New club aims to connect bicyclists
September 7, 2010
By Laura Geggel
Almost every day, Paul Winterstein commutes the 12.5 miles from his house on Squak Mountain to his workplace in Redmond.
He began biking to work in 2008, after two of his four children got their drivers’ licenses. Instead of buying another car, he decided to bicycle to work, rain or shine. Bicycling helps keep him fit and be a good role model for his children, he said.
The more he used local roads to bike to work, the more he noticed how road construction affected his safety and route.
With road changes happening frequently, Winterstein decided to start an Issaquah Bicycle Club that would unite the area’s bicyclists, helping give them a voice at Issaquah City Council meetings and a presence in the community.
The group could also organize rides, share bicycling tips and bring people together, giving bicyclists a stronger unified identity, much like hikers who belong to the Issaquah Alps Trails Club.
Kent Peterson, an Issaquah bicyclist who works as a bike technician at the Bicycle Center of Issaquah, said he enjoyed mountain biking and that he looked forward to joining the club.
“There are certain roads that are better riding on than others,” Peterson said. “It’s nice to have a place where you can share that knowledge with other people.”
Having a visible bicycle club would also help bicyclists stay abreast of road construction proposals going through City Hall.
“If there’s an organization, we can make sure someone goes to the City Council meeting to say, ‘Hey, people bike this,’” he said.
Winterstein would like the club’s participants to be aware of potential road construction, so they could give their input to City Council members early in the decision-making process.
“Often times, there are ways to meet with city officials much earlier in the process,” Winterstein said. “This is how things get done.”
The group would target young and old, men and women, and mountain and road bikers.
Winterstein recently visited Europe, and found bicycling was integrated into many cities. He said he would like to see bicycling safety and identity more incorporated into Issaquah’s culture, as well as city decisions regarding road and trail construction.
The bike club would not be the only such club in the area. The group Getting Around Issaquah Together — called GAIT — already promotes walking, bicycling and bus riding as ways of getting around the city.
GAIT founder Jeff Youngstrom said he liked how the bike club included both recreational and commuter bicyclists.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “Paul’s tapping into a need that GAIT doesn’t cover — the more social aspect of bicycle culture and engagement, like organized rides.”
Another group, the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, works statewide to help bicyclists find places to ride. The alliance works with landowners and managers to build trails, builds and maintains biking trails, and educates mountain bikers with biking boot camps and trail-building clinics.
The alliance helped build the Duthie Hill Park for mountain bikers, as well as the Interstate 5 Colonnade Mountain Bike Park in Seattle.
Winterstein said he was unsure how the Issaquah Bike Club would work with GAIT or the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, but said it would evolve depending on its members’ needs. After the group’s first meeting at the Issaquah REI, the group will decide if it wants to meet weekly, monthly or online.
Issaquah mountain biker Tony Cowan said the club could help the movement to build a mountain-bike skills area in the highlands.
Overall, Winterstein said he just wants to raise awareness about bicycling and encourage more people to ride.
“It’s more doable than they realize,” he said. “Sometimes, people just need an invitation.”
Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.