said Jon — wife Ilana, son Erez, 3, and daughter Lilah, 18 months. Anyone who has worked for a non-profit understands that it’s typically not a career but a stepping stone. Despite Jon’s short tenure, it probably seemed more like an entire staircase — but it’s to his credit that so much got done to carry Evergreen forward.

It was Jon’s work with Evergreen that impressed Diamondback. “His energy and dedication, combined with his organizational skills, will be a big plus for us,” Brown said.

A cornerstone of Diamondback’s marketing agenda is working with local, active leadership groups like Evergreen to build and maintain trails. “It’s called ‘Places to Ride’,” Brown noted — a seemingly obvious mission for bike-related companies everywhere, but one which often isn’t acted upon.

Kudos to Diamondback for recognizing a golden opportunity. “We’re in a very competitive space. so getting our message to riders can be a real challenge.” Brown acknowledged, referencing Diamondback’s long-travel Mission, XC Sortie and expanding dirt jump lines. (For drool factor, check out the limited edition Scapegoat.) Key liaisons like Jon and Evergreen and the base they bring along do word-of-mouth wonders.

With Jon at the helm, Evergreen helped get marquee projects on track, from Duthie Hill to South Fork Snoqualmie to Black Diamond. Colonnade got much-deserved attention. New sponsorships rolled in, including Gregg’s, Home Depot and Black Diamond. And Evergreen’s name was prominent in events like the Feb. 5 premiere of “Women of Dirt,” a cinematic look at mountain biking femmes.

A number of the goals outlined at the Duthie Hill gathering last fall are being addressed, including balancing the club’s twin missions of advocacy and recreation. Although the 2010 season is still a couple of months away, the ride calendar seems on the way back to health. And the mtb scene is popping locally — with Evergreen’s involvement every step of the way.

To be sure, challenges loom. First will be finding a replacement for Jon — he says not to worry, several well-qualified folks are in the hopper. Then there’s at least one goal mentioned at the gathering that hasn’t seen much traction — to wit, spreading Evergreen responsibilities across more than one set of shoulders.

Evergreen’s board needs to move a bit faster to address the org’s needs. Despite his yeoman service, Jon never officially had “acting” dropped from his title. It’s on the board to get his replacement named summarily (Glenn Glover has been appointed interim) and take action on other leadership issues.

In a non-profit, Jon joked, “there’s only one way to find out how much you’re appreciated — and that’s to quit.” He’s been “blown away” by the surge of well-wishes and expressions of gratitude. He may be moving on, but not away.

“Diamondback is tremendously committed to local advocacy, so I expect to stay involved with Evergreen,” Jon says, adding that Evergreen is like the Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you never get to leave.

Evergreen’s announcement.

Jon’s departing letter to Evergreen.

Seattle can provide a bike model for Portland

In Bicycle advocacy on February 24, 2010 at 12:41 pm

The controversy over a mile-long rogue mountain biking trail in Portland’s Forest Park represents a great opportunity for bike advocates to make a point: For all its reputation as a cycling mecca, Portland falls short in the fat tire arena.

Forest Park is admittedly a terrible place to build a bootleg trail. It’s widely used, it’s urban, it’s sensitive ecologically.

But the crudely constructed trail shows the desperation grommets feel who want rad places to ride. At a certain point it can only be expected that they’ll take matters into their own hands.

Instead of a lot of sturm und drang, name-calling and righteous indignation, the situation would be better served with understanding, dialogue and a plan.

That’s what’s happened in Portland’s sister city to the north. Under the leadership of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, urban mountain biking parks around Seattle are popping up all over, even under the I-5 freeway. As a result, rogue trail building — although it’s still happening — is far less pronounced and invasive.

One case in point: Lower Woodland Park. Time was when new trails were being sliced in everywhere, especially the steeps, where erosion quickly became a problem. Then the Parks Department put in a jump park down below, and a skate bowl (shared with bmxers). The bike trails that made sense and were well-built stayed. Others were blocked off with snow fencing.

