Bike Clark County celebrated its second anniversary with a party Friday night in Vancouver attended by bike activists and enthusiasts from all over the county. And there was also one notable attendee from Portland, author and journalist Jeff Mapes, who journeyed up by bike over the Columbia River via the Interstate Bridge (and had something to say about it later).
The founder of Bike Clark County, Eric Giacchino opened the event. “I had no idea when I hatched this organization,” he shared with the crowd, “that it would grow like this.” Among the accomplishments Giacchino cited for the year were the 600 elementary and middle school kids who attended the group’s bike safety and education programs, the 50 bikes repaired and donated to lower income children and the group’s role in organizing the first Open Streets event in Vancouver and advocating for the addition of bike lanes along a major bicycle corridor. “And we could do a lot more,” he added, “if we had more volunteers.”
He also announced several new significant financial contributions. One is from the City of Vancouver to buy 30 new bicycles and other equipment for the organization’s school programs and to send volunteers to mechanic training. Another was the offer from a local personal injury lawyer to donate 5% from any bicycle injury cases he wins to Bike Clark County to help improve cycling education and safety.
Sipping wine and beer and nibbling on goodies, all donated by local businesses, guests lauded the impact the organization has make on the local bike scene. “I came tonight out of respect for what Bike Clark County is doing for our community,” said Vancouver Bike Club president Dennis Johnson. “This is a celebration of the positive changes in Vancouver,” and “BCC has been a catalyst for growing the bike culture in Vancouver” said other attendees.
“I came tonight out of respect for what Bike Clark County is doing for our community.”
— Dennis Johnson, Vancouver Bike Club
Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution (Oregon State University Press, 2009) and political correspondent for the Oregonian, was the guest speaker. He was introduced by Clark County planner Laurie Lebowsky. Holding up a copy of his book, Lebowsky said, “When I was working on the county’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan a few years ago, this book was my Bible. It gave me perspective on the bicycle movement in America, clued me in to how other communities passed their master plans and helped me articulate the benefits of bicycling to the community.”
That cyclists can change cities was Mapes’ central theme. He spoke about a recent midnight bike ride in LA that reinforced his belief. “You don’t think of LA as cycling country. But there were a lot of people on this ride, a lot of diversity, and it was like a party. Outside of rush hour, there’s a lot of spare public space, and people were enjoying their own community on their bikes.”
He compared the egalitarian nature of biking, contrasted to almost every other aspects of peoples’ lives. “We have different boarding passes for different classes of airplane passengers, different rides at an amusement park depending on how much you pay, different treatment for platinum this, silver that. Cycling is for everyone. And you don’t have to bike across the county to be a cyclist.”
When asked how to change the anti-bike, anti-urban [and anti-public transportation] attitudes in Vancouver and Clark County, Mapes replied, “Time is one answer. It’s on your side. Fewer young people are driving, like my 25 yr-old son. He doesn’t have a car and is perfectly happy with his bike for transportation. A major shift is taking place, and you’re helping make it happen.”
Mapes also cited the recent expansion of bike sharing programs around the world and in the US as signs that cities are responding to the growing bicycle culture. “Who would have thought billionaire financier Michael Bloomberg would initiate such a program in New York City.”
In addition to adding his compliments to the group, Mapes commented on one of the challenges facing cyclists on this side of the river. “Biking over the I-5 bridge this evening in the dark was not exactly magical. It was more an assault on the senses, with moving shadows and tilting I-beams. Not a very comfortable experience to say the least.”
‘Welcome to Vancouver!’ is what we all thought. But at least, thanks to Bike Clark County and a growing bike movement on this side of the river, things are getting better.
— Madeleine von Laue is our Vancouver and Clark County correspondent. You can read more of her work here.