Madi Carlson is well know among bicyclists in Seattle, especially, bicycle advocates. As the board president of Familybike and co-founder of Critical Lass Seattle, she and her pink cargo bike with or without her kids have become almost iconic for the Seattle bike scene. Recently, Carlson sat down with this author, and over coffee, talked about her new book, Urban Cycling.
Carlson did not set out to write a bike about bicycling. However, it was inevitable because as she attests over and over again, “I love my bike and I love talking to people about bicycling.” Her attitude and her bicycling have extended her personal network connecting with people who share that love. That connection serendipitously lead to Mountaineers Books. Chris Saleeba of Ballard Greenways, in that extended network learned that Mountaineers Books was in search of a bicycle book. He immediately recommended Carlson. Shortly, thereafter, Kate Rogers, Editor-in-Chief of Mountaineers Books got in touch with Carlson.
Though Carlson hadn’t planned writing a book on bicycling, once she sat down with Kate Rogers a book began to take shape. Carlson credits Rogers and the other Mountaineers Books’ editors for guidance. Rogers presented what they were looking for, determined Carlson’s audience and guided the organization of the book. Though the idea for profiling individuals was planned by Rogers, Carlson had friends and an extensive network among bicyclists so she chose the bicyclists to highlight fitting within the publisher’s parameters of persons from major cities around the country, from LA to Minneapolis to NYC and Washington, DC. Among those personalities was Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics, who lives in Portland, Oregon.
When asked what was the greatest asset gained from the project, Carlson unequivocally said, “On-going connections, of meeting more people and expanding opportunities to talk about bicycling.” She added that she took a bicycle maintenance class in preparation for the bike repair material. Though such a class was of interest to her, the book gave her the push she needed. About the book itself, Carlson considers Chapter 6, Riding Techniques as the most useful to the urban bicyclist.
Writing Urban Cycling has increased Carlson’s attention to many of the aspects of bicycling, city riding and Seattle itself. She says that she gets frustrated with Seattle’s slow-to-change (dubbed by many as the “Seattle process”) character. Even with that hindrance, she praises what she considers Seattle’s greatest assets: the Burke-Gilman Trail, Dongho Chang, SDOT Traffic Engineer, and the many passionate people who make up Connect Seattle and the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways.
So Seattle, Madi Carlson has advice for you as a city and for each of us as residents: “Vote for transit. We are all pedestrians at some point. Drivers, recognize bicyclists as people. Bicyclists, make eye contact with drivers. Seattle, save Pronto! More bicyclists make it safer.”
Carlson’s book is an everybody’s bike book. Though she focuses on the needs of the urban bicyclist, there’s something for everyone from maintenance to accessories to lists of resources. Carlson reiterates, “Bicycling makes me happy,” and to the doubters or hesitant, she says, “Try it, you’ll like it.