Archives for category: What They Said

When he was young in Ethiopia, a bicycle ride on a weekend was a pleasure. Bike rentals were cheap at stadiums and at other places with large parking lots. Once he was in high school, he no longer rode a bike, instead riding the bus. He doesn’t know what became of the bike he’d owned. At one time, bicycling and soccer were the most popular sports in Ethiopia. You see bicycle riders practicing outside the city, and highways get closed for bicycle races. In the city people biked on sidewalks. For bike promotion, he suggested organizing excursions, where the East African community could ride together outside the city, and making bicycles more available through giveaways and other incentive programs. Since a recent Bike Works class, he’s bought many bike accessories (though he hasn’t ridden his bike).

Childhood stuff, like group bicycle rides, going around the neighborhood to pick up friends, riding short distances on bikes with banana seats. He remembers a time when a friend fell in the LA River when they were messing around down there with their bikes. He sees potential for using bike cultures to attract youth. One time when he was a teenager, a group of friends biked to Burger King in Compton. While they were inside, someone tried to steal a bike. They were on the wrong side of town, so nobody intervened except a cousin visiting from Louisville who didn’t know any better. He ran after the thief and got the bike back. Then they all had to run out and leave their burgers behind.

When he was a boy, he couldn’t afford a bike, so he would sometimes sneak out to rent a bike at a stadium. They’d give you the bike for something like five minutes, and you’d pay something like five cents. He had to sneak because the bikes weren’t considered safe. They were poorly maintained. One day, a pedal’s rubber fell off while he was riding and the metal stump punctured his calf. He was about 13. When his family found out, they told him to never get on a bike again. He remembers few bike stores in Addis, and that bikes were expensive and impractical for riding on dirt roads. Many people did not know how to ride, and he didn’t remember theft being an issue.

She feels threatened by bicyclists on the road when she’s driving. If they are supposed to be motorists, they should follow the motorist rules. They jeopardize motorists. She thinks there should be an urban plan that is consistent, that takes a look at the whole transportation system in the city. Example: Sound Transit does not have enough stops to serve the communities of color. The placement of the light rail reflects a longstanding divide between rich and poor (servicing areas north of Capitol Hill). If you have money to paint lanes for bicycles, you should have money for a bus on MLK.

“When I was a kid there weren’t bike lanes.” It seemed to her that fewer people were injured on bikes when she was a kid. She acknowledged that this could be because she didn’t hear about it.

When she was a child, one bike was stolen. Another time, in the fifth grade, she and a friend were biking down a steep hill, and she skidded out around a corner. They set off for Kmart and bought band aids for her cuts.

Walking across the Fremont Bridge one day, she saw a bicyclist, what she called a “speedo,” get into a conflict with a motorist. They cut each other off and the conflict escalated when they reached a red light. The bicyclist approached the car window, at which point the motorist pulled out a gun and said, “I’m trying to get somewhere.” The Range Rover sped off and the bicyclist “freaked out.” In a move that she felt showed entitlement, the bicyclist left his bike blocking traffic in the road while discussing the incident with the next motorist, who had witnessed the altercation.


No, she knows carfree people

Her mom doesn’t own a car

It’s not strange, she knows lots of people who do this for environmental reasons

He doesn’t have any carfree friends, though he knows of carfree people.

No. As an employer, he would be happy to allow workers to adjust their schedules to accommodate a bike commute.

Recycling. His family is probably average for Seattle in terms of their carbon footprint. It’s something they do when it’s brought to their attention rather than going out of their way to learn about it. The community group he runs does environmental awareness projects.

Changing your habits

Because enabling kids’ activities requires a lot of driving, she thinks that things like subsidized childcare, ensuring ample affordable housing availability, and creating jobs that pay enough that people do not need more than one would make it easier to drive less.

We should look to New York for examples

“Drivers are horrible! People follow the rules of the road too much instead of being aware of others. Drivers need to develop more awareness.”

“I hate driving, it stresses me out”; parking; pollution; extra expenses

Expense is the only problem

Potholes and other deterioration issues, maintenance and construction, lanes become narrow

He tends to buy into the carbon footprint concept


Some motorists have less patience than he does.

