Bike advocacy on the other side of the west hills from Portland has gone through a lot of changes in the past few months.
The nonprofit Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition changed their name to WashCo Bikes back in May and this week they’ve announced their first-ever executive director.
Portland-based author Joe Kurmaskie is set to take the helm of the 13-year-old organization. WashCo Bikes was first formed in 1998 as a chapter of The Street Trust (known back then as the Bicycle Transportation Alliance). Until know, WashCo Bikes had run all their summer bike camps, an adopt-a-bike program and community events with only volunteers. “We have reached a point in our organization’s evolution where, to fulfill our mission and goals, and strive for further overall growth, we need the professional expertise and focus of a paid staff,” read a WashCo Bikes email sent out today.
Kurmaskie is known by many as the Metal Cowboy, the name of a series of popular books about his many bicycle touring adventures. He’s also a nationally recognized speaker and has led youth bike camps throughout the Portland area. In 2016 we reported that he put those camps on hold due to safety concerns on the Springwater Corridor.
As leader of WashCo Bikes, Kurmaskie will face the formidable challenge of building an advocacy coalition across 16 cities and communities — many of which are criss-crossed by highways and large arterials with classic suburban land-use patterns. “I’m pumped to invigorate the suburbs and outlying communities west of Portland with exciting new programs while expanding quality existing ones,” Kurmaskie shared in an announcement he posted to Facebook. “Yes, this is an uphill, herculean challenge that I absolutely relish,” he added.
Kurmaskie is no stranger to local bike and transportation activism. In 2007 he helped organized the “We Are All Traffic” rally that followed the deaths of Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek, he created the One Million Bicycles initiative, and was one of the speakers at an anti-Columbia River Crossing project rally in 2009. More recently, Kurmaskie started IronItOut.org, an effort to increase awareness of hemochromatosis, a genetic disorder he suffers from that leads to an overload of iron in the body.
Among his immediate goals for WashCo Bikes, Kurmaskie says he wants to rebrand WashCo Bikes’ summer camp program, launch a new holiday ride, push to bring a Sunday Parkways-style event to Washington County, and more.
Stay tuned for more from Kurmaskie. For now, you can learn more about WashCo Bikes and become a member on their website.
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