The Cascade Bicycle Club, the nation's largest bike advocacy and riding group, has been in a bit of upheaval lately, with the departure of longtime director Chuck Ayers (a fiery and sometimes controversial bike advocate who was fired once before and subsequently reinstated) as well as several key staffers; six members of the group's board are currently up for reelection.
There has long been tension within the group over how much focus to put on advocacy at city hall and in Olympia and how much to put on the group's popular (and profitable) rides, like Seattle to Portland (STP) and growing the group's membership. Ayers (and his even more controversial onetime lobbyist David Hiller, who now works for the mayor) was generally seen as falling firmly on the advocacy side of that debate.
Earlier this month, Cascade hired Elizabeth Kiker, most recently the executive vice president of the League of American Bicyclists; before that, she was a spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association, a pest-control lobbying group, and the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association.
So we had one question for Kiker: Where will she fall on the spectrum between advocacy and ride promotion, and will she be as much of an advocate as her predecessor?
"Participating in rides creates advocates."
Kiker, who becomes the fifth woman to take charge of a local bike advocay group, responds: "Obviously, I’m aware of the tension. I am an advocate. I believe strongly in advocacy. And I am a cyclist, and I believe strongly in the power of riding and group rides. Participating in rides creates advocates—better rides, more rides, and bringing out the joy of biking [creates advocates].
"We have a great and strong advocacy team and we certainly will continue that. We're definitely going to continue to work in politics and lobbying and we will also work to strengthen our rides.
"The Women Bike program at the League [a national program, started by Kiker, that encourages more women to ride] is the star of that. … I want to continue to be active in that and to make it a lot more local here. My focus is not just on women but getting a more diverse group of people biking."
As of 2009, women made up just 24 percent of all cyclists.