Celebrating 50 years of Cascade Bicycle Club history
Seattle Times article on Cascade founding with opaque background of STP hats

United by a love of bicycling, a small group of bike riders founded Cascade Bicycle Club in 1970. Their goal: transform and popularize bicycling in the Seattle region by creating exceptional opportunities to ride, advocate for trails, and give bicyclists a voice in policy discussions.

The founders' impact was immediate, with early successes including the creation of the Burke-Gilman Trail, the region’s first bike route maps, bike lanes from Anacortes to Tacoma, and the Chilly Hilly, which cost $3 to register and included four 25-mile loops. 

In 1972, the club formed the Cascade Bicycling Club Political Action Committee to push legislation benefiting the cycling community in the state and local governments. Some of the first legislative efforts included a bill to add a five percent sales tax on bikes to help fund the construction of new bike paths, as well as a legal effort to cut down on the ticketing of bicyclists by police. Another initiative established a defense fund to support local rider Barbara Hershey in her fight that went all the way to the state Supreme Court after she was charged with illegally impeding traffic on Greenwood Avenue. 

In 1997, Cascade created the Seattle to Portland Classic--an iconic ride that attracts participants from around the nation and world. The eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 canceled STP, so Cascade created the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP), which in the years since has become another classic. 

In 1983, after nearly a decade of effort, the Cascade Bicycling Club Political Action Committee successfully passed the Bicycle Bill to give bicyclists a legal right to the road and establishing bicycles as a legitimate vehicle. By 1990, the previously volunteer-led club hired its first paid director and moved into its first office on Ravenna Boulevard in North Seattle.

Fueled by excellent leadership and a growing professional staff, Cascade experienced rapid growth in the 1990s and 2000s, including a record 10,000 participants on the 1991 Seattle to Portland ride. Bike education became part of the Cascade mission, with a goal to educate the next generation of riders. In 2008, Cascade launched the Major Taylor Project in two schools with 30 students to increase bicycle opportunities for underserved communities. 

In the 2010s, Cascade continued to grow in size and stature. New rides including the Ride for Major Taylor, Woodinville Wine Ride, Emerald City Bike Ride, and many more excited the cycling community and grew Cascade’s membership and popularity. In 2014, Cascade created the Cascade Bicycling Center at Magnuson Park to better serve its membership and community. Two years later it merged with Washington Bikes to become the nation’s largest statewide bicycling nonprofit. 

Five decades later, Cascade continues to excel in its three pillars: community events, education, and advocacy. Major events include hosting the largest group e-bike ride in 2018 with 406 participants, setting a Guinness World Record, and hosting the largest cycling event in the nation in 2019, the Tunnel Ride, which attracted nearly 13,000 participants. The bicycle education programs serve more than 20,000 students. And on the policy side, Cascade has connected bike networks forming across Seattle and East King County, including the 2nd Avenue bike lane and the Eastrail.

Interested in helping to shape another 50 years of all things bicycle across Washington state? Visit our website to learn about getting involved in bicycle advocacy or volunteering with us.  

Sara Kiesler's picture
Sara Kiesler