Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. Photo by David Ryder.
Bikelash is a clever term that describes the hand-wringing cries of, “War On Cars!” that’s followed the installation of every inch of bike infrastructure in the US. Even in the bikiest cities such as Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and New York, new bike lanes are met with fear and anger. And though bike politics may always be divisive to some degree, in Seattle it felt like bikelash reached its virulent fever pitch during former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s term in office.
The mayor himself was a bikelash lightening rod. He aligned closely with biking and walking advocates during his campaign and his term (his team even handed out “Mike Bikes” stickers and spoke cards during his first campaign). He fought against a multi-billion dollar project to build a highway under Seattle. And he implemented highly visible arterial “road diet” projects that prioritized biking and walking safety over speed by reducing the number of car lanes. In return, the media, political opponents, and the public dismissed him as anti-car, out of touch, the biking mayor, and, my favorite of the bunch, Mayor McSchwinn. I sat down with McGinn near his home in north Seattle to talk about his experience with bikelash, dealing with divisive bike politics as mayor, the role of mayors in transforming streets, how advocates can assist electeds in their job, and much more.
Austin Horse. Photo via redbull.com
Bike messengers have a hard-earned image as punks, rebels, thrill-seekers, and outlaws. And deservedly so. They risk their own safety to bomb through cities between cars and pedestrians delivering packages for very low pay. It’s an image and lifestyle that captivated the mainstream cycling world for the better part of the previous decade, spurring on massive sales of fixed gear bikes and messenger bags large enough to hold a body. For some enterprising couriers, the popularity presented an opportunity to align with sponsors and escape the check-to-check lifestyle of full time delivery work.
Austin Horse partnered with big companies such as Red Bull and Oakley and bike companies such as Brooklyn Machine Works, All City, and Lazer and carved out a “wild and unpredictable” life for himself. He travels the world riding and racing in unique bike events, organizes his own races, and even worked as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stunt double for the 2012 messenger movie Premium Rush. When he’s at home, Horse still works part time as a courier and as an advocate with his mobile bike co-op Bike Yard. I spoke to him while he waited in the airport for a flight to the Middle East about messenger life in New York, sanctioned vs unsanctioned racing, his bike adventures around the world, the evolution of biking in New York, and much more.
Posted in Adventure, Advocacy, Bike Industry, Interviews
Tagged austin horse, bike messenger, couriers, cycle courier world championships, cycling in new york city, darien gap, iris weinshall, janette sadik kahn, lucas brunelle, messenger stage race, red bull, times up
Shannon Galpin mountain biking in Afghanistan. Photo by Deni Bechard.
Most cyclists would agree that the bicycle is far more than the sum of its parts. As a means of transportation it has implications for climate change, socioeconomics, equity. As a sport it is medicine for our mental and physical well being. As a culture it connects us to people far and wide. And though it touches so many facets of our lives and is an important tool for change, most of us in developed countries would stop short of saying that bicycling is revolutionary. In a country such as Afghanistan however, bicycling has the potential for revolutionary transformation. It is, as Shannon Galpin discovered, a metaphorical and literal vehicle for improving the lives of women and girls living in a country consistently ranked among the worst on women’s rights.
Galpin first traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 as as founder and President of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit focused on women’s rights in conflict zones. Her work initially involved a wide array of arts and education projects. Then in 2009 she brought her mountain bike to the country, went for some rides, sparked the sort of conversations with locals she needed to have about why women weren’t allowed to bike, and found the new focal point for her mission. The intersection of bicycling and Afghani women’s rights was further solidified in 2012 when she met the newly-created women’s National Cycling Team. Now Galpin is working to support the team and use cycling as sport to shift the cultural taboos about women biking for transportation and fun. Along the way, she has written a memoir, helped produce a documentary, given TED talks, and continued advancing Mountain2Mountain’s mission. I spoke to Galpin about her work in Afghanistan, breaking norms as a woman on a bike, projects with Mountain2Mountain, the National Cycling Team, and much more.
Posted in Advocacy, Cycling Media, Interviews, Mountain Biking
Tagged afghan cycles, afghanistan, bicycles and women's suffrage, mountain2mountain, shannon galpin, strength in numbers, women and cycling, womens cycling team in afghanistan
Inspired by the trolls rushing to comment on the news of Seattle’s recently launched bike share, I give you Bike News Commenter Bingo. Click the image for your full size bingo card.
PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal. Photo courtesy PeopleForBikes
Bike advocacy is a sweeping term that captures a huge array of work. Fighting for better bike infrastructure on neighborhood streets, building new mountain bike trails, organizing charity rides, lobbying elected officials and many other things fit under that rather large umbrella of advocacy. Some might see that diversity of advocacy issues as a problem–that lots of sub-interests competing for limited funding and public attention will curb success for all. PeopleForBikes sees that variety as a boon to bicycling in America. The national advocacy organization helps fund everything from protected bike lanes to mountain bike parks; lobbies government agencies and elected officials; partners with professional cycling teams; provides grant funding; organizes their own charity ride; and much more. They’re guided by the basic principle that the more people ride, the better bicycling will be for everyone, regardless of what type of riding they do.
With over three decades of work in advocacy and bike racing, PeopleForBikes President Tim Blumenthal is a fitting leader. He got his start as a cycling journalist for publications such as VeloNews and Bicycling, worked with NBC on cycling coverage for seven Olympics, and spent 11 years at the helm of the International Mountain Bike Association before joining PeopleForBikes. I spoke to Blumenthal about PeopleForBikes’ work, his career in the cycling world, the value of combining cycling-as-sport and cycling-as-transportation in advocacy work, the strengths and shortcomings of American bike advocacy, and more.
Posted in Advocacy, Bike Industry, Interviews
Tagged american bike advocacy, bike advocacy, greelane project, IMBA, people for bikes, peopleforbikes, protected bike lanes, tim blumenthal, tim johnson