Cascade Bicycle Club held their annual Bike to Work Breakfast fundraiser at the downtown Sheraton this morning benefiting the group's education foundation. The 500-person event was full of the elbow-rubbing and schmoozing you'd expect at a $150-minimum-donation event (Hooray press passes or I would have been priced out of coverage!). A barrage of politicians—including the entire City Council, Mayor Mike McGinn, King County Executive Dow Constantine, a handful of state legislators, and other King County officials—attended alongside Seattle business men and woman, bike advocates, city and county employees, and industry people. The dress code covered an amazing spectrum from suits and ties to and spandex and day-glow vests (I personally eschewed riding clothes for the more business-casual sweater and slacks look).

But while much of the event was about seeing and being seen and giving Cascade much needed (and deserved) financial support, it also had some substantive discourse on the shape of bike advocacy in Seattle and the US, and news of a new City Council bike caucus.



Keynote speaker John Burke, Trek bicycles CEO, spoke about the the lessons we can take from European cycling cities. Cascade president Chuck Ayers talked about what it'll take to build a community that bikes in Seattle. Guest speakers Constantine and McGinn touched on ways the county and city can prioritize cycling.

In addition to running one of the world's largest bike companies, John Burke is no stranger to advocacy. He is the board president of Bikes Belong, a national advocacy group and has been active with advocacy for over 15 years. He argued that Seattle at 3-5 percent (depending who you ask) is a great bike city compared to most of the US (where 1 percent of the population bikes, on average). But it pales in comparison to places like Amsterdam (25 percent) and Denmark (35 percent). He had several suggestions for improving cycling in Seattle, non of which are surprising, including getting organized and vocal.

Chuck Ayers echoed some of Burke's sentiments in his speech, but also focused on two issues he sees as an impediment to progress in Seattle. The first, again unsurprisingly, is infrastructure. Ayers said a recent poll of 3000 Cascade members found that insufficient infrastructure is a huge impediment to many riders, and according to Burke, women in particular (a subject I covered in depth, previously). The second, was a lack of diversity in cycling. Though he kind of danced around the word "race" (saying "people not at the table" and "people who don't look like us"), Ayers acknowledged that reaching out to diverse communities is an important part of creating a successful culture of cyclists in the city. The audience was predominantly white and over 40.

Ayers also gave a nod to the Seattle City Council's new bike caucus. The caucus is made up of Tim Burgess, Mike O'Brien, Sally Bagsaw and Tom Rasmussen.

The caucus will meet to push the city's bike agenda. Ayers joked that almost all of the council members were jostling for positions on the caucus, but they had to draw the line at four. I'm not sure why they settled on this group. Of the four, O'Brien is the only avid cyclist ("He rides every day," said the staffer who answered my call), though Rasmussen's staffer says he sometimes rides. Bagshaw walks to work, and Burgess does not ride. Still, the formation of a dedicated bike group at City Hall seems like a great move.

Constantine and McGinn closed the event. Constantine said that cycling infrastructure is vitally important on the Eastside. Though he didn't delve into specifics, he said his goal is to more than double King County's trail mileage from the current 120 to over 300.

McGinn acknowledged the serious budget problems facing the Bicycle Master Plan, but put that money in context with some of the other mega projects Seattle has planned. (I bet you can guess which mega project in particular.)

"To put (the Bicycle Master Plan) in perspective, $200 million is about 5 percent of the deep-bore tunnel project, so it's not that much money," said McGinn. "It's a matter of priorities."

Obviously an event filled with an audience of cyclists is the perfect time for some pro-bicycle political posturing. But with the newly formed bike caucus and a Mayor and County Executive who ride and support riding, it'll be interesting to see the shape of Seattle's bike infrastructure in the near future.