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Elizabeth Kiker resigns as Executive Director of Cascade and WA Bikes

Elizabeth Kiker speaks at the opening of the Cascade Bicycling Center
Elizabeth Kiker speaks at the opening of the Cascade Bicycling Center

Elizabeth Kiker has submitted her resignation as Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes. Her last day will be December 31.

“I’m proud of all that has been accomplished during my time at Cascade and Washington Bikes,” said Elizabeth in a prepared statement from Cascade (posted in full below). “We have talented and dedicated staff, board, members and partners that will achieve even greater fulfillment of our vision, bicycling for all, and our statewide mission of  improving lives through bicycling. We thank our members and supporters for their commitment to Cascade and Washington Bikes during this transition.”

Kiker was part of a wave of women in major leadership roles in bike-related organizations in the Seattle area. She oversaw some major remakes of the organization, including moving to a very fancy new office in Magnuson Park (moving the office by bike is still one of my favorite Cascade events ever) and merging with the statewide advocacy organization Washington Bikes.

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The organization’s membership and education programming have both grown under her leadership, according to the organization’s statement. And major Cascade-supported funding efforts, like the Move Seattle Levy and ST3, have passed.

Seattle Bike Blog wishes her the best in her next venture.

Kiker took the reins of a very shaky Cascade three years ago following the publicly messy departure of longtime Executive Director Chuck Ayers. Before she arrived, the Cascade Board tried to fire Ayers, prompting a member revolt that forced a mass Board resignation. Cascade had grown immensely and had gotten its hands dirty with controversial political advocacy. There was a lot of debate about the political and advocacy role of the club, which makes much of its money through essentially non-political major events. Many staffers butted heads with Board members over the issue.

Major staff shakeups started before Kiker arrived, but they didn’t slow down after she took the position. Retaining talent has remained a challenge for the organization.

Most recently, Major Taylor Project founder Ed Ewing left, which was a big loss for the organization. Other education program and advocacy staff members have also left recently.

Kiker’s departure was not related to the election of Donald Trump, but the major political reshaping happening across the nation presents interesting terrain for the organization’s search for a new Executive Director. I would love to see the organization make social justice, equity and community partnerships central guiding principles for their work going forward. Maybe if they’re lucky Ed is still available…

Here’s the full statement from Cascade:

After over three years of inspiring leadership and accomplishment, Executive Director Elizabeth Kiker has decided to move on from Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes. Her last day will be Dec. 31, 2016. On behalf of the staff and board, please join us in wishing her all the best as she transitions to the next chapter in her career. Elizabeth had a tremendous positive effect on both Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes, and her departure will be a loss for both organizations.

“We owe Elizabeth an enormous debt for all she’s achieved in three short years,” said Board Vice President Nate Glissmeyer. “Even putting together a list of her successes was awe-inspiring. She’s made such an important difference for these organizations and for bicycling across the state.”

Elizabeth brought outstanding and energetic leadership to the organizations. Her can-do attitude led us to take on and succeed with projects that would have seemed impossible to many.

Elizabeth led a gigantic $2+ million capital campaign, taking us from a dusty, damp and cramped office into our new spacious location; she created a true Bicycling Center with a first-of-its-kind traffic garden, Fix-It Garage and Ride Leader Welcome Pavilion.

She led the orchestration of a successful merger, making Cascade and Washington Bikes the largest statewide bicycle nonprofits in the nation. With the development of new 5-year strategic plans for both organizations, we are poised for continued growth and success.

Under her leadership, Cascade membership grew dramatically from 15,000 to over 17,000 people across the state. We unveiled multiple new and successful major rides, including the Emerald City Bike Ride, which had more than 7,000+ participants in its first year, and expanded the variety in our rides to attract new types of riders.

We grew our education programming more than 50 percent statewide under Elizabeth’s leadership. We pushed the passage of the Move Seattle Levy, Sound Transit 3, Bellevue Transportation Levy, and multi-modal funding statewide. We increased the reach of the Major Taylor Project. We led the charge for significant Eastside Rail Corridor funding, Missing Link advocacy and so much more. We fostered positive partnerships with communities and organizations to help make biking more accessible and inclusive — a deeply personal commitment of Elizabeth’s — most recently in our partnership with King County Parks, the YES! Foundation and the White Center Community Development Association to launch the White Center Bike Playground.

“I’m proud of all that has been accomplished during my time at Cascade and Washington Bikes,” said Elizabeth. “We have talented and dedicated staff, board, members and partners that will achieve even g reater fulfillment of our vision, b icycling for all, and our statewide mission of improving lives through bicycling. We thank our members and supporters for their commitment to Cascade and Washington Bikes during this transition.”
We all feel so deeply fortunate to have benefited from Elizabeth’s strong and effective leadership over the past three years. We thank Elizabeth for building Cascade and Washington Bikes into the successful organizations they are today. She leaves a legacy that positions us for unparalleled growth and success.

(Disclosure: My spouse Kelli works at Cascade and WA Bikes.)