Bikes are other road users, so they should be cautious about coexisting

She thinks of public demonstrations in the street as a statement about community. She enjoys events like these because she gets to see her neighbors.

Yes; she loves block parties

She’s been to neighborhood festivals, but they are not for walking or biking, more for events. She liked them.

She attends the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade; she doesn’t think about being in the street during an event like that

Most recently, she participated in the Danny Vega memorial in Othello.

Rainier Valley Heritage Parade, Neighborhood Watch’s Night Out, Columbia City farmer’s market, Lake Washington Boulevard

He’s been to a few things, but never with a bike. He said he’d like to see the express lane on I-5 opened to bikes from Northgate to downtown, creating a freeway path for bikes.

He sees them as important social functions that bring people together, where you can get to know the neighbors. He used to help with block parties around Yesler Terrace and Rainier Vista when he worked for a community-based organization. The events were meant to bring together immigrants and Americans.

Seattle’s transportation options are limited. As an economist, he knows that transportation costs have a big impact on other costs.

In Addis, everyone uses the bus. His family owned a car, but also walked and bused. Busier streets than here. “Back home,” time is different, there’s more family support. Life is changing there too, but he likes the old style better.

Easier than LA

Easier than San Francisco because it is not as crowded

In Addis people are less aware of bicycling, maybe people would have ridden more with better roads. East African people would probably feel safe biking if people from the more bike-friendly cities were recruited as promoters.

In other places there’s more of an expectation that people use public transit. Here, if feels like you have to know how to ride the bus to use it. In Mexico City, NY, and DC, there are more affordable options.

Harder because the public transit is less convenient. In NY, Boston, and Madrid, she liked using public transit. In Seattle service is limited and creepy at night.

She doesn’t drive



Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


San Francisco




A guy on a bike threw a water bottle at her car; “I feel like a lot of them challenge you and take advantage of your right of way”

No, it wouldn’t bother her

“All superficial, really,” he says now, from the distance of age. He said the car taught him to save because he had to make monthly payments. “Young people value the things that their friends do,” so designing bike promotion with them at the fore makes sense to him. Use the impulse that made him proud to own a car work for bicycling.

For families, owning a car is a necessity

Status, frugality, mindset. Subarus, for example, are very common here. Geographic distinctions. At black churches, a car is an important sign among clergy. His pastor has been resisting getting a Mercedes despite pressure from his peers.

She doesn’t see it as a status thing, but rather as a convenience. People do buy status types of cars, but they do the same with bikes.

It means they spend a lot of money: “I probably spend more money to drive than I do on anything.” It also means they have the freedom to get where they want to go.

Freedom, autonomy, responsibility. You can take your friends places.

For women, it’s an independence issue. Gives us the freedom to avoid bad situations like relying on unsafe people for rides or being stuck in unsafe places.

It will be when she buys one

Yes. Her first car was a ’77 Volkswagen Rabbit.


Yes. She did not have a car at one point due to a long-term illness.

He bought a 1961 bug after college when he went back to LA, and tricked it out. About 18 years ago, he took the bus. His family was between cars. It meant long walks home, and always having to transfer through downtown.

When talking to youth, he gives the example of money spent on car as money that could be spent on college in explaining the value of money. He’s not as much into the status aspect of car ownership; doesn’t see it as an important luxury.

He’d started working as a young man, and his mother saved money and lent him some to buy a car. This gave him a new stature, impressing girls and friends. He was 23, which was very young to own a car in a place where few people owned cars anyway (Ethiopia). He used the car to get to work, and felt proud.


One woman said that she has owned a car since she was 15, joking that her mother worked hard to be able to spoil her children


Eco car.

A combination of walking, biking, and riding the bus


Driving (though she does not currently drive). She said she doesn’t need it, but it would still be nice to have a car.



Driving, because “I’m from LA.” “For me now, based on the lifestyle I have now,” driving makes the most sense. He sees potential in bicycles as community-building tools (pedicabs in RB, free bicycles for use in the neighborhood)

Uncrowded bus or a bike, if he gets skilled

“At this age, I would prefer a car”

Yes; when he had a family, living in the suburbs made more sense, but as a single older man he is concerned about convenience and prefers living in a dense neighborhood.