Result: A city-wide magnet that keeps stunt riders occupied and happy, with no need to go rogue. Lower Woodland is even featured on YouTube videos and in the new film, “Women of Dirt,” where international mountain bike star and Seattle native Jill Kintner mixes it up.

Seattle’s example helped jump-start an urban ride park movement throughout the region. Almost overnight, Duthie Hill north of Issaquah has become a miniature Whistler mountain bike park. Not to be outdone, the trail hobbits around Black Diamond are doing amazing stuff on Summit Ridge and other areas near Lake Sawyer. A magnificent new cross-country trail has gone in on Grand Ridge, the result of savvy political spadework done by Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club (before it was renamed to Evergreen) when King County approved the Grand Ridge area for development more than a decade ago.

Other urban areas are following the same advise-and-consent path toward dealing with bootleg trailbuilding. Aptos and Santa Cruz, California, have become international icons for mountain biking’s elite with their expanding network of jump parks, freeride trails and even a new planned pump track. To the east of Portland, Bend OR has a thriving mtb scene. San Francisco is looking to build a new network at McLaren Park. There’s still mostly gray stuff (our preferred term for trails that fall in between authorized and unauthorized) in Marin County, but an incipient mtb culture fostered through high school leagues promises to change that in the future.

In British Columbia, there’s virtually no such thing as “unauthorized” or “rogue” trails. Whatever gets built gets used. If it’s in the way or gets taken out, another one pops up soon enough. B.C. admittedly has a lot more space, and tolerance, than the states.

Ultimately, a showcase cycling city like Portland faces the choice of fighting the urban freeride movement through finger-pointing, negative publicity and legislation, or supporting it with a forward-looking, collaborative vision for the future. The Forest Park flap is off on the wrong foot. But hopefully sensible heads will prevail, and this scandal will be used as a podium for invoking positive change.

The Lonesome Death of SB5838

In Bicycle advocacy on February 22, 2010 at 11:01 am

You have to wonder what it takes to get anything done legislatively any more, anywhere…in Congress, at the state level, in the city.

The widely supported, much publicized “Vulnerable Users” bill has died a lonesome death in the Washington State senate, despite the efforts of Cascade Bicycle Club. Bright side: The bill made it out of committee — something that could not be said for its antecedent last year. Dark side: It was a more general, more “politic” form of legislation that emphasized rehabilitation and education rather than punishment — and still couldn’t make it to a vote. Far side: The bizarre, unfair situation will still exist that cyclists can be killed with only a “failure to yield” ticket being issued — if a ticket is issued at all. As David Hiller, Cascade’s advocacy director, put it, people are always startled to discover that “the penalty for not stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk is the same penalty as not stopping for a pedestrian and killing them.”

News Cycle: Japanese folder, Springtime Olympics, E-bike sales, Lopes Sprinter & more

In Bicycle advocacy, News Cycle, Obama Bikes on February 16, 2010 at 1:31 am

Slick Japanese folder!

BikeHugger is covering the Spring Olympics by bike and may, just may, be the culprit behind balmy weather suited more to wheels than blades and boards.

E-bike sales: Growing but still tiny, tiny when compared with regular bikes, or e-bike sales in other countries: 300k expected in 2010, double 2009. But total in U.S. is just 500k.

Idaho’s mountain biking license plate moves forward.

Brian Lopes is selling his pimped out Sportsmobile for a mere $67,000…the good news being you can claim it as a second home mortgage deduction. Assuming you have another home. And it’s worth more than $67,000.

Despite all the rain, things are cookin‘ in Aptos!

SeattleLikesBikes: Issues with counting bike commuters.

Good LA Times story on bike thievery. It’s every bit as ugly as we assume.

Psst. Hey. You and I could sell our homes and buy an entire town up by Whistler in B.C. Mountain biking all summer long. Skiing all winter long. You don’t get to see another soul, but hey. You’re getting away from it all!

3-feet-please? How about FIVE. More on Iowa’s Bicycle Bill of Rights.

