Dad who helped grow Seattle’s bike to school movement passes away. RIP Clint Loper

The Loper family. Photo from a 2012 Cascade Bicycle Club profile.

The Loper family. Photo from a 2012 Cascade Bicycle Club profile.

The day I first met Clint Loper, he was surrounded by an endless sea of kids biking off a Top Pot doughnut on their way to class at Bryant Elementary. Nearly a quarter of the school’s students biked to class on Bike to School Day 2013, an astounding and jaw-dropping increase from the dozen or so who biked just a few years earlier.

Clint passed away Wednesday after a two-month battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia. He leaves behind his wife Leslie and children Berkeley and Emmie.

Clint was a kind, open-hearted force for change in his community, inspiring school communities across Seattle and helping them through Walk.Bike.Schools, an organization he helped start. I know he and his family also have other strong communities, but I mostly knew the Loper family through their bike to school work.

Longtime readers of this blog may know Clint best as Seattle Bike Blog’s Bike to School Expert. Since hearing that he passed, I’ve spent much of the day re-reading his posts and crying. Like this heartfelt post he wrote in April 2013 in the wake of a tragic collision on NE 75th Street outside Eckstein Middle School where he was so active in safe streets work. Clint was still processing such a big loss in his community, so it’s oddly comforting and inspiring to read it as we deal with losing him.

I’ve also been searching for photos of him, but instead keep finding pictures packed with kids all biking to school together. Clint isn’t usually pictured because he’s behind the camera, helping to create the space for those kids and encouraging their parents to join the bike to school revolution.

Though I’ve sat with Clint through many meetings (in addition to co-founding Walk.Bike.Schools and NE Seattle Greenways he also served on Seattle’s Bicycle Advisory Board), it’s those mornings with neighborhood kids biking together, smiling and happy on their way to school, that will be my lasting image of him.

Thank you for being so open, sharing and encouraging, Clint. You helped incite the cutest, most heart-melting transportation revolution Seattle has ever seen.

I am holding his family and close friends in my thoughts.

Here’s an excerpt from his very first post, describing how much he loved those simple bike rides to school with his kids:

Biking has so many awesome experiences. Cruising down a sweetly paved mountain road at high speed, making it through a challenging stretch of singletrack without dabbing, jumping on the pedals when the bell lap starts at the local criterium or ‘cross race. Or just the epic daily Seattle commute, getting from here to there safely and efficiently all year long.

I’ve tried most of those and dabbled in lots of other bikey adventures too. But having been involved in many aspects of biking and bike culture over the years, I’ve found that nothing is as fun and inspiring as riding to school with a kid. Or even better with a bunch of kids! The sights and sounds of dozens of kids getting to school under their own power are not to be missed.

Rest in peace, Clint.

Clint on the bullhorn during Bike to School Day 2013. Photo by Rebecca Nelson at Ravenna Blog, used with permission.

Clint on the bullhorn during Bike to School Day 2013. Photo by Rebecca Nelson at Ravenna Blog, used with permission.

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32 Responses to Dad who helped grow Seattle’s bike to school movement passes away. RIP Clint Loper

  1. M.J. says:

    RIP, Clint. You were a good person and will be missed. I’m shocked and deeply saddened to read this.

  2. merlin says:

    Oh no, Tom, this is terribly sad news! I had the delightful privilege of meeting Clint through Cascade’s Advocacy Leadership Institute, where we were classmates, and serving with Clint on the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board. He was a consistently positive, open-hearted presence in the bike advocacy world. Too sad.

  3. Jeff says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Clint on the Seattle Bike Advisory Board and he was a true leader in the Seattle bike community. My thoughts are with him and his family.

  4. Alyssa says:

    Thanks for writing this piece on Clint, Tom. Clint’s enthusiasm and attitude encouraged me to be an active ” bike mom” in my community. He’s going to be missed by so many people. I’ll be keeping him and his family in my thoughts.

  5. Ballard_Mark says:

    Tom – thank you for the post about Clint – I knew him as an advocate for people, rivers, farmers, fish, his employees, people he hardly knew, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and importantly bicycling to school. He inspired my family into bicycle activism, to start a bike to school program, and to engage others to create a common vision knowing that better things are possible if we work together. In all these arenas he had a peaceful, methodical, relentless, and compelling ability to press forward. He always had the long game in mind.

    I texted him pictures on Tuesday from the rally at city hall and he wrote back “That is awesome! Gotta love a bike-in!”

    Our thoughts to Leslie, Berkeley and Emmie

  6. Jessi says:

    I met Clint a few years ago, through bike to school activities. What a great person. I’ll miss seeing him at the library.

  7. Anne King says:

    Thank you Tom. This is a beautiful tribute. Clint is already terribly missed.

