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Portland “Bicyclist with a capital B” leads Vancouver Bike Club

Posted by on November 29th, 2011 at 9:03 am

Maria Schur
(Self portrait)

In many ways, Portland resident Maria Schur epitomizes the die-hard Portland bike lover. She averages 120 miles a week in the saddle, commutes by bike to her job at BikeTiresDirect, spent two years as a bike messenger in San Francisco, participated in the first ever Critical Mass ride in 1992, operates a bike-centric blog and has a grandfather who traded his car for a bike in 1942.

What makes the 45-year old Schur stand out from her Rose City peers is her position as president of the 500-member Vancouver Bike Club (VBC), Clark County’s oldest and most active cycling organization.

To those that may find it odd that a Portland resident leads a Vancouver cycling group, Schur points out the proximity of the two cities. “Even though Portland and Vancouver are in two separate states and separated by a river, we are still the same area,” she said (on a side note, Portland Wheelman Touring Club president Ann Morrow is a Vancouver resident).

“Even though Portland and Vancouver are in two separate states and separated by a river, we are still the same area.”

Schur’s goals as president of the largest cycling organization in Vancouver include keeping the club active while exploring bike advocacy options. “My number one goal as club president is to keep the ride calendar as full as possible and get more people on bikes… a secondary goal is to get the VBC to support my advocacy for bikes as transportation in Clark County,” she said.

Although bike advocacy is not typically associated with the VBC, it is actually part of the VBC’s purpose, per Article 2 of the club’s bylaws:

The purpose of the Bicycle Club shall be as follows:
(1) Educating members and the public in safe riding habits and bicycle etiquette;
(2) Promoting the use of bicycles in the community for recreation, transportation, and physical fitness;
(3) Provide bicycle rides at various levels of challenge so that every bicycle rider can participate in group activities;
(4) Encouraging the addition of bike lanes, bike paths, and other facilities for bicycle riders.

With bylaws supporting advocacy and a growing number of community minded members, Schur believes the VBC has advocacy potential. “The VBC isn’t a bike advocacy organization but i’ts fertile ground for advocacy,” she said. Advocacy is a natural progression once a person starts to engage in utility cycling, according
to Schur. “Once you get recreational riders to use bikes for transportation, they become advocates,” said Schur.

Policymakers Ride-43

Riding near Fort Vancouver with
the I-5 Bridge in the distance.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The pending Fourth Plain Transit Improvement Project (which has raised concern from some bike planners) is a “good example” of where a bike advocacy group could provide the missing voice for people in the area who care about bike access, according to Schur. “The BRT Fourth Plain issue is a good example of a bigger challenge in Clark County where they are doing bike projects as an add-on rather than as equals with other vehicles,” she said.

As for her chosen vehicle, Schur isn’t bashful with her love of bikes. “I am a Bicyclist with a capital B… I identify with bicycling as part of my identity,” she said. According to Schur, her self-describe metamorphosis into a “Bicyclist” occurred during a Critical Mass ride twenty years ago. “Going to the first ever Critical Mass in San Francisco in 1992 is when I become a Bicyclist with a capital B, before than I was a person who arrived by bike,” she said.

“I don’t think the solutions that worked in Portland are necessarily what will work best in Vancouver.”

As Schur starts the journey in exploring bike advocacy in Vancouver, she is mindful of the inherent differences between Portland and Vancouver. “I don’t think the solutions that worked in Portland are necessarily what will work best in Vancouver.”

Schur said she wants the VBC to increase its advocacy efforts, but doesn’t want it to cease being a recreational riding club. “I don’t want to change the platform of the club, it’s already an awesome club.”

Check out the ride calendar and information on how to join the VBC here (Note: rides are open to everyone, club membership is not required.)

Our Vancouver correspondent Marcus Griffith can be reached at Marcus.Griffith[at]gmail.com.

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  • Spiffy November 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I’ve never done any recreational riding in the ‘Couve… I only ride up there to visit friends… maybe it’s because I ride a cruiser… maybe I need something smaller and lighter to make the distance easier…

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  • wsbob November 29, 2011 at 10:35 am

    If Maria Schur really wants to get more people on bikes, she might want to revisit the City of Vancouver’s decision, which her club supported, to make helmet use mandatory for every person in city limits that would like to ride a bike.

    Some people just won’t wear a bike helmet. The reasons they won’t aren’t always as flimsy as they might seem on the surface. For example: Big Hair, or hair do’s required for professional office situations. Is the Vancouver Bike Club telling people in this situation to not ride a bike if they can’t or don’t want to give themselves a helmet compatible haircut?

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    • Melanie November 29, 2011 at 11:44 am

      Wsbob, I hear your point and used to fight wearing my helmet. Then this past May, I got on my cruiser to go two blocks, took a really stupid fall that including falling on my forehead area of my face. If I had a helmet on, it would have hurt, but I would not have had the damage I ended up with. Six months later I am still healing from the concussion, the nerve endings painfully coming back alive in my face and the bone spur under my eye. Lesson learned, safety is paramount over beauty!