Kate Hudson can ride a bike as she well pleases…

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycling on February 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

The girl can ride

Kate Hudson seems to be the real deal, a celeb who loves to ride a bike. Catch the name of her son: Ryder, the best cycling name in the world. But we take issue with a couple of characterizations online. We would not call her, in the words of Celebrity-Gossip.net, a Bicycle Babe. The current argot, sanctioned by Luna, is “Bike Chick.” And in any case, Kate is no spring chicken. I guess Bike Mom doesn’t carry quite the allure, though.

The other nit we would pick involves Kate riding in a dress. Now normally we find ourselves in wholehearted concurrence with our friend and colleague Yokota Fritz over at Cyclelicio.us, but in this case we must express high dudgeon. Or at least medium dudgeon. High might be a bit excessive, but hear us out.

Needs to cover up...

Also needs to cover up...

The photo shows Kate’s dress “billowing” up as she rides along on her Electra Super Deluxe street bike. The always helpful Yokota says there’s a solution to this: a garter clip which, when fastened to the hem of the skirt, keeps things from going all Marilyn Monroe.

Does not need to cover up

What are you thinking? This is Kate Hudson, not some prune-faced Republican blue nose like Michele Bachmann. We’re not talking Miss Piggy or Her Majesty the Queen. If Kate Hudson wants to ride with her dress splaying out, I say more power to her. She’s just exercising her God-given right to ride whatever way she pleases. Cocktail dresses, full-length gowns, coulottes, mini-skirts, we don’t care. We don’t even object to flip-flops and plunging necklines. Or no helmet. In the case of Kate Hudson, we will make an exception to any cycling rule we have ever advocated.

Besides, I don’t even think that Kate is, as Yokota puts it, “struggling to stay covered” as she rides. Hell no. She’s just out there hammering! And who can blame her?! When you’ve got it, in the immortal words of Max Bialystock, flaunt it, baby, flaunt it! Ride on Kate! We’d love you even if you rode a fixie!

Streetfilms’ misguided video on RR tracks

In Bicycle advocacy on February 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

Streetfilms has put together a clip on how to cross railroad tracks on a bike, using Seattle’s “Missing Link” as an example. I wish I could say it does the trick, but in reality it feeds a lot of misguided mythologies about cycling. Ultimately, it says railroad tracks are something to be feared, and that somehow they’re really really hard to get across, and that the solution to any challenge involving RR tracks is to paint hugeass arrows and figurines scaring cyclists into BEING CAREFUL BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO CRASH! Which essentially contributes to the greater public perception that cycling is dangerous and should simply be avoided.

The teaser to the clip says crashing on RR tracks is “something I’ve seen even the most experienced cyclist do.” Really? I’ve been riding all my life and have never crashed on RR tracks. I’ve never been in a group of riders, experienced or otherwise, where a rider has crashed on RR tracks. I’ve never seen or been around a cyclist who blah blah blah. I’ve been told many times to be careful of RR tracks, and have wound up wondering why. As a kid I didn’t get the memo, and as an adult it’s never been a problem. I’m not saying crashes don’t happen, but I am saying this: In the pantheon of dangerous obstacles and momentous challenges facing a cyclist on an everyday basis in urban settings, RR tracks are way way down the list.

Now the accident data does indicate that the Missing Link tracks are problematic. And anyone, even a cyclist (we are sentient, despite the implications of condescending videos and traffic signs), can see that there’s a nasty angle to the crossing. But the solution isn’t cartoon characters on pavement and signs. The solution is to DO SOMETHING about the Missing Link. To its everlasting credit, Cascade Bicycle Club of Seattle has been pushing a fix here for years. And the city of Seattle has a project ready to go. Only litigation by selfish businesses and corporations has blocked the link from becoming “unmissing.” (None of which Streetfilms mentions.)

I don’t mean to pick on Streetfilms here. They obviously meant well. But the road to perdition is paved with good intentions — not RR tracks. If Streetfilms wanted to show a real problem area, it could do a clip on a true nightmare: Westlake Avenue, where bikes not only have to ride parallel to streetcar tracks, but where there are sections of pavement lacking even clearance for bikes from the streetcar and/or traffic. Even there, though, the issue isn’t an inherent catastrophic nature of RR tracks. It’s piss-poor planning that never even considered bikes in the transportation matrix.

