First ride March 1, 2008

Who was there? 32 people including 12 kids under 12, four Cascade Bicycle Club staff, and seven additional “expert” adults who regularly use their bikes for commuting.

Where did we go? Eleven adults and one child biked to and from Green Lake Community Center. The remainder did a SPOKESKIDS training with CBC staff in Wallingford Playfield. Most of this group biked to and from Meridian/Good Shepherd Park.

I’ve been planning the first SPOKESPEOPLE ride since late October 2007. So it was great that the day of the first ride was cool but sunny. The Cascade Bicycle Club (CBC) folks I was working with recommended that I not start until April, when more people were ready to ride and the weather more predictable. But I wanted to start with a smaller group of people as a way of practicing to make later rides go more smoothly.

I have worked with quite a few CBC folks over the past few months on the best way to go to and from Green Lake Community Center and Meridian Park from Wallingford Playfield. It is not straightforward. It turns out that the official Seattle Department of Transportation Bicycle Map and the Bicycle Master Plan routes are not necessarily the safest or the least hilly options. Even on the day of the SPOKESPEOPLE ride, when we were faced with returning back to Wallingford from Green Lake, the experts and CBC folks had some differences of opinion about optimally safe and secure routes. The bottom line: official bike routes are not always the best routes for safe biking. SPOKESPEOPLE will develop a set of safest routes from Wallingford that we will post on our website as we continue our monthly rides.

Set up on the day of the ride
We set up on the south side of Wallingford Playfield, on the street between Hamilton Middle School and Wallingford Playfield. We will make it clear exactly where the starting point is on the Spokespeople and CBC websites and in future outreach materials. I also want to put up maps of our rides on the website as we go each month so that we have a complete collection of safest and least hilly routes to and from adjacent urban centers.

We posted a few signs around the park and wrote on the sidewalk with chalk about where to go in the park for the start of the ride. We need better signs and signposts for next month. The chalk works great and should always be used. Making chalk signs are a good project for kids who arrive early!

I brought along a folding table, signs, duct table, clips, posters, chalk, sign-in sheets, bike flags, pens, markers, 10 helmets for sale, flyers, buttons, passports and stamps, bike pump, reusable cups and water, mini Cliff bars. I should pack a couple of big pieces of clear plastic to cover all the printed material in case of rain. Brian, the CBC Bike Ambassador also brought a bike trailer full of materials – a lot of it about riding safely with kids. Good stuff. Brian’s trailer has a hard top roof that can double as a literature table so I don’t need to bring a folding table if Brian comes. At future/larger events we may need a little help with setting up, distribution, and cleaning up. I should get a kid trailer on Craig’s list for hauling stuff.

Waste free/Carbon free Event
Part of the objective of Spokespeople events is to minimize waste since waste is another form of carbon pollution. The water and reusable cups are good. Are Cliff bar wrappers recyclable? Are there other snacks and materials that are zero-waste or recyclable? Do I want to put some effort into getting food/drink donations from Tully’s or PCC (Green Lake or Fremont)? Or should I encourage local food vendor participation?

The activities that happened when people arrived:

Sign in and get map. Since the group breaks into two rides, one short one with new riders and younger kids and one longish ride, there need to be (at least) two ride leaders and two sign-in sheets. The different rides need to be spelled out. Not everyone signed in. This is a liability problem. Folks need to sign in for the ride they expect to take. Maybe the sign in sheets need to be two different colors. After signing in, people get a map of where we are going and a written description of what is planned for the day – SPOKESKIDS training, ride, map come back for a snack. Need to mention the sign-in at the spoken introduction, count heads and count numbers signed-in. This is super important.

Pick up literature. Brian brought a lot of great CBC material – good maps, newsletter, and other info. Brian is also one of the experts at minor bike adjustments. When people arrived there was a small enough group that I could personally greet each one. With a larger group, someone should be assigned as a greeter – at the sign-in table.

Passports and stamps. Kids love passports and hand stamps. Need a person who can stamp hands and passports. Probably the sign-in/table person.

Helmet and minor bike adjustments. Part of the SPOKESKIDS intro includes helmet and ABC Quick check, but it might be smart, as folks arrive, for Ambassadors and commuting experts to check and adjust bike seats, check helmet fit, and tire inflation (especially important for all under 12s). This would save a ton of time in the SPOKESKIDS intro when there was a lot of standing around while some helmets were adjusted. This time lag could get worse with more people who need minor adjustments.

Quick intro for whole group. What the ride is, where we are all going, divide into 2 groups, where bathrooms are, helmet and ABC Quick check for everyone, then group split into SPOKESKIDS and long ride group.

Long ride group. Review where ride is going, introduce everyone going on the ride, bathrooms, more detailed ride description, stay together ride, slow pace, wait at lights and stops, distance between bikes. What I learned on the long ride. Don’t need to stop after every light and stop sign. Need to remind all riders not to get ahead of trip leader, even if they are expert bikers. Need to find out who needs coaching for going through stop signs, down-shifting, braking. These new riders should be assigned a commuting expert. Ask at the start of the ride.

SPOKESKIDS group. We need to have half tennis balls for the obstacle course. May need to divide into two groups if there are more than 15 kids. Very young kids on own bikes – some with training wheels – may need a separate intro if many of them show up (we had just one but may have more). Training wheel SPOKESKIDS could practice braking and hand signals on the gravel path of the playground. Young kids could ride on the sidewalk (with parents in tow) to Meridian Park. We need to have a model of how the SPOKESKIDS intro will work in July once construction starts on the Hamilton playground. Ashley will not always be able to lead the SPOKESKIDS training. Other CBC Trip Leaders should help and observe and be ready to take on this intro session. The training needs to be a game. Some SPOKESKIDS came with parents who didn’t have bikes with them. That meant these kids couldn’t go with the group to Meridian/Good Shepherd. We need to make it clear that parents are expected/welcomed to participate on their bikes. Is there some bike activity that should/could happen at Meridian/Good Shepherd for SPOKESKIDS? I want to work with Tilth to integrate SPOKESPEOPLE with the Spring Starts Fair in May and the Harvest Fair in September.