They call him Haulin’ Colin. In his Georgetown shop of that name, artist Colin Stevens fabricates bike trailers, tricked-out pedicabs, bike racks, and bike-powered floats. His workshop is “the place where people go when they have weird bike ideas,” he says. They’ve included a seven seater built on the frame of a 1984 Toyota pickup and a triple-decker bike, which he deemed “too scary” for practical use after a ride around the block.
Stevens began to hone his mechanical skills at the Bike Shack, a donation-only shop in Roosevelt, then moved to Central District bike shop 20/20 and began dabbling in customized bike trailers. In the five years since starting Haulin’ Colin, he’s been able to turn his hobby into a full-time gig. Stevens sees his biking clientele as separate from the commuter and leisure cycling communities, using their bikes for all aspects of their lives and eschewing specialized apparel—he calls his eco-friendly cohort “utilitarian cyclists.” One customer, the president of the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association, wants to transport his honeymakers on his own two wheels; another hopes to perform an interstate move by bike, a haul that impresses even Haulin’ Colin. —Jessie Wesley
Minority Bike Activist
Imagine shutting down one of Seattle’s main avenues to car traffic for a single day—now imagine it’s a South End drag like Rainier Avenue or Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Adonia Lugo wants to see it happen; she’s a self-described “bike anthropologist,” an activist who’s writing her PhD dissertation on the interaction of race, segregation, and transportation.
Before her move to Seattle last year, Lugo helped start two projects aimed at expanding the bike movement to include more minorities and low-income citizens in Los Angeles; one, CicLaVia, organized car-free days. The cycling movement lacks support in the diverse communities of the South End, she says, and cycle-only roadways would spur interest. For now, she’s focusing on data collection by partnering with Bicycle Alliance of Washington and Bike Works for the Seattle Bike Justice Project. She calls its mission to “find out about how bicycling, especially in this part of Seattle, is associated with disempowerment.” —JW
When she commutes, video editor Christy Elton hauls more than her lunchbox—as she has ever since she put her three-year-old son, Parker, on the handlebars of her 1995 Diamondback Wildwood. After joining the league of Seattle’s 8,000 or so bike commuters, the South Lake Union mom started a blog, Stylen’ Cycle Mom (stylencycle.blogspot.com), about riding with a kid. After eight weeks of smooth riding, Elton sold her car. Besides using buses and Zipcars in bad weather, she sticks to her four-mile work ride.
Elton’s online missives are about the low-key issues of family cycling—when to battle elements for daily exercise, how to best tote a toddler, and what it takes to carry the ingredients for potato leek soup on two wheels. As a relative newcomer to biking, Elton hopes her blog encourages other novice bikers to ditch their cars since “someone else is muddling through it…and you don’t have to be perfect to ride a bike.” You’re far more likely to stop by a farmers market or a park when you’re on a bike, she says: “You get a little more whimsical, and that’s what’s been really special.” —Anne Larkin
Electric Bike Entrepreneur
E-bike evangelical Brian Nordwall sums up the battery-powered cycles in two words: “hill flatteners.” Unlike an old Huffy, e-bikes have the ability to move completely on their own—about 25 miles before a recharge—but can still be pedaled unassisted like a regular bike. Most cyclists use a combination of the two, harnessing some of the 500 watts of power to reach speeds of 20 miles per hour. At 100 percent assistance (that is, without pedaling), Nordwall says his cycles can ascend a 10 percent grade—like Queen Anne Avenue.
The semiretired real estate lawyer created the shop after falling in love with the battery-powered bikes and visiting Florida-based manufacturer Prodeco. He quickly secured the rights to the line’s Northwest retail operation and opened the Seattle E-Bike store in Pioneer Square in January.
Besides saving on sweat, e-bikes make roads safer, says Nordwall; they open Seattle’s hilly terrain to more people, which accustoms drivers to seeing two-wheelers wherever they go. “The more bikes there are on the road, the lower the percentage of collisions,” he says. Nordwall notes that in the Netherlands and Denmark, “the most bike-friendly countries in the world,” about a third of all bikes sold are electric—his goal is to add 1,000 e-bikes to the streets every month, making this “an e-bike town.” Since its opening, the store is selling about 30 a month, but Nordwall notes that it still helps: “Every bike on the road, whether an electric bike or $7,000 carbon fiber model, adds to everybody’s safety.” —Emily Dhatt
“The last thing I remember is seeing the hood of the car as I flew over it,” says 25-year-old David Postetter. He’s talking about a triathlon in July 2010, when a car turned in front of a trio of racers, causing Postetter to strike it while he was moving at 20 miles per hour. He woke up covered in gravel, glass, and blood, but still thought about finishing the race. That didn’t happen, because after he had flown over the car, Postetter smashed the rear window of a parked minivan, and something—what, he doesn’t know for sure—severed 80 percent of his calf muscle, an injury that required three surgeries and kept him off his bike for six months.
A year later, though, Postetter was racing again. And the car that he says caused the collision? “I like to think that if it had been me, I would’ve noticed three bikers and a race going on,” he says of the driver who failed to use a turn signal. Despite the testimony of nearby drivers, the police declared the accident a no-fault incident (the driver’s insurance company did issue a payout to Postetter, but it covered less than half of his medical bills). This is not unique; most drivers involved in car-on-bike collisions are never cited, and Washington State’s Department of Transportation reports that, in the last decade, 34 percent of all bike-related collisions—and fully half of cyclist fatalities—occurred when cyclists were “riding with traffic.” Postetter, who hopes to compete in USA Triathlon nationals, is now much more cautious and says, “Treat every car as if they don’t see you.” —Brian Colella
It took almost 70 years, but Patricia Hansen is finally taking the cross-country ride of a lifetime. She’s prepared physically for a 3,500-mile roll, since she and her partner Bill Leach “are in such good shape; younger people can’t keep up with us.”
Hansen has been busy running Emerald City Lights Bike Ride, a nonprofit organization she started in 2005 with Leach; it puts on two local outings per year (the next will be September 8). Like many group rides, it raises money; Hansen’s cause of choice is hunger in the Pacific Northwest, and her “four-day food boxes”—they include Hansen’s own homemade jam—have been delivered to more than 1,000 local families.
Hansen departed the West Coast on April Fool’s Day, on a 97-day route that includes stops in nine states, from Oregon to Virginia. She’s funding the whole ride herself and will sleep most nights in a Ford Econoline van; on off days she hopes to participate in fundraising events in towns she passes. So far, pledge donations raised by the trip have raked in more than any of her Seattle bike events did—she uses pledges to deliver food to needy families along her path. When she arrives in Yorktown, Virginia, on July 7, her 70th birthday, she hopes to have achieved her real goal: to raise enough dough to feed a hungry family for a year.—BC
Favorite Gear Hansen’s Topeak multitool dates back to the ’90s: “I could not be without it.”
Try: Topeak Hexus 16II, $25, Angle Lake Cyclery, anglelakecycle.com