May 16, 2010 in Features

What a time to examine our area’s varied cyclists

Story By Paul Turner The Spokesman-Review
 

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A Q-and-A with the quietly relentless cycling advocate who has been called the “czar” of bike riding in Spokane.

Sooner or later, a bike rider in Spokane is going to hear it.

“You people …”

Sound familiar?

“You people are a menace.”

“You people don’t belong on the road.”

“You people demand all the rights and want the majority of us who don’t ride bicycles to go to blazes.”

And so on.

Everyone is welcome to his or her own take on the politics of transportation and urban design.

But this “You people” business assumes that bike riders are all pretty much alike. And, of course, that’s not true.

There are many kinds of cyclists in the Spokane area. Just look.

With today being the start of Bike to Work Week, it’s a good bet that at least a few of these varieties will be on display in a neighborhood near you.

No doubt you could come up with your own list of cycling’s subspecies.

There’s the casual weekend rider who would never contemplate trying to bike to work.

There’s the dedicated commuter who already pedals to the office five days a week for the exercise value and because it’s fun.

There’s the eco-rider whose motivations have to do with energy policy and the environment.

There’s the rider who also owns two SUVs.

There’s the guy with multiple DUIs, no helmet and no regard for the fact that sidewalks are for pedestrians.

There’s the friendly, serene rider smiling and waving to well-intentioned motorists who immeasurably complicate matters by inappropriately yielding the right of way.

There’s the genius riding after dark without lights.

There’s the hostile King of the Universe cyclist who cuts off motorists and zooms through red lights.

There’s the rider who dutifully comes to a halt at stop signs even when there is no other traffic in sight.

There’s the BTWW participant who is proud of Spokane and believes sharing the road seems like a Northwest kind of thing to do.

And on and on.

Rick Cadwallader commutes by bike from Spokane Valley to downtown Spokane. The 53-year-old letter carrier could be forgiven if he occasionally viewed drivers as the problematic “You people” in the equation.

“I have been hit by a car, run off the road, had Big Gulps thrown at me and have been yelled at as people drive by to purposely startle me,” he said.

He isn’t sure Spokane motorists and cyclists will coexist more peacefully 10 years from now.

But bike rider Betsy Lawrence is optimistic. The Spokane Community College English instructor sees a new generation of cyclists getting it in gear.

“I was out hanging up BTWW posters in several coffee shops and, in each one, the young adults who work there said, ‘I bike to work every day.’ ”

Jo Ann Townsend, a 56-year-old nurse who took up biking four years ago, already regards Spokane as being fairly two wheel-friendly. She hopes it becomes even more so.

Her vision for the future: “Less traffic, cleaner air, and healthier residents.”

We’ll see, says Dave Nemitz. The 73-year-old retiree has been a bike rider since one of his first jobs long ago, delivering telegrams in downtown Spokane.

“I hope for Spokane to become a cycle and walking-friendly city,” he said.

But we’re not there yet, in his estimation.

Still, community support is growing. At least that’s the view of Peter G. Williams, a 49-year-old higher education administrator and bicycle commuter.

“Ten years from now, bicycling in Spokane will be significantly more popular than it is now,” he said.

Maybe then, if that comes to pass, Bike to Work Week will seem redundant and non-cyclists will have something new to say:

“You people are everywhere.”


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