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