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Bike to Work Week puts focus on Spokane’s growing bicycle routes

Sally Phillips, pictured Friday cycling through her neighborhood, is an avid cyclist, member of the Spokane Bicycle Club and chair of this year’s Bike to Work Week. She used to bike to work in downtown Spokane but now is retired and using her mountain bike for errands around town. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Sally Phillips, pictured Friday cycling through her neighborhood, is an avid cyclist, member of the Spokane Bicycle Club and chair of this year’s Bike to Work Week. She used to bike to work in downtown Spokane but now is retired and using her mountain bike for errands around town. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Sally Phillips is retired and lives way up on the South Hill. Still, she’s ridden her bike as a commuter for decades.

Phillips, 68, is also leading Bike to Work Week in Spokane, but she insists it’s so much more than biking to work, or even a week. Instead, Phillips and others are pushing a new moniker: Bike Everywhere Month.

“It doesn’t have to be just to work,” said Phillips, noting that she still regularly commutes to the handful of organizations where she volunteers. “Start with things that seem like they’re going to be low-key and maybe you don’t have to navigate busy streets. Hit spots that are pleasant and not daunting.”

Beginning Monday with a pancake breakfast in Riverfront, this week’s bicycling events range from the solemn – a ride of silence on Wednesday to remember cyclists killed in collisions with motorists – to the tipsy, as Friday night will see a pizza party at River City Brewing.

But overall, the week is meant to encourage people to try commuting by bike. And Phillips is happy to share a lot of reasons to give it a shot.

“I’m a small person who likes to eat. I need to have some way to use up those extra calories,” she said. “You’re moving rather slowly through neighborhoods. I’m one of those people who like to see what people are doing with their homes. How their garden’s doing, or what pergola they’re putting up on their homes. On your bike you’re moving slow enough to take in some of that.”

Phillips has been commuting by bike since the 1980s, and said she is encouraged by the growth in cycling infrastructure in Spokane, but acknowledged the “cynicism” she first had over the city’s comprehensive plan, which guides development and encourages pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure over vehicles.

“However, you’re really seeing the results of that now. When streets are redone, there’s a lot of conversation about whether you can put bike lanes or shared lanes in,” she said. “They’re really thinking comprehensively as they’re tearing up streets.”

But what really excites Phillips is the nearly 9-mile bikeway the city is constructing that runs from the Nevada-Lidgerwood neighborhood to East Central. It begins up north with the Addison-Standard bike corridor, a newly painted 5-mile segment of bike lanes. The corridor connects with the planned Cincinnati Greenway near Gonzaga University, which will discourage car traffic in favor of walkers and riders. Finally, it ends with the Ben Burr Trail, which is scheduled to be paved, widened and lengthened this year.

“I’m really excited about Ben Burr because it’s in my neighborhood,” Phillips said, adding that when the north-south bikeway is complete, she’ll venture further afield because she is still a “little daunted by the traffic on the north side.”

The expansion of bikeways in town has heartened Phillips, and she believes it will encourage more people to ride.

“What I can see is we’re getting kind of close to having a network,” she said. “It’s just an ideal time for people to give it a try.”


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