The following post is by Mia Birk, who will be speaking in Seattle next week as part of the Cascade Presentation Series. Please join us! A Note to Seattle: I am thrilled to be joining you on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at REI to share my new book Joyride. From what I understand, exciting things are happening as Seattle continues implementation of the Bicycle Plan . My company, Alta Planning + Design , is thrilled to be a part of it with you. Our work includes helping develop more bicycle-friendly streetcar lines, drafting a bike plan for the Beacon Hill Neighborhood , and filling in the missing link in the Burke-Gilman Trail (finally!) A few years ago, I spent several days biking around Seattle in preparation for Alta’s bid on the Seattle Bike Plan . (Super sadly, we lost. I was planning on relocating a couple days a week in dedication to your lovely city. But oh well… C’est la vie. Gotta let it go…) Research included one heck of a scary ride (accompanied by Cascade's intrepid David Hiller) -- on various congested streets lacking bikeways -- that necessitated a couple shots of tequila at the end to calm my nerves. That ride reminded me of my first ride in Portland back in 1993 with our lead traffic engineer, as described in Joyride , Chapter 1, Reality Check: We roll out for North Portland, an annexed suburb characterized by wide, flat streets and an older, working-class population. The narrow but functional sidewalks of the Broadway Bridge take us to the east side, where we take two right turns onto Interstate Avenue heading north. That’s when things get interesting. A couple miles of this gritty high speed road and my nerves are starting to fray. Then, Jeff and Rob stick out their left arms to indicate we’re turning onto a steeply ascending four-lane highway. “Are you, kidding?” I think, as they make a break for it, quickly merging into the left lane. I nervously follow their lead.
Every year before the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic , I reach out to riders to hear their stories. It never ceases to amaze me what baggage people are riding with as the pedal down the road. And I'm not talking about what's in their panniers. David S. was diagnosed with spina bifida occulta in 1980 and was supposed to be in very bad shape by now at age 63. He has managed to buck that prediction, finishing his 16th one-day STP. He rides with a brace, a leather weight lifting belt with ace bandages wrapped around it. "I just saw the doctor and had an MRI," he wrote. "The doctor said that I had completely stopped the degeneration that was supposed to happen to my back." Jamie B. said her husband first road the event with his parents just before starting high school and it gave him a huge boost of confidence. "He still had his 1997 STP jacket hanging in our closet, faded and wrinkled to sight yet its significance had not faded at all," she said. Fast forward 12 years, and he rode it again, this time making a video . Jamie watched the video over and over again before deciding that she, too, was ready to try. Her friends and family enveloped her in support, encouragement and inspiration as she made it to the finish. Jerry T. rode the event with a new aortic valve. (A new aortic valve, people!) Michael H. rode on new knees. (New knees, people!) Scott G. rode after an emergency appendectomy in mid-June. (Appendectomy, people!) Read more and see photos after the jump