Monday, February 7, 2011

Burien's Jimmy Schulz recognized by Cascade Bicycle Club


For those of you who are members of Cascade Bicycle Club, you probably noticed some ink offered up to B-Town in this month's edition of their newsletter, The Cascade Courier. Cascade has really taken notice of the momentum building around cycling and "complete streets" policies in Burien. As February is "Bike Advocacy Month" Stacey Panek, Cascade's Marketing and Development Writer looked our way for one of B-Town's top cycling advocates. They put together a great piece on our fellow B-Town Bike Fair organizer. Congrats Jimmy!

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It all started with bike racks, or better put, the lack thereof. Soon after Jimmy Schulz moved to Burien two and a half years ago, he decided that with destinations so close to home, he would run errands and otherwise get around his new community by bicycle. There was one problem. The city, essentially, had no bike racks. That often put Jimmy in the position of pedaling to a neighborhood establishment only to discover he’d have to venture blocks away to find an adequate place to lock his Surly.

“I like my bike a lot,” Jimmy says. “I like to keep it close.”

Frustrated, he contacted the city and started attending Sustainable Burien meetings. That’s where Jimmy met Brooks Stanfield, Cascade’s 2010 Advocacy Volunteer of the Year. The two began a dialogue and shared effort to make Burien, aka B-Town, more bikeable.

Brooks calls Jimmy a “normal human being,” someone who commutes by bike 40 to 50 percent of the time. That commute takes Jimmy through Burien and on city streets about four and a half miles into Tukwila, or along a stretch of the Green River Trail for a longer, more relaxed ride. Like many of us, Jimmy finds it hard to motivate himself to bike on dark, wet mornings. He laments that bicycle advocacy will not, unfortunately, be able to hasten the sun’s rise in the winter.

Jimmy is not, therefore, one of your hard core, spandex-clad, bike-at-all-costs cyclists. And yet he cares so much about making Burien better for bicycling that he’s willing to work very hard.

His fellow advocate Brooks sums up Jimmy’s work ethic with this story from the 2010 Washington state bicycle count: “This past October—weeks after the arrival of his first child—Jimmy did more bike count stations than anyone else in Burien (three two-hour shifts). I just couldn’t believe how dedicated he was.”

In Jimmy’s opinion, Burien is ripe for bicycle advocacy. The city is relatively flat and is convenient to downtown Seattle, thanks in part to a transit center that provides ample opportunity for multimodal commuting: pedal to the station, lock or load your bike and zip downtown on an Express bus. Burien is also a culturally and economically diverse community. Jimmy divides B-Town cyclists into two camps: hard core riders and those who bike because that’s how they can afford to get around.

He wants to establish a third group of riders, people he calls recreational or occasional cyclists. One way to encourage these riders is to build more infrastructure. Jimmy and other bicycle advocates like Brooks want to ensure that as Burien, a small but expanding city, invests in growth, it sets aside resources for sidewalks, bike lanes and bike racks. Many of B-Town’s residents are environmentally minded. It stands to reason that if you build it, they will come.

Jimmy counts the installation of bike lockers at the transit center as one recent success. Perhaps Burien’s biggest bicycling achievement, however, was last summer’s B-Town Bicycle Fair, which Jimmy, Brooks and another Burien bike booster, Anne York, organized, and which was held in tandem with Burien’s Wild Strawberry Festival.

“It was a huge success,” Jimmy says.

The fair drew big crowds, despite unseasonably cool, wet weather, with attractions like bike maintenance checks, a scavenger hunt and the opportunity to donate no-longer-used bicycles to Bike Works (which Jimmy—a gearhead who built his first adult bicycle with parts found at Seattle’s Recycled Cycles—wishes Burien had a smaller version of).

Some 125 kids received new, personally fitted helmets at the Fair, and many of these youngsters went on to participate in the bike rodeo or tricycle course.

Jimmy lights up when talking about the children: “It warms my heart to see kids riding bikes. If you get kids riding, it’s easier for them to make cycling a lifelong habit.”

A new dad, he adds, “Now that I have a son, I think about introducing him to biking from an early age, so that he always thinks that biking with other people is normal.”

The B-Town Bike Fair’s enthusiastic reception—both by attendees and the City of Burien—encourages Jimmy. And yet, the results of a November 2009 ballot initiative that would have provided for bike lanes on heavily used 136th Street went down in defeat, with only 25 percent voter approval. In many ways, bicycling is still way off the radar in B-Town.

That means a lot of work remains. Jimmy is in the early stages of planning next year’s Bike Fair and is gearing up to participate in Burien’s upcoming transportation planning process. He’d also like to work with the local Arts Council on the issue that brought him to bicycle advocacy in the first place: bike racks. Why not join forces with local artists to create unique, aesthetically pleasing racks that celebrate the spirit of the city while also serving an essential purpose?

Given his energy and successes to date, there’s little doubt Jimmy will continue to bring all good-things-bicycling to Burien.

“I’m a little Spockian in my love of biking,” Jimmy says. “It’s like this perfect thing that just makes sense from all angles, and it makes me smile.”

If you’re interested in working, like Jimmy, to advance the bicycle movement in Washington state communities, consider joining Cascade in Olympia for Transportation Advocacy Day, Feb. 10. [Refer to web page or another article in Courier??]

3 comments:

  1. Jimmy is a great resource. Every community should have an advocate with as much dedication!! Way to go! Next stop~Mayoral candidate!!

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  2. Jimmy for City Council!!! I like your thinking, James

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  3. Aww shucks. I don't think I'm cut out for public service. We Schulz's are notorious for our low frustration tolerance. Thanks to cascade for the write up!

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