    Clint was a humble, calm and steady force in Seattle’s bike to school movement. So many bike-to-school traditions, that live on in NE Seattle and beyond, started with Clint and Leslie. I know Leslie and the kids will enjoy reading this post and comments. Thank you for writing. it. (I have pictures of Clint — I will dig them up and post them.) xoxo.

  8. Theresa says:

    I met Clint in Cascades first Advocacy Leadership Institute. He was such a kind hearted man who was so passionate in getting kids on bikes that it rubbed off on so many others. He helped me write my first grant at Denny and I will forever be grateful for his help. I am so sorry to hear of his passing. My condolences to his family.

  9. Cathy Tuttle says:

    I knew Clint as a good, warm-hearted, creative advocate for children, biking, and safe routes to school. I will miss him, as will Seattle. Sincere condolences to his family.

  10. Don Brubeck says:

    This is so shocking and so sad. I will really miss Clint. Like Merlin and Theresa, I met Clint through Cascade’s Advocacy Leadership Institute. He inspired me to get involved in bike advocacy. He led the way at Bryant with his friendly, happy enthusiasm, and showed us how to make something really take off and grow by being welcoming and just getting out there and doing it. Carpe diem. Who knows how much time we have?

  11. Frank Fulton says:

    My wife, my boys, and I had the pleasure of meeting Clint and Leslie just as they were getting the Eckstein Rides! Program off the ground, and gratefully spent more than our fair share of time in their orbit. Clint’s knowledge, commitment, and passion underpinned every part of the un-funded, burgeoning bike to school program, and in no time at all he had a critical mass of kids riding into the lot for Biker Donut Days.

    Clint was endlessly enthusiastic and optimistic, and he had that rare ability to make any small act seem vital, even inevitable. He would ride up on his blue Bianchi (or some other interesting machine), trailer full of tables, doughnuts, paper cups, hot cider and chocolate, signage, napkins, knives, etc., and set it all up before 7:00 so when that first kid arrived on a crisp fall morning, Biker Donut Day was on. He cleaned bike cages, wrote grants, organized school and parent meetings, wrangled bicycle rodeos, hosted repair workshops, coordinated outreach programs with local bike shops, made sure every kid who needed one had a helmet, light, and rear blinker, and somehow found a way to make riding a bike to school ‘cool’ in middle school.

    I still ride and run past the Loper home regularly and I always pass with a feeling of gratitude and admiration. Clint, along with his wife Leslie and their daughters, lived the kind of life that makes a community better. I am saddened to hear of his passing, my thoughts are with Leslie, Berkeley, and Emmie, and I am grateful to have been, at least for a little while, a fellow traveler on the road to a place where bike fairies roam, kids and bikes rule, and everything is possible if you just listen, learn, cooperate, and give your best. Thank you, Clint. It mattered.

    • Tim King says:

      Frank, your orbit is bigger and longer than you remember. You actually probably met him at Fiets of Parenthood (and I think you were at that very first Walk.Bike.Schools brainstorm session, too). You had the bakfiets full of icy water and he & Les built that non-sanctioned, but very fun obstacle course — nobody made a teeter-totter like Clint!

    • Jessica Levine says:

      Frank, and Tim,
      Thank you for articulating what I’m struggling to find words for.
      Clint called me his “insider”–the bike commuting teacher at Eckstein who helped get things done. The Lopers are a gift to the Bike to School community, to my community, and to the joys of my bike commute. Without them, and other rock stars in this universe Frank mentions, we at Eckstein could not have the vibrant Bike to School program, the hope, and the joys that Clint inspired. I am deeply grateful that I’ve been able to share the bike lane with him for this journey. I am deeply crushed by this sad news. My thoughts are with Leslie, Berkeley, and Emmie; may his memory remain a blessing. Clint, we will carry your legacy forward.

  12. Tim King says:

    Thank you, Tom, for posting this. I’m sure his family will appreciate having a place to to come and read nice stories. Keep them coming folks!

    Clint, as so many of you have mentioned, was at the forefront of family biking in Seattle. He was huge believer in the power of a strong Bike to School movement — yeah, us grownups may be a little slow on the uptake but if we get kids on bikes they’ll show us — and our civic leader — what is important!

    I’m glad Anne and I had the opportunity to work closely with him on so many worthwhile NE Seattle projects (Bike to Bryant, Walk.Bike.Schools, Fiets of Parenthood, NE Greenways, Eckstein Bikes, and so on). He took that energy city wide through his work on the Seattle Bike Board and we’ve all benefited! Clint will be (he already is!) missed.

