When Riding Your Bike Isn’t Enough

How To Build Bike Culture, Infrastructure and A Future Full of Spokesongs

By Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie –

Riding a bike as often as possible is by far the best thing one can do to build a world changed by and adapted to two wheeled travel. But it's not the only thing that creates a more bike friendly community.

Joe Kurmaskie, the new director of WashCo Bikes, tabling and meeting the public at Hillsboro Days Celebrations. Photo courtesy Joe Kurmaskie

When I was down for the count with illness that I thought would end me, I had quality time to ponder, study and research what influences communities. Why some become bike friendly and others death gauntlets for commuters, recreational riders and everyone in between?

It boils down to bringing bikes onto the roads day in and day out, planning and building safe, users friendly shared and separate spaces for bikes and the often missing ingredient; bike culture. In other words – not only do we need to follow the Field of Dreams model – Build IT And They Will Come, but we must come as we are and have fun on bikes in the here and now! Only with this two pronged approach will communities across the country become places where biking is not only normalized but a choice for transportation that everyone will feel comfortable using.

Because I'm hard to kill (world touring cyclists are like that) I managed to right my personal health ship, regain my old energy, marry it to new perspectives and take on daunting challenges such as trying to bring bike culture, infrastructure and education to the county just west of the country's bike Mecca, Portland, Oregon. As the new Executive Director of Washington County, Oregon's 16 city/communities bicycle coalition: Rebranded as WashCo Bikes, I'm pumped to invigorate the suburbs ( places where big SUVs roll along with bumper stickers which read: One Less Bike) and outlying communities west of Portland with exciting new programs while expanding quality existing ones.

The plan includes:

  1. Rebrand and expand our summer bike camps.
  2. Create a Freewheeling Festival Of The Bike around our adopt a bike program, including a Bike Craft Gift Fair, awards weekend and holiday rides and expanded bike donations to families, homeless and Vets.
  3. Bring a Sunday Parkways series to all of Washington County.
  4. Expand and grow our community bicycle shop in Hillsboro and bring new shops/presence countywide.
  5. Create a Minority Mechanics/Minorities scholarship and internship program.
  6. Expand our advocacy and safety classes, clinics, safe routes and education.
  7. Expand our 4 week kid s summer bike camp to 12 weeks with offering for adults( big kids) and families.

My background in bike advocacy: I bring several decades of work in bike advocacy as well as having directed successful arts and social service organizations. I'm also a bestselling author and an internationally known presenter. I'm pumped to invigorate the suburbs and outlying communities west of Portland with exciting new programs while expanding quality existing ones.

Yes, this is an uphill, herculean challenge that I absolutely relish. Having sat with serious illness for a time, I stared down death and said, “Not today, you cheap, dimestore dream crusher.” I'm back, John Snow strong and terminator tough.

I've been a bike advocate all of my adult life. After my first cross country tour in 1986 I ran a bicycle and canoe touring company. I went on to direct summer camps , bike trip programs and  participate in local bike and transportation activism. In 2007 I helped organized the “We Are All Traffic” rally, following the deaths of Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek. In 2009 I was also the organizer of rallies to  bring down the Columbia River Crossing Project. Once I was diagnosed, I started IronItOut.org, an effort to increase awareness of hemochromatosis, a genetic disorder I suffered from that leads to an overload of iron in the body.

How you can directly help:

  1. Like our FB page and keep up on new happenings: https://www.facebook.com/WashCoBikes/
  2. Become a friend/member of the rebranded organization: http://www.washcobtc.org/join_and_donate

Joe Kurmaskie is a journalist, syndicated columnist, and contributor to numerous magazines including Outside, Bicycling Magazine, Men's Journal and Parenting. He's a bike advocate, activist, found of Cadence Press, and a Random House author of seven books including Metal Cowboy, Mud, Sweat and Gears and A Guide To Falling Down In Public.

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