He likes where they live (Northgate). Grocery store, drug store, library are convenient.

He seemed satisfied with his current situation, where his family drives a short distance to go to church and community functions.

Yes; accessibility and walkability are important to her as she gets older, so she wants to stay in Beacon Hill.

Yes; Rainier Beach means a lot to her. She works with youth mostly as a volunteer because she is personally invested in the neighborhood. She dislikes negative media coverage of Rainier Beach that portrays it as a violent place. When she was younger, the neighborhood was a mix of black, Asian, and white residents, and many of these people still live here and maintain their sense of place. More recently, East African and Latino communities have moved in. However, she does not see violence stemming from conflicts between groups, but rather from ego disputes.

No; her family currently lives in a suburban neighborhood because it is cheaper, but she would prefer to live in a dense neighborhood with shared public spaces


Yes; she does not have a driver’s license


Doesn’t use it

Doesn’t use it



Yes. His family lives close to Northgate, which has express service to downtown.


No, but the neighborhood streets still work for biking. More infrastructure would be great.

He doesn’t see bike lanes in Rainier Valley, but he does see them in northern parts of the city

More bike lanes wouldn’t create more bike users. He thinks of bike lanes as a way to get somewhere else, to pass through rather than spend time in a neighborhood.

She thinks the current focus on bicycling started with Mayor Mike McGinn

There’s a bike lane in her neighborhood, but she doesn’t think kids should bike in the city.

There is a new bike lane at 51st and Renton near her home, and she is not far from Lake Washington Boulevard.

No. Ideally there would be some, but there are not enough people biking now.

You have to know how to use it, have to be “in the know”

Some things, like Bicycle Sundays, are for everyone, while others, like bike lanes, seem more specifically for commuters. Trails are for recreation and exercise, not commuting.


Bicyclists; “the haves,” a privilege. She thinks bicyclists should pay extra for bike lanes.

Bike lanes come from influence; advocates in influential places


It’s “the city telling people that it’s safe to ride a bicycle”

Signed routes, bike lanes


Chief Sealth trail, bike lanes, Burke-Gilman. He talked about a place in Ballard where businesses were demolished to make room for a trail.

Chief Sealth, and she also talked about parking being removed for bike lanes on Alaska St (connects Beacon Hill and Columbia City)

Bike parking, Chief Sealth trail, bike lane around Rainier and 50th

Green lanes, bike lanes, signage, Bicycle Sundays

Bike lanes, racks on buses

No; a person who takes a jaunt on a bike is not a bicyclist

No, she’s a person who rides a bike

No, she doesn’t have the leg muscles to go up hills


Not right now, but he wants to ride with his son. High gas prices and environmental concerns make him interested in biking.

No, and neither is his son who rides frequently because he doesn’t race

Somebody who is competing in bicycle races

All people who ride bikes

A person who wants to get somewhere and pay less for it, be environmentally conscious. But not everyone is a bicyclist: whites with bicycle racing outfits on, whites with jeans on, one leg rolled up. Class and race associations come up in defining bicyclists.

Someone who knows how to use a bicycle really well, they know their routes, they’re not going slowly up hills. People who ride bikes (not bicyclists) are low income.

Someone with bulging muscles. In Ethiopia, bulging muscles are considered unattractive.

A person who rides a bike more often than drives; someone who prefers to bike. She sees people riding on Lake Washington Boulevard with rearview mirrors and headlights and that annoys her because they should get cars.

Hardcore commuter or alternative people who ride bikes often.

A “title that the people who wear the gear give themselves”

Speedos. “Speedo” refers to their tight clothes.

Bike messenger types with an alternative subculture look; people who do it for exercise; poor people; hardcore commuters who have all the gear, fancy bikes, working tech jobs.

At first she said, “younger people and kids.” Later she saw a black man riding a mountain bike on the sidewalk across the street from us and pointed to him, saying that this is who she sees on a bike, “a seedy kind of person.” She feels harassed by bicyclists: “stay in your lane on your bike and I’m gonna stay in mine. Don’t challenge us.”