  13. Shannon Koller says:

    Heartbroken to have lost this beloved member of the Seattle bike community. Clint Loper was the first person who I connected with to talk about my crackpot idea to change the way that kids get to school in my neighborhood. I could not have found a better mentor, friend, or connection to the already-robust Bike to School movement in Seattle. As I watched dozens of kids stream into my neighborhood elementary school this morning on bikes, thinking about the 3000+ students in the area that are riding their bikes during Bike Month, I smile and think about Clint and the kid-powered revolution he helped to spark. Clint and I share the same favorite holiday–Bike to School Day. How fitting that our last words to each other were on and about Bike to School Day. Clint said “It was really inspiring this morning to see kids in my neighborhood streaming up the hill toward Top Pot for the annual BTS Day bike ride to Bryant, and knowing that Jessica and Heather and Robin were hosting kid bikers at Eckstein too! And knowing there was a lot more of the same going on around the city and region. Seeing so many kids and families on bikes today made my day! Can’t tell you how much days like today with huge numbers of smiling kids on bikes help to keep my spirits high! Well done today everyone! Cheers and Happy Biking!” Ride on, Clint, ride on.

  14. Stephanie Frans says:

    It is altogether fitting, and beyond bittersweet, to honor Clint on this the eve of Bike Everywhere Day. His encouragement has inspired countless* people to get around by bicycle. And his advocacy has ensured that we are all safer as we bike everywhere, be it to school or work or dance class or city council hearings. His support of a newbie commuter changed not only my commute, but my career path. And ultimately has gotten hundreds of people biking everywhere. The legacy of kind and encouraging person sharing their love of bicycling.

    These days I am a stay-at-home mom, distraught by the traffic mayhem at our school and wanting to encourage biking and walking to school. Lately I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and ineffective in the face of safety barriers, equity challenges, institutional push-back, and my own busyness.

    So as I too sat here all evening crying and reading all Clint’s posts, I was inspired by something he said in regard to the tragedy on NE 75th Street. The loss of such a wonderful person is also a tragedy and “… a clear reminder of the need for all of us …. to rededicate ourselves to rebuilding this city into one with safer streets that work for all of us.”

  15. Max Hepp-Buchanan says:

    From over here in Richmond, VA, my heart goes out to Clint’s family and the Seattle safe streets movement. Clint was the freakin’ man and we’ll all miss him very much. We’ve lost someone very special. RIP, Clint.

  16. Kristen Lohse says:

    What an incredible heartbreak. Clint, you will be missed, and we are so appreciative for the energy you put into making our city better for biking, and for biking with kids. You definitely furthered my family’s love of biking….will remember fondly our days biking on tandems with kids on back. My family’s heart breaks for Leslie, Emmie and Berkeley.

  17. Dave White says:

    My wife Jean and I had the rare privilege of both working with Clint in our day jobs, and participating in bicycle advocacy work with him. He was admirable in so many ways, someone you love sharing your world with. I believe made the most of every minute giving so much back to the communities he touched — the regional environment, the bicycling community, schools, and his extensive community of family and friends.
    We are all better for knowing and having Clint, and will miss him terribly.

  18. Tim Tetrault says:

    So sad to hear this. I used to hang with Clint when I worked at Eckstein and his older daughter attended. Unforgettable guy.

  19. Chuck Ayers says:

    😢 may the people Clint touched – particularly the kids – continue his journey of cycling through life with love and light. My deepest sympathy to his family and dear friends.

  20. Pingback: Thank You, Clint Loper – Wedgwood Community Council

  21. Laura Gordon says:

    Thanks for writing about Clint. He was a great dad. The memory that comes to my mind is of him patiently driving gaggles of giggling girls to so many activities.
    Another aspect of Clint’s community involvement was supporting oldest daughter Berkeley, who is a dancer and actor at Roosevelt High School. Clint was a kind and dedicated member of the RHS theater booster club.
    Berkeley has a spotlight role in Roosevelt’s “Sweeney Todd,” which opens Thursday, May 26. Despite the tragic and sudden loss of her dad, she is pushing on in the show. It would be wonderful if fans of Clint could attend to applaud her in his honor.
    And to help Leslie navigate a future without Clint’s guiding hand, the RHS theatre boosters are raising funds to cover some of the family’s immediate expenses and longterm legal and financial planning.
    If you would like to contribute, you can do so easily and securely through this link: http://www.rhstheatre.net/#!donate/c1ck9. Just write “Loper family donation” in the message box before checking out. Or you can mail to AFORD, PO Box 15886, Seattle WA 98115. (AFORD stands for Associated Friends of Roosevelt Drama.)
    Thank you to everyone for your support of the Loper family, be it monetary or otherwise — it is all equally important.

  22. John Toll says:

    I had the honor and great pleasure of spending a lot of time with Clint and his family over the years. People should know that he was a remarkably gentle, enthusiastic and committed husband, father and community leader. I’m better for having known him and his family. Had I a brother I’d have wanted him to be like Clint.

