Q&A with Diane Wiatr, Active Transportation Coordinator, city of Tacoma

Q: It’s exciting to hear that Tacoma has proclaimed this year as the “Year of the Bike.” How did this initiative come about, and how do you expect it will impact the city?

A: The Year of the Bike was initiated by Downtown On the Go, Tacoma’s transportation management association. They will be working with a variety of homespun cycling organizations, the city and the broader community, to encourage bicycling for all trips. So much is going on and we want to celebrate all the individuals, organizations, rides and events.

Q: The Major Taylor Project (MTP) is now in Tacoma–how do you see this helping to get more kids on bikes? What additional benefits do you think kids will enjoy?

A: When I first met Ed Ewing, I was moved by the nature of the program which comprehensively addresses the development of the kids involved and provides incredible opportunities for personal growth. All schools would benefit from teaching kids to ride from the viewpoint of building skills, independence and self-esteem. The MTP will get kids out cycling with a skill set. That will be a remarkable asset to Tacoma.

Q: Not many people know that Tacoma was at one time a bicycling mecca. What did bicycling looking like back in the day (1890-1900)?

A: Tacoma created bike facilities while the roadways were still dirt and difficult to navigate by any mode. Seattleites would take the ferry to Tacoma to ride on the new bike facilities to Mt. Rainier or American Lake in Lakewood to picnic.

Tacoma imposed a $1 tax on bicycles in the 1890s that helped pay for the construction of 40 miles of bike highways. The Tacoma Wheelmen’s bicycle club initiated this program and helped in the construction of the bikeways.

Q: How has endorsing the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide changed the Tacoma is thinking about street design and bike improvements?

A: I gave some of our engineers the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide tied up with a big red ribbon for the holidays. It will be the best money spent when we start designing some innovative projects. That book provides the city of Tacoma the possibility for bigger thinking, as does Washington State Department of Transportation’s 2012 legislation that allows for greater flexibility in design.

Q: What does the future of bikeways (bike infrastructure) look like in Tacoma?

A: Tacoma has several trails of great importance planned. The most significant, perhaps, is the Schuster Promenade, which will fill a significant gap in the Dome to Defiance Trail between South Downtown and Point Defiance Park. The trail will transform the way Tacomans and visitors get around and understand the city.

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