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Breaking through ‘legislative gridlock’: Bipartisan Bike Ride tours Seattle

IMG_2547I called it Congressional Mass. Then someone next to me joked it should be called Legislative Gridlock. But the 150 or so state legislators and I were on bikes, so we actually moved through downtown and around Lake Union quite smoothly.

Seattle is hosting the National Conference of State Legislators this week, and Thursday morning was the annual Bipartisan Bike Ride hosted by Bike Texas with local support from Washington Bikes (and some folks from Pronto, Cascade). Barb Culp, who helped organize the very first ride 11 years ago in Seattle as Director of the Bicycle Alliance of Washington, was the ride’s sweep.

One of the Washington legislative hosts was Rep. Ed Orcutt (R–Kalama), which was great. He was very nice even after I told him who I was. I wrote a story a few years ago that didn’t make his look great. He apologized and tried to take it back, but it was too late and the story blew up worldwide. The Internet can be ruthless.

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So given the rough time he got from the bike world, I thought it was very cool of him to help host a bike ride in Seattle. He even thanked me for being there to volunteer. That’s pretty classy. I probably would have punched me.

The Washington State hosts (Orcutt is third from the left)
The Washington State hosts (Orcutt is third from the left)

The ride had a police escort part of the way, so legislators filled the downtown streets. It was like an early morning critical mass, except the police were helping and the participants were nearly all elected officials. Pretty fun! Biking through South Lake Union is definitely less stressful with a police escort (unfortunately, that’s not a sustainable bike safety strategy).

IMG_2520 IMG_2548There were legislators with all levels of bike experience. As a volunteer, I had the chance to hang back with some folks who weren’t quite ready for Seattle’s hills. You live here and you get used to them, but for people from much of the country they look (and feel) like mountains.

So did the ride totally solve entrenched partisan bickering in state houses all over the country? Eh, probably not. But at least folks from both parties got to have fun together biking around Seattle. That’s gotta do something.


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8 responses to “Breaking through ‘legislative gridlock’: Bipartisan Bike Ride tours Seattle”

  1. rob_kp

    Perhaps they might be inspired to attempt a similar ride as a solo rider during rush hour? Now that should be enlightening!

    1. spot on. If our leaders attempted a commute through downtown at peak traffic without a police escort, we might have a different tone in Olympia. Some of what currently passes for bike infrastructure might look different too.

  2. Harrison Davignon

    Maybe this will spark a major step in the right direction as far as promoting bicycle riding. I understand why the bicycle movement is complicated. Our city was built well before a bicycle movement was ever started, and the 1900s were horse and carriages and the automobile craze, so switching existing infrastructure to bike friendly is not easy, Different needs and wants for everyone , someone might see bicycle as a means of recreation, not want the city to waste money on bike racks, that could be used for trials, bike I see the bicycle as transportation and recreation, so I want a safe place to lock my bicycle to. Big oil, our tax money is given to big oil as a gift of sorts, so less money for bicycle infrastructure and they don’t want to loose there billions to a bunch bicycles on the road( they also pay politicians to be on there side). Sadly like bicycle supporters, there is a group of anti cyclist, who stop it nothing to get rid of us. Finally some people have not embraced the bicycle as a means of transportation. So maybe if these types of rides keep up, we will drill it into business owners, politicians that there a big group of bicycle riders out there.

    1. Doug

      The 1890s (a time when most of what we think of Seattle was virgin cedar forest) were the original bike craze. In many places the reason they started paving roads was because of bicycle advocacy. Madison square garden was originally a velodrome for six day races. All the original race car drivers of the turn of the century started their career as bicycle racers. Many of the Olmsted routes in Seattle — still lovely to ride after all these years — are initially most popular with bicycles.

      Then cars became popular and we forgot about bikes.

  3. Meredith

    I ran into this group while bike commuting this morning, brave to ride them through Downtown, Dexter, and the Mercer mess. I was happy to see so many folks on bicycles though. The police didn’t really seem to know what to do about regular cycle commuters though :)

  4. Point 83 had a glow stick slip and slide disaster bike ride party tonight.

  5. Southeasterner

    Bruce Dammeier (R – Puyallup) was one of the hosts? There is name that almost never comes up in the context of cycling. Did you have a chance to speak with him? I swear I saw him on STP last year and I’m wondering if he is the reason why the state senate Republicans were open to expanding funding for bike/ped projects in the latest revenue package.

    1. Bruce Dammeier I and I rode together part of the way. He’s ridden in France and I believe has done STP. I consider him a generally serious person in the Legislature, open to making deals that make sense for all parts of the state. Mostly he works on school funding issues. Not sure if he was part of the end-game on the transportation package.

      This was without a doubt the slowest bike ride I’ve ever been on. I averaged something in the 7 MPH range. I apologize to the commuters, particularly as we rode on a short part of the Burke Gilman and took up too much space.

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