  23. Steve Kennedy says:

    I served with Clint on the Seattle Bike Board. His voice was always informed, reasonable, and helpful to whatever issue was being dealt with. I really enjoyed working with him. It was a shock to hear he is gone. My heart goes out to his family.

  24. Serena says:

    I first met Clint five or six years ago when I joined the Bryant Bike group. He was always up for a conversation–whether at school or out biking in the neighborhood, and I’d inevitable leave the conversation feeling better and ready to get moving! I’m not surprised to read these comments and find I was hardly unique in feeling encouraged and welcomed by Clint into the biking community. He was also a great sport–my kids will remember him as the “Bike Wizard,” not to be outdone by the infamous Bike Fairy. I’ve been too busy to bike as much as I’d like lately, but his death is a shocking reminder of the gift of life. I canceled my morning meetings to bike to school with my daughter on this Bike To School Day. Clint leaves a legacy that continues to energize us all to hop on our bikes. Sending my deepest condolences to Leslie and the girls.

  25. Jack Nolan says:

    Condolences to Leslie and family. What a kick in the gut.

  26. Robin Randels says:

    Thanks Tom for posting this.
    I had the pleasure of working with Clint in the early days of Walk, Bike, Schools. He was always innovating new ways to encourage more kids to ride bikes and always upbeat.
    He will be sorely missed in every community he touched.

  27. Stephanie Lucash says:

    A beautiful post. I am reeling from this news about Clint’s passing. I had the privilege to work with Clint for many years in his day job, and know how much he will be missed by that community as well. His wife and daughters are in my thoughts.

  28. Kevin O'Neill says:

    I’m so sad to hear about this. I really enjoyed working with Clint while he was on the Bike Board on the BMP. He was a smart, savvy, effective advocate, and a really great guy. I also know what a devoted dad he was. RIP, Clint.

  29. Jo says:

    Thanks for this wonderful tribute and for all the comments. I have returned here repeatedly to read them yearning for more tales of the impact Clint had far and wide on all of us lucky enough to know him. I was fortunate to work with Clint, although far too briefly. During his battle with leukemia I was in nearly daily contact with him and on the morning of the Eckstein MS bike to school day I thought it appropriate to share some of Clint’s reactions in his own words to this year’s May 4th bike to school day from a series of back and forth texts he and I shared. These were a challenging two months, but he found great joy watching the stream of kids bike by his house on the way to Top Pot donuts, and eventually school, that day.

    Clint: “A big highlight today was seeing the stream of kids and families riding to school here in the ‘hood on Bike to School Day! We have a pretty good bike to school culture going in these parts and it was awesome and inspiring to see kids and parents out in force during the morning school commute. Good stuff.”

    Me: “Rumor has it you and Leslie have quite a bit to do with that ‘pretty good bike to school culture’. Thanks for the work you’ve done to get young folks psyched to ride! Did your girls ride today?”

    Clint: “Well, rumors abound. The great thing is to see it all continuing like it is just how our ‘hood does things now! Of course there are other parents who have now taken up the torch and they are awesome leaders that help make it look more effortless than it is! But man it is inspiring and the kids have so much fun with it – especially elementary. Berks rode today. She has been riding up a storm.”

    Me: “I love your humility regarding the bike to school movement. On first read it almost came across like you are some old timer reminiscing about years long ago. It probably has been what a year or two since you ‘passed the torch’? Funny.”

    Clint: “Ah, shucks. Guess you’re right. Actually I only ‘passed the torch’ (more like dropped the ball, but fortunately others picked it up) this year at Eckstein MS due to my unexpected Spring. So it’s actually kind of bittersweet and weird not to feel up to being more directly involved. I’m helping a wee little bit behind the scenes when I can manage to. Friend and now lead of BTS at Bryant elementary (where we ‘graduated’ 3 yrs ago) dropped off a new sticker they had made this year. You might enjoy it.” (He inserted a photo of the sticker, but I can’t figure out how to do that here.)

    Me: “Love the sticker! And you are way too funny with your definition of torch passing! You will be back with a vengeance next year after (partially) sitting this one out and maybe you’ll come up with some new ideas due to the break. And of course no one thinks you dropped the ball! Thanks for the chuckle and the refreshing humbleness.”

    Sadly the time has come to officially pass the torch. I was wrong in some ways about Clint being back next year, though his legacy will live on through the continued growth of BTS day (and in many, many other ways). I plan to honor Clint in the future by getting our soon-to-be-adopted son biking to school when the time comes and fostering a fun BTS culture in West Seattle. I am sure others in this community will do the same. And I know Clint will be smiling and inspired as those young bikers go rolling by. We miss you Clint. So very, very much.

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