Otherwise our hope is that next time Streetfilms will try to pick a subject that doesn’t make cyclists seem like brain-damaged children who have to quake in their pedals every time they see two strips of iron supported by wooden planks.

News Cycle: Women of Dirt premiere, Pedaling consternation, Rider Ryder & more

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, News Cycle, Obama Bikes, Videos on February 5, 2010 at 12:53 am

Reminder: World premiere of “Women of Dirt” tonight in Seattle! The DVD is out btw and can be ordered online.

Washington’s “Vulnerable User” legislation is already further along than a similar bill made it last year.

Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org raises the question of why a local newspaper seems deliberately provocative (one might say antagonistic) on the issue of the city’s 2030 Bicycle Plan:

“Instead of helping to foster civil public discourse about a very important plan for our city’s future, I’m afraid this story will only serve to intensify the “bicyclist” versus “motorist” sensationalism that The Oregonian has admitted to “overplaying” in the past.”

As newspapers (the ones that survive) continue to focus on their natural constituency, that being local communities, our hope is that they’ll show more sensitivity and receptiveness to the bicycling community in the transportation matrix. The perplexing irony in this case is that The Oregonian has on staff one of the nation’s experts on just this subject — Jeff Mapes, author of “Pedaling Revolution.” Maybe he could persuade an editor or two at his newspaper to read his book?!

For your good deed of the day — heck, the whole weekend — take the Bicycle Leadership Conference survey.

We like Ryder Hesjedal for two reasons: First, his mountain bike heritage. Second, his first name. Keep an eye on him in the 2010 season.

Have a great weekend! Hopefully the weather will let you Get out ‘n RIDE!

News Cycle: Ghost bikes, RUI, Utah won’t yield & more

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, News Cycle on February 4, 2010 at 2:32 am

The Ghost Bikes Film Project that Bike Intelligencer subscribed to failed to reach its fundraising goal, but Meaghan Wilbur says she’ll soldier on and do the documentary one way or another. Best of luck to her!

Man riding a bike in Naples, FL gets a “DUI” for being intoxicated. $7,000 bail. Chicago DUI Lawyers is watching the case, so maybe they could tell us if, technically, the guy was “driving” while UI.

Utah considered a progressive law to allow cyclists to yield at stop signs instead of having to come to a full stop. It died in committee in part over fears that cyclists would sue when run over by drivers. Now there’s a perfect get-rich-quick scheme. Get a bike, watch for a car at an intersection and ride in front of it! No more worries over money — you’re set for … life!

In Marin County, the celebrated birthplace of mountain biking, where legendary Mount Tam and Repack and Tamarancho draw mountain bikers from all over the world, the local newspaper is running a poll asking how much trail access mountain bikers should get. And mountain bikers are getting hammered.

Fun story from totcycle on “Why We Drive.”

Not so fun story (with fortunately happy ending) from Cyclelicio.us about his encounter with a left-turning vehicle.

Riders Down: Bad things happen in more than threes

In Bicycle advocacy, Rider Down on February 3, 2010 at 1:35 am

Sometimes they bunch together by the handful. The past week has certainly borne that out. We were mildly annoyed at the Bellingham police flak who suggested, after a rider was struck by a car making a left turn in front of him, that cyclists wear bright clothing and be careful out there to avoid being hit by drivers. Our take was that’s like telling a gunshot victim to watch out for bullets.

Since that accident, bike riders have been getting hit right and left…hook.

In Sacramento, a cyclist
was hit and dragged a quarter of a mile by an SUV whose driver was … well, let’s just say that brighter clothing and best cycling practices weren’t going to help his cause.

