Early member spotlight: Cascade co-founder Mike Quam

In the early 1970s, Seattle was in the midst of a financial collapse, with the region’s unemployment reaching 17 percent.

Although finding himself without a job, recent University of Washington graduate Mike Quam didn’t want to leave the city.

“I just loved Seattle. It is such a great place with so many things to do. I stuck around and wondered, ‘what could I do?’ So I started riding,” said Mike.

The 24-year-old spent more and more time pedaling his 10-speed Raleigh Blue Streak in the rural areas surrounding Seattle. Soon, recreational cycling turned into bike racing alongside his then-roommate, Jerry Baker.

On a drive back to Seattle from a race with his brother, Rick, the pair “got to talking about how Seattle really needed a bike club that could promote bicycle trails in Washington and have recreational group rides,” Mike said.

Their father was already advocating for statewide trails in Ohio, as executive director of the Buckeye Trails Association, and Mike figured they could do that here, too.

Mike and Rick visited The Seattle Times and asked them to publish a notice that they were starting a bicycle club and were going to have their first meeting. To their surprise, the newspaper published their photo and ran an article about the establishment of the new bicycle club.

Thirty individuals showed up for the Club’s first meeting, including parents with kids in tow. Within the next two years, membership would soar to 300.

“Every meeting was just a blast! And it wasn’t just that members would come up ideas, but they would say, ‘I’ll work on it!’ and the Club would sponsor it.”

Mike served as the president of Cascade for just two years, and in that time, he laid the foundation for Cascade as both a recreational and advocacy organization.

He was opportunistic and dedicated, and considered running Cascade his job although it was all volunteer work.

“I was on the phone all day and spent my evenings riding, leading rides or talking to people,” he said.

Among his many accomplishments, Mike helped establish the Burke-Gilman Trail. It took just two phone calls: the first was to the regional vice president of the Burlington Northern Railroad to ask if they would be interested in selling their soon-to-be abandoned railroad around Lake Washington; and the second to then Seattle Mayor Wesley Uhlman, to ask if the city would be interested in purchasing the right-of-way.

Both parties liked the idea, and with support from Cascade and the neighborhood, King County put the Burke-Gilman Trail in their Regional Trail Plan.

By 1972, Mike was back at work, marketing, financing and selling Boeing aircraft around the world. His involvement in Cascade dwindled as he spent more time traveling, and later starting a family.

Mike said he’s “extremely pleased with how the Club has grown and progressed.”

Mike worked for Boeing for 37 years, and in his last year, he started bicycling to work for the first time inspired by Cascade’s Bike Commute Challenge.

“I just wish that I had started commuting earlier!” he said.

Now, at age 69, Mike still rides and is training for his third triathlon; the Seafair Triathlon at Seward Park this summer. If you see him, be sure to thank him for laying the foundation for the largest bicycle advocacy and recreation organization in the country.