24 September 2018

Mile after Mile at Swan Creek Park

What a day at Swan Creek Park! We rolled in at sun-up to setup for Century Swan, an attempt at 100 one-mile laps on the paved roads of the Lister Uplands. About ten riders set off around 8:30am. Not all of us we're aiming for 100, but we all needed an early start.

It was pretty cool. There were riders on road bikes, city bikes, kid bikes, mountain bikes, and even one fixed gear bike. One friend came out to take photos and others brought kids and dogs to just hang-out and cheer us on. With the support tent fully stocked, we rolled on into the afternoon with plenty of breaks.

The miles started taking their toll around 2pm. Some folks had reached their goals, some were adding a few bonus miles, and others were trying to dig deep to find a second wind. We were still smiling though! At lap 54, I hooked up the trailer and took my kindergartner for a few slow laps and somehow that helped get my legs ready for another 10 laps on my own.

By 4pm the little kids had all gone home, our fixed gear rider finally threw in the towel at lap 81, and only one person could still pull off the century. Jeremy rode the last two laps on his own and completed the first ever Century Swan! 

It was rad. We each set our own goal, we each set our own pace, but we all still rode together on this tiny course. 

Here are some take-aways:
  1. If you bring a pop-up tent, it's officially a major event.
  2. Daniel can carry that pop-up tent on his road bike handlebars.
  3. Invite everyone.
  4. Figure out who you didn't invite so you can invite them next time.
  5. There will be another Century Swan!

06 August 2018

Century Swan

You all want to ride bikes on Sunday September 23rd? I found a one mile paved loop at Swan Creek Park and I'm going to attempt 100 laps. It's nearly flat, closed to cars, and mostly wooded - the perfect Century Swan! I'll be there at 8am by the pump track with a pop-up tent, chairs, water, tools, tubes, snacks, and hopefully a bunch of you to share the day with. Ride as much or as little as you want - it's not a race - just a reason to show Swan Creek Park some extra love. 

Some Details
Swan Creek Park is the second largest in Tacoma. It's enormous. There was a housing project here in the 1940s, which was razed in the 1950s. The roads remain and the housing blocks are filled with trees. Mountain bike trails have been built in recent years, but the roads are great for folks trying to put in some saddle time without getting too far from their home in Tacoma.

One perimeter lap of the purple area shown above is a nearly perfect mile and there's only 25 feet of elevation gain/drop per lap. There's just enough downhill to coast a bit and just enough uphill that you may want to shift once or twice. 

The best part is that, for now, the park is closed to motorized vehicle traffic. For folks who are new to cycling, especially families that want their youngsters to work on handling and learning some Rules of the Road, this space is perfect.

Access to the park is somewhat limited. You can enter around a gate by the Lister Elementary parking lot or from a paved path at the Swan Creek Community Garden parking lot (porta-potty at this entrance also). The dot on the map above is by the pump track and the mtb trailhead (also a porta-potty location.) You can also reach Swan Creek Park on Pierce Transit Route 41.

Leave a comment if you think you can join me!

17 November 2017

It's Time to Fund and Implement our Safe Routes to School Plan: An Open Letter to the Tacoma City Council

[I emailed this letter on 17 November, 2017, but felt it was worth sharing publicly here. To find out more about how you can advocate for better Safe Routes to School programming in Tacoma, visit Puyallup Watershed Initiative's website. -Matt]

Subject: Please support funding for a full-time Safe Routes to School Coordinator

Dear Mayor Strickland, Tacoma City Council, and City Manager Pauli,

My family and I request that you please fund a full-time Safe Routes to School Coordinator position in 2018 as part of the mid-biennium budget process. 

As a parent of three children, I've been walking and biking to our neighborhood schools, Grant Elementary and Jason Lee Middle School, nearly every day for 8 years. We prefer using active transportation for our school commute for many reasons: fun, exercise, fresh air, less pollution, and the chance meet and know the neighbors in our community. However, even as some of the the fortunate few in Tacoma who don't leave our neighborhood, we still struggle daily with traffic dangers around the schools. 

As a ride leader for Kidical Mass Tacoma, I have coached kids and their families on bike safety and the Rules of the Road. Our public family bike rides have happened all over Tacoma, including many areas that are underserved by bicycle infrastructure. By using school playgrounds as stopping points on our rides, I've noticed the safety challenges that many Tacoma children face when walking or biking to school. I've also talked to many parents who want to walk and bike to school with their children, but don't feel it's safe. Their concerns are valid: there is a child hit by a car every eight days in the City of Tacoma while walking or biking, with crashes concentrated in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Over the past two years, the community came together with the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, the Puyallup Watershed Initiative Active Transportation COI, and countless partners, to develop the Safe Routes to School Action Plan, outlining what’s needed to address this safety crisis.

