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On a Roll 

Spokane cyclists are thinking about thinking about organizing. And other news from a big week in cycling.

What with all the brilliant weather this last week, you can’t fault city cyclists for getting excited. While this was by no means the first bike-able week of the year, it should go down as the official beginning of Spokane’s bike season.

It started on Sunday with the second annual TV viewing of France’s infamous Paris-Roubaix bike race at the Steam Plant. But by midweek, pedalers were feeling thoughtful. On Wednesday, about 25 cyclists and outdoors enthusiasts amassed in an REI conference room to discuss the formation of an inter-group, umbrella bike organization.

Or rather, they met to discuss whether to discuss an inter-group, umbrella bike organization. 

Bradley Bleck, a Bicycle Advisory Board member and a writing teacher at Spokane Falls Community College who convened the meeting, said the desire for a group grew out of an informal summit at the Steam Plant weeks before, at which cyclists wondered if there might be a benefit to banding together. So there Bleck was, with a large flip pad and two colors of markers: blue for potential pros to such an association and black for cons. After measuring those, the group would decide whether to push on or drop the idea altogether. 

People were quick to bring up the pros: a common calendar for bike events, shared technological resources, increased fund-raising clout. Bill Bender, a Spokane neurologist and the founder of last year’s inaugural Spokefest ride, suggested that a parent organization with 501(c)3 status and the proper insurance could help foster small events, the organizers of which wouldn’t otherwise find it worthwhile. “To do it under an umbrella group is,” he argued.

Bender’s organization of Spokefest was a culminating moment in an urban bike culture in Spokane that lay dormant for years but began to explode two years ago.

But 15 minutes in, dissent and reluctance started to creep into discussion over the meta-group. Bleck switched to the black pen: more bureaucracy, more cost. “More meetings,” someone in the back suggested, to sympathetic groans.

And was everybody even on board? Someone pointed out that the present group might not be indicative of the larger cycling populace: “Nobody showed up here tonight to say they weren’t interested.”

Indeed, it felt like someone had called a mob truce without inviting the heads of all five New York crime families. Where was Jeff Everett, from the beer-swilling F**king Bike Club? Or David Blaine, organizer of the gonzo Midnight Century? Where were all the mountain bikers and competitive free-stylers?

“Cyclists are a diverse group, from the guy riding down the sidewalk the wrong way with no helmet on, all the way to bicycle tours and mountain bikers,” said Mike Sirott, a racer with Spokane Rocket Velo. Was a love of bike-riding a strong enough common denominator?

Erika Henry, a Bike to Work volunteer and a member of Spokane’s WOW women’s cycling club, called for a five-minute recess for perspective and pizza before coming to a vote on whether or not to proceed with planning for the umbrella group. 

The result?

Evelyn Wilhelmson, a Bike to Work volunteer, summed it up best when she declared after several minutes of group waffling, “It sounds like there are several reasons to have a second meeting.” 

“Whatever happens, it’s going to be a slog,” Bleck said after the meeting. “It’s incrementalism.”

A smaller group of interested parties will convene again at an as-yet-undisclosed location on Wednesday, May 27, to further discuss the idea of a universal Spokane bike organization. In the meantime, here’s what else happened in the local cycling scene this week: 

MEET YOUR BIKE CZAR

Eight months after the city of Spokane voted to hire a coordinator to oversee bike and pedestrian issues on a full-time basis (bringing Spokane into the ranks of bike cities like Portland, Boulder and Madison, Wis.), it finally interviewed three candidates last week. The identities of the candidates remain a secret (to protect their current jobs). Bizarrely, so, too, do the identities of the panelists who interviewed them, though engineering department spokeswoman Katherine Miller says they’re “clearly eligible” to review the candidates. Each candidate got an hour with the panel. Miller says she expects the coordinator to be named within two weeks. (Though, given the secrecy, we won’t be surprised if the result isn’t exactly everything bike advocates hoped for.)   

DUST OFF THE SCHWINN

Registration for Bike to Work Week, which runs May 10-16, opened last week. As of press time, the event — which is two days longer this year and will be expanding to include the county in addition to the city — was at 405 riders, according to chair Barb Chamberlain. Over 950 people participated last year, after Chamberlain expected a paltry 300 (the event hadn’t been organized in earnest in Spokane for more than a decade). This year’s event will be book-ended by a pancake breakfast on Monday, May 11, and a wrap-up party at the Steam Plant Grill on Friday, May 15. (To register, visit biketoworkspokane.org.)

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