In Los Gatos, a cyclist was killed when an SUV jumped a curb, drove along the sidewalk, barreled through a pedestrian safety barricade and continued on till striking a light post and flipping over. Apparently the cyclist, riding slowly on a sidewalk, was not behaving safely enough. As a witness put it: “I thought please let him get out of the way. But I knew there was no way. All of a sudden there was a ton of debris and dirt after he hit the guy on the bicycle.”

No word on whether he was brightly dressed, which for some reason may have been considered irrelevant in the police investigators’ assessment of culpability.

And what would be the advice
for Jim Rogers, founder of the Tour of Nevada City Bike Shop and holder of the record for most Nevada City Bicycle Classic race competitions, who was cycling along the shoulder of Highway 174 when he was hit from behind by an SUV and killed?

Oh, OK, we’ve got it. The Bellingham flak left out a crucial step in his short list for cycling safety, one that would have prevented all of these accidents from ever happening in the first place. That being: Don’t ride where SUVs are present.

Spread the word…

Vigilant Velo’s “Little Fellow” reminds drivers to look

In Bicycle advocacy on February 2, 2010 at 2:39 am

Anyone who has ridden for any length of time has fondly wished for some magic trick to get drivers’ attention in risk-prone situations, like getting doored on the driver’s side or right-hooked on the passenger side. I like to scream the scream of the near-dead. Don’t laugh. Screaming really works.

But over at Vigilant Velo, Raymond Galang has come up with something more civilized. Clear 2-inch-round stickers showing the figurine of an approaching rider that, when applied to rear view mirrors and car windows, serve as a helpful reminder to keep an eye out.

Are two better than one?

Vigilant Velo has gotten some good press on two of my favorite blogs, BikePortland.org and Cyclelicio.us, and Galang graciously sent me a few stickers to try out. It’s a snap to install them: One set aimed at the rear-view mirror has bumper-sticker adhesive on it. The other, for windows, is vinyl self-stick.

When first applying them, your natural instinct is to keep them away from the main viewing area of the mirror as much as possible. Galang recommends the inside, closest to the car body. That worked OK but I actually thought it was too unobtrusive. I wound up putting two stickers on the mirror and, to my surprise, found it more noticeable but not distracting while driving. This is because of the mirror’s changing plane of vision. If you focus on the mirror surface, you see the sticker image. If you focus on the traffic behind you, the sticker image blurs out.

This is true except at night of course, when headlamps and street lighting reflect off the mirror’s surface. The VV figurine stands out much more, the caveat being that it’s less needed at night, when cyclists presumably will have lighting that makes them visible. Still, if through some visual technology the VV figurine could be noticeable from all focal planes during daylight hours, it could boost its effectiveness.

Cyclists may be larger than they appear...

It’s important to remember that this is Version 1.0 of VV. Galang is playing around with larger stickers for rear and back-door windows, not just for drivers looking rearward to check traffic but for passersby to see when the car is parked. He’s also considering lettering on the stickers along the lines of “WATCH FOR CYCLISTS” — akin to the “OBJECTS MAY BE LARGER THAN THEY APPEAR” logos on passenger side rear-view mirrors.

Galang said he has found no legal or warranty issues with the stickers. Numerous other stickers are sold for mirror application, most of them jokes on the standard “OBJECTS” lettering.

Vigilant Velo stickers have been available for only a week, but already they’re getting international attention. “I have shipped stickers to Singapore, New Zealand and Australia,” Galang said. Ordering for stickers, which are $2 a set or $18 for 20, is available on the Vigilant Velo site along with instructional information, photos and other details.

In our email exchange, Galang made an intriguing point:

“I’m interested in the dialogue that takes place when someone hands the sticker to that non-cycling friend. In the 20 years I’ve been riding, I had never brought it up with my own parents and in-laws. When I handed them the sticker, that conversation happened. I said to myself, ‘Wow, I could have done that much sooner’!”

Sometimes the ingenious solutions to a problem are the simplest. The Vigilant Velo “little fellow” gets just enough attention, and does so in a subtle enough way, to be the kind of mind-changer cycling needs to persuade drivers to give that little extra heads up that saves life, limb, and bike in a potentially disastrous scenario.

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