Bicycle advocacy in Seattle and the state of Washington has evolved once more. Last week Washington Bikes and Cascade Bicycle Club announced the merger of the two organizations.
The Bicycle Alliance of Washington located in Seattle has been the premier advocacy organization for bicycling across Washington state. From programs repelling childhood obesity (Safe Routes to School Program and Complete Streets) to propelling Washington to #1 friendly state status in the country, Washington Bikes or formerly Bicycle Alliance of Washington, has worked to improve bicycling throughout our state.
WA Bikes is not new to change. The current organization grew out of a previous merger between the Bicycle Federation of Washington (BFW) with NOWBike (The Northwest Bicycle Federation) in 1994. It officially changed its name to Bicycle Alliance of Washington in 1998. Then in the fall of 2013, the organization became Washington Bikes to make clear the purpose of the organization – “to grow bicycling statewide” as stated by the current executive director, Barb Chamberlain. With already a strong history of advocacy in Olympia and across Washington, the organization’s record could be a powerful addition to Cascade Bicycle Club.
Cascade Bicycle Club has grown and changed immensely from when it was formed by two bike-riding brothers, Mike and Rick Quam, in 1970. Formed originally as a touring club, the organization’s purpose even at the start, was advocacy to promote bicycle trails in Washington and to offer recreational group rides. The club grew from 30 people to 300 in just two weeks. One of its early accomplishments was the Burke-Gilman Trail, probably in no small part because of the Quam brothers’ father, a trail advocate in Ohio.
Along the way, there were some serious growing pains as the club exercised its political clout for change. In 2010, it almost split the organization. About the diverging interests among members, board and staff, Barbara Culp, a former Cascade president as well as then director of the Alliance, stated to Crosscut, “They’ve grown way beyond a bicycle club.” Maybe this merger is the path to a new kind of organization.
As more people want to ride bicycles and Seattle faces its challenges of its own growth and traffic gridlock, the power behind the bicycle movement has and will continue to increase greatly. However, the bicycle movement is bigger than Seattle, and even Washington State. Throughout the U.S. and around the world, bicycling is creating economic growth and livability. There’s bike sharing in Paris, a bridge that would solve the Ballard Bridge fiasco in Reading, England and even Bogota makes bicycling news. Enrique Peñalos, Mayor of Bogota was quoted in Urbanized, the feature-length documentary about the design of cities, “If we’re going to talk about transport, I would say that the great city is not the one that has highways but one where a child on a tricycle or bicycle can go safely everywhere.”
The challenge? This merger must move Seattle forward as a bicycling city and make Washington a true example of a #1 Friendly Bicycle State.