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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

As Bike to Work Week begins, cycling advocate weighs in

Spokane cycling advocate John Speare relaxes near his office on East Sprague Avenue in Spokane on May 10. (Dan Pelle)

A blogger once called John Speare “the czar of Spokane bicycle riding.” It’s not a claim he would make himself. That’s not how he rolls. He likes team efforts. But you will find the 38-year-old Microsoft technical writer at the center of many conversations about bike riding in the Lilac City.

A member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board, the quietly energetic South Hill resident is also the man behind the popular Cycling Spokane blog, a co-founder of the Pedals2People outreach and the author of a regular cycling column for Out There Monthly. He’s also the guy whose invitation to take part in 2008’s Bike to Work Week unexpectedly turned me into a bike commuter. It’s Bike to Work Week again, and Speare sat down to talk.

Q. Has cycling in Spokane gained any traction since I met you in 2007?

A. I think there’s actually been a big uptick in support and participation in that time, for lots of reasons. Things are happening. Sometimes I wish it could be faster.

Q. How do you avoid being impatient and angry about the pace of change?

A. I’m just tired of Angry White Liberal Guy. You just see it so much, and I don’t want to be that guy – always bitching and moaning. Not that I never bitch and moan.

Q. Where does Bike to Work Week fit in the greater scheme?

A. The hope is that someone who is on the fence will be encouraged to try it. The list of potential barriers is long. And everyone is different as to what they see as barriers. But if you can plant the seed and get people to try it, good things can happen.

Q. What’s the magic that turns a newbie into a convert?

A. I think it’s some form of fun, whatever that looks like to different people.

Q. How many bikes have you had in the last five years?

A. Um, that’s hard to answer. My wife reads the paper, you know. I can’t answer. It’s many.

Q. Why do you think bicycling is taken more seriously as a mode of transportation by Europeans?

A. I don’t have a good answer. Flat cities that are pretty compact. And there’s a different perspective on “the greater good.” Europeans don’t hear that and automatically assume that their freedoms are being threatened.

Q. How do you deal with motorists confusing the traffic pattern by inappropriately yielding the right of way to you when you are on your bike?

A. Well, I could get angry about their failure to recognize bicycles as a viable means of transportation. But ultimately, they’re just nice Spokane people. And that’s what nice Spokane people do. So I practice my patience techniques.

Q. Why should someone ride a bike?

A. To me, there’s the well-being thing that could help everyone. In our society, we’re too cut off from other people and the car is one of the reasons why. When you take things at a different pace you discover that you have prioritized your life in a different way.