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

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

08 November 2016

Phase 4 of Water Flume Line Trail Completed

Flume Line Trail meets Prairie Line Trail here at South Tacoma Way and C Street.
The Water Flume Line Trail is a connected network of multi-use paths, bike lanes and sidewalks that connects South Tacoma to Downtown Tacoma in the South Tacoma Way corridor. The newest section to be completed is Phase 4, along S. Tacoma Way from C Street to M Street. This section is in the form of a wide multi-use elevated sidewalk. My son and I rode this section of trail for the first time today (Election Day!)

Here is a visual tour of the Phase 4 section which is now open for use. There's more information about Phase 3 and 4 on the City of Tacoma's website.

Looking uphill from C Street

Barrier separates bikes/pedestrians from car traffic

Looking back downhill. Plenty of room for all users.

Landscaping is going in today. 

Near M Street. Lots of space for users to navigate around each other.

Bike Route Ends (for now), but Phase 3 will continue this path from M Street to Pine Street.






21 October 2016

Bike Counters in Tacoma

There are three bike counters in Tacoma. They are located underground and are activated every time a bicycle rides over it. You'll notice a diamond shaped cut in the road surface, but otherwise they are unmarked.

  • Division Ave Bike Lanes (both directions) near G Street
  • Park Ave (both directions) just north of S 56th St 
  • Flume Line Trail just south of S 56th St
A fourth counter will be located in the McKinley Neighborhood when part of the Pipeline Trail is paved in the next few years.

Here's a map:



The City of Tacoma collects data from the bike counters. The data can be used to evaluate trends in bike ridership. If you live, commute, or generally travel near one of these three locations, consider altering your route so that you can show the City you were riding in that neighborhood. Make your ride count!