The top recommendation in the plan is for the City of Tacoma to fund and hire a full-time Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Coordinator. Without this position, there will be no one to work with the community to identify where safety improvements are needed, develop and distribute maps highlighting safe walking and bicycling routes to schools, support parents and school staff to organize SRTS programs and events, or implement the other action items outlined in the plan.

Again, on behalf of my family and the many pedal parents I have met through Kidical Mass Tacoma, please fund the Safe Routes to School Coordinator position so students and their families can get the resources and support they need and deserve.

With sincere thanks,

Matt Newport
Ride Leader/Pedal Parent
Kidical Mass Tacoma

Bike Rodeo Skills Course sponsored by Grant PTA

We should not need to depend on signs like this one. 

Even middle schoolers can enjoy riding to school!

5th graders at Grant can volunteer as crossing guards.

SRTS events can boost active transportation involvement and reduce car traffic

The City of Tacoma did include the funding necessary for the SRTS Coordinator in the proposed adjusted mid-biennium budget. Below is a screen shot of the presentation slide shown at the Nov. 28, 2017, City Council meeting.

24 January 2017

You'll Bike Tacoma Patches

In case you missed out last time, I ordered more You'll Bike Tacoma patches. 

Second verse, same as the first: 1"x4" iron-on, glow-in-the dark letters, made by Falls Creek Outfitters in the USA, five dollars each. Proceeds will go to local charities that help kids. Stop me on the sidewalk or drop me a line if you need this.

Thanks again to Joe Korbuszewski for collaborating!

#Cascadia #Bike253

16 November 2016

TWBC Legacy

About a year ago, I was talking with a neighbor and amateur historian about what I knew of Tacoma's bicycle history.  Specifically, I referenced the "World's Longest Highest and Only Exclusive Bicycle Bridge in the World" that was built by the Tacoma Wheelmen in the 1890's. To my surprise, he not only knew of the bridge, but owned an original copy of Scientific American from May 8, 1897, that highlighted this very bridge. Here is a scan of the cover and the article.

Here's a partial transcription:
     "Many people from the East visit Tacoma every summer. A good proportion of them are wheelmen, and they were surprised to learn in the early part of 1896 that the Wheelmen's Association had decided upon the bridging of the gulch in the southern part of the city which leads to the good roads beyond. The nature of the riding district makes the bridging of the gulch of more importance than the casual visitor may imaging. The opening of the elevated cycle path, which had been built the preceding year, was the means of lengthening the cycle path, so that the riders have now four miles of excellent cycle path from the bridge direct to prairie roads. Since the completion of the bridge, which is the largest cycle bridge in the world, the wheelmen cannot understand how they managed to get to the prairie roads by the inconvenient old route. Many of the citizens were opposed to the building of a cycle path. There was an argument as to how the bicycle license money should be expended, and it was finally decided to construct the bridge. Some few hundreds of the wheelmen objected to the license being enforced, but they soon saw the benefits derived from the levy, and to-day there is not one of the 2,500 wheelmen who objects to the payment of the $1 per annum license.
     The length of the bridge at the roadway is 330 feet, the height 110 feet, the width at the top 12 feet, the width at the bottom 50 feet. The trestle is built of 8 X 8 timbers thoroughly braced, the bents being 20 inches apart. The total cost of the bridge and approach was $984.50.
     The management of the local road improvements at Tacoma is admirably divided between the Wheelmen's Association and L.A.W. The former attend to all improvements within the city limits and the L.A.W. officials take care of the outside work. The road committee is now at work with new propositions for the convenience and accommodation of the riders, and, as a result of their labors, there will be several small bridges built in Tacoma. Those constructed under the supervision of the L.A.W. will bear neatly painted signs. The wheelmen of the district desire to demonstrate their banding together for concerted action. The bridge is a fine example of what good results a little money judiciously expended could produce. It should be an incentive to those interested in good roads to prosecute the work."
The original bridge is long gone. I believe it was replaced by the Delin Street bridge, a larger structure for car traffic, which was very recently renovated to include bike lanes. 

The Tacoma Wheelmen continued to operate as an active club for decades, had some off years, but was resurrected in 1974. Up until yesterday, they were known as TWBC, Tacoma Wheelmen's Bicycle Club. 

Last night a vote of the board and general membership approved a change to the club's name to Tacoma Washington Bicycle Club, removing the gender-specific language and keeping the longstanding acronym under which they have successfully advocated for decades. They currently operate as a 501c7 non-profit and I'm personally grateful that they have sponsored Kidical Mass Tacoma for the last four years.

As a member, I appreciate the more inclusive name. As cyclists we share the terrain of Tacoma with members past, present and future. Focusing on place in the club name is an excellent way for us to carry on the legacy of local riders. 

More local trail history on the TWBC website here