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11 responses to “Elizabeth Kiker resigns as Executive Director of Cascade and WA Bikes”

  1. Chuck Ayers

    While a fan of Seattle Bike Blog, this read is short on detail and long on innuendo. I expect better from the Blog. Comments like dirty hands “with controversial political advocacy” and major staff shake up before the new ED came on board clearly mis-lead us on what was going on and do a major disservice to the staff who built CBC into the powerhouse that we all hope it still is today. There is a huge difference between why staff left 3-4 years ago—mainly to take incredible important jobs advancing their careers, bicycling, and environmental and progressive transportation issues—to what is happening today. The same can be said about the necessary evolution of the political power the Club built and hopefully the power base the Club enjoys today because we understood where our power originally emanated from so long ago. With all this said, as I told Elizabeth when she kindly called to let me personally know she had resigned, I wish both her and Cascade well.

  2. Eric Shalit

    More in depth info please. Why is she leaving? People want to know what’s going on at CHC even though CBC doesn’t want people to know.

    1. Chuck Ayers

      RE: Eric’s post

      It’s almost never a good idea for an organization to totally air dirty laundry, as I should know after 17 years of heading up Cascade. But they need to come clean. There’s people’s and organizational reputations on the line and one must be careful—and kind. Disclosure-nondisclosure is a fine line to walk. Being extreme on either can come back to bite you big time and lead to unintended consequences for both individuals and organizations. Maybe there is no dirty laundry here. However, on the one hand, I thought it’s was the Bike Blog’s mission to investigate and report news and do more than just tow the corporate line if you will (be it Cascade’s, the City’s, or any other entity’s). If so, they failed pretty badly here in reporting some news but no insight (as Eric asks “More Insight please”). Furthermore, what was reported was wrapped in either their personal opinion or, alternatively, the board’s and they let it go at that. On the other hand, it might be the Bike Blog’s mission to only report and not investigate particularly regarding ally organizations.

      As for the issue of “More in depth info…”, reading Cascade’s board announcement of Elizabeth’s departure is a bit disconcerting in it’s over-the-top acculades—but really, what do you want them to say? Clearly she did some good things at CBC but the fit just wasn’t there. I think she has a kind heart and cares deeply about Cascade specifically and the bicycle movement in general. Regardless, while all kinds of stories and speculation will fly about, many will know the real story behind her departure. It doesn’t serve Elizabeth, the board, nor Cascade well to totally gloss over “the rest of the story.”

      1. Brian Bothomley

        Chuck, I really miss the days when you were the ED at the club! You really told it like it was and now tell it like it is. All the best to you.

  3. William

    Why is Ms. Kiker leaving? It is not uncommon for capable executives to move on after a short period but it is usually either because they have got a better job or something is going on behind the scenes. I agree with Chuck Ayers that it would be nice to get more detail, although not with his characterization that this rather innocuous article is full of innuendo.

  4. Kirk

    I think Tom is trying to stay as neutral as he can, especially with the consideration that his spouse currently works at the CBC. That CBC participated in controversial political advocacy in the past is not an exaggeration. During those years, I was very turned off by the messages and tactics used by CBC. I let my membership lapse years ago because of that and have only recently became a member again.

  5. Chuck Ayers

    Tom: call me and let’s talk.

  6. Lamar

    Many will remember that I was a volunteer and ride leader at Cascade for over thirteen years. I suffered through a lot of turmoil with the staff during the latter year’s of Chuck’s tenure. I really had high hopes for Elizabeth as a successor to Chuck and was hoping to continue my service and support her in the transition until I experienced her ‘blind’ following of the Board’s dictates regarding firing of long-time staff. I abruptly quit after three months when going into the office became too painful because there was no continuity due to the firing of almost all of the major staff members (because they were Chuck’s supporters?). When I left, I predicted that Elizabeth would leave within five years. In my opinion, ‘the dye was cast’ in those first few months. As I told her when she asked me about my leaving, I liked her as a person but did not like her actions. Her departure now does not surprise me. I have no basis to express an opinion about the state of Cascade as she departs.

  7. I wish Ms. Kiker well and thank her for her work at Cascade. I don’t know what brought about her resignation, but it’s got to be tough to manage the recreational and advocacy wings of the organization.

    I sincerely hope that the next ED will be able harness Cascade’s huge membership potential to achieve more tangible advocacy results.

    Issues like legislating a presumption of liability against drivers who collide with pedestrians or bicyclists should not be ignored. We need to work to work together to make our streets safer for everyone.

    Cascade is already bringing people together and its rides are legendary; but, from my perspective at least, its next leader needs to be able to focus its membership on action beyond recreation.

  8. […] Stepping down: Elizabeth Kiker steps down from Cascade Bicycle Club and WA Bikes. […]

  9. Janette johnson

    When reporting on Cascade events many forget that there was a late spring and full summer time lag between the leaving of Chuck Ayers and the arrival of Elizabeth Kiker. The temporary executive director, who was a board member, started to make changes in personnel including job descriptions and causing staff to leave. All this had nothing to do with Chuck Ayers and did continue within 10 days of Elisabeth Kiker’s arrival. The chronology of these events are in error every time I read a narrative written by people who were not in the office during that interval or have summarized and condensed what they have heard second or third hand.

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