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      • Clarkcountie November 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

        Why can’t nutcase design a line of seductive helmets?

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      • wsbob November 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm

        Melanie…your experience falling and banging your head is of a type that’s important for people to hear about. Thanks for describing it here.

        My own feeling is that wearing a bike helmet while riding is generally a good idea, but that certain types of riding probably represent a relatively low enough risk of falling that deciding not to wear a bike helmet in such an instance, can be a basically responsible choice; a choice that most adults should be allowed to make for themselves.

        I don’t have surveys and facts to back up my feeling that some people wouldn’t ride a bike if doing so meant having to wear a bike helmet, but my feeling is strong that there are people that wouldn’t ride a bike simply for this reason. My sister is an example. Has Big Hair, and a do. Never really ridden a bike much but stays fit. Starts riding this summer, then rides the 30 mile Bridge Pedal, but wouldn’t wear a helmet because of the hair thing. If she’d been legally required to wear a helmet, she might have started riding this summer…but I’m not sure.

        With some kinds of riding, I don’t quite see how helmets are going to fit in. Slow, leisurely Tweed Rides seem like an extraordinarily good way to warm up to the idea of riding, people hesitant to dip a toe into the riding lifestyle and culture. If helmets are required, even in a Tweed Ride, what are people supposed to do for a helmet? English equestrian helmets?

        Glad to read Maria Schur’s comment from this morning, down below, that the VBC is no longer supporting the part of Vancouver’s mandatory helmet law that requires adults to wear one regardless of choice. Maria…thanks! I appreciate variety in hair too…bouffant, beehive, pompadour, dreads, hawks. No way are those do’s fitting inside a bike helmet.

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  • Dad and Mom November 29, 2011 at 11:24 am

    We remember this beautiful and intreresting woman when she was just our little girl!

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  • Maria Schur November 29, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Hi WSBOB! Thanks for the comment. The VBC does not currently officially support mandatory helmet use, although we do support safe riding and recognize that means different things to different people.
    I agree about the hair-do thing and unequivocally support bouffants!
    – Maria

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    • sorebore December 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      @ M.S. I advocate helmet choice, but would be more than willing to don one and ride around Washington with your club. I have been meaning to pedal N.W. Clark county and the ‘Couv for a long time now. Keep up the good work!

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  • mark kenseth November 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Great story. I hope she keeps up the fun work.

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  • Richie Ditta November 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I was the president of the Maria “Pinky” Schur fan club back in the ’90’s..was also her roommate and dispatcher for a couple years… Portland and Vancouver, you have no idea how lucky you are to have Maria!! She truly is an inspiration to anyone who rides or is thinking of riding..She used to do alley cats on a beach cruiser with a dress and heels on, all the while having a huge smile on her face!! Not a care about what place she finished, but all about having fun on a bike..eventually she started doing quite well at alley cat racing and started a whole movement of people joining in on races who were unsure of finishing. Maria is a great friend and I wish her continued success!!

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  • Clarkcountie November 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    If you haven’t gone on Maria’s french toast ride, you don’t know what you are missing. Ride from Vancouver (or farther) to Maria’s house for a frenchtoast breakfast than a ride around Portland. It’s a great way to start a day.

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  • Kevin November 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    all that and she can make a mean platter of french toast too! Congratulations Maria!

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  • Dabby November 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Congrats on this. Maybe with a ex messenger at the reigns, we can see more impact from the VBC on the streets, not just in the ride listings….

    I must say that I recall the VBC supporting the Helmet Law, with the past president appearing to be an advocate for it. I thought the support sadly helped it pass…
    I am very glad to hear it seems to not be supported by the VBC now…..
    Me thinks the VBC could now work to eradicate this All Ages Helmet Law.

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  • Kevin November 29, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I am alive today because I wore my helmet when a car ran a stop sign and collided with me. It seems whenever a half dozen riders gather there is at least one with a similar story. I will continue to wear mine because I believe in the ability of a helmet to save lives. I like living. Law or no law, your mileage may vary.

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  • Kevin Wagoner November 29, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Great story. Any idea what road the self portrait is taken from.

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    • Mraia Schur December 1, 2011 at 12:16 pm

      Mountain Top road, on the way up Bald Peak.

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  • KRhea December 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Big shout out to both Maria and VBC! The first time I saw Maria on a bike was at the PIR Tuesday night races two summers ago. She was rollin’ fast with a white wicker basket on her bike and pick toe clips!!!! I immediately said, that woman knows how to really enjoy cycling.

    Yea Maria

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  • Doug Morgan December 2, 2011 at 5:28 am

    I’ve broken a couple helmets. One is hanging in the corner of the room with no backend as a survival trophy. I went over my handlebars at a railroad crossing.

    I’m glad I didn’t have to learn the alphabet AGAIN!!! But having nice looking hair is very very important too.

    People who aren’t smart enough to protect their brains probably don’t have much of a brain to protect.

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