People who like to exercise, work out. They wear special clothes. In Ethiopia, women ride bikes, even in mini-skirts, in some cities, but not in Addis Ababa. People there might see bicycling as low status, and poor street conditions make bicycling unappealing. Her impression is that there are more traffic crashes in Ethiopia than here; people on foot do not have the right of way. “I’m sure there are people who ride a bicycle back home, but here they want to drive a car.” Ethiopian people without cars are more fit. Learning to ride a bicycle is harder than learning to drive, and in Seattle there is no information on bicycling available in Amharic and other common East African languages.


Mostly white, speed racers, occasionally people of color but they have a hard time climbing the hill in her neighborhood. Funky helmets.

Commuters, folks interested in health, white folks (that’s a given considering Seattle’s population)

People who are more interested in the environment, physical activity, young people who want to save money

Mostly young people, such as his son, a college student who bikes a lot. “I hear affluent people speaking about it. I hear the mayor speaking about it”



No; drives his son to school. He thinks elementary school kids are too young to bike to school, but he thinks 11-12th graders should get free bikes.

Her kids ride the bus

She drives her son to school because he doesn’t qualify for the school bus. His school has a “walk n’ roll” on Wednesdays, which is a walking school bus. Her son bikes with his grandmother in the summer.

Her teenage son bikes to school, and has taken classes at Bike Works

Until recently she thought of it more as leisure. You need to have all the right gear; it is not something that anybody can just do.

She prefers recreational, with some transportation

Everyday riding

She doesn’t see many people in Beacon Hill biking to work, and a lot of people are going to 2-3 jobs

Transportation, but not necessarily for him


He knows that biking can be good for transportation. He used to vacation in Asmara, and saw people biking in from small villages. He also appreciates the environmental benefits of bicycling.

On streets, and areas where bike lanes have been designated are best. Bike training should be part of driver license renewal. He understands, too, that sometimes bicyclists ride to the left for safety, and he hears motorists honking because they don’t understand. “Motorists should be aware that cycling is a way of life.”

Sidewalk is good unless there’s a lot of foot traffic. The street’s fine unless there isn’t space.

Both. He wasn’t sure if riding on the sidewalk was legal; riding in the street seems more hectic.

She is concerned about safety. There’s a lack of bicycle education, this should be part of driver education. She thinks bicyclists’ erratic behavior is very scary. To her they are like pedestrians and should follow those rules. In Vancouver, she saw bike travel lanes separated from drivers, and thought that was a good idea. Seattle’s urban plan has been more hodge-podge and it feels like there is a fight between bicyclists and drivers.

Sidewalk is more comfortable


It depends on traffic. The sidewalk is safer on a busy street.

Doesn’t know. She hates when bicyclists are in the way when she is walking; doesn’t like them slowing down traffic on streets without bike lanes.


Certain bus routes and stops are unsafe. The 358 and the 7 are sketchy. The bus stop at 23rd and Cherry is not safe.

Not as convenient as it used to be; the 42 used to run right outside of her door. The nearest bus shelter to her home has no glass because it had been shattered so many times that the transit authority gave up replacing it.

She mostly drives. Has never used light rail even though it passes near her mother’s home. Her mother is a Metro driver but does not own a car.

He doesn’t use it; inconvenient

“Sometimes I give up” when the service is very infrequent. He’s had to hail taxis before because the bus never came.


She doesn’t drive

It’s his primary mode of transport

Traffic is rough on 15th

Rainier can be dangerous; driving “helps me get places, I don’t drive for pleasure”


He hasn’t tried it yet. He used to take his son to a Park and Ride near their home to ride bikes, but they tore up the concrete.

She doesn’t know how to bike. Women in Ethiopia, at least in her city, didn’t usually ride bikes.

Riding on 51st is a challenge, though the city did just repave the street. South of Ryan Street it feels less safe due to low visibility.

She does not know how to ride a bike. Her first time trying to ride was at a Bike Works class.

She hasn’t biked since she was a kid, “when it was safer”

She felt safe biking with an experienced cyclist friend. She listened to friends debate better and worse routes. Bicycling is something you have to prepare for.

He used to walk downtown from Capitol Hill on James Street and he lost a lot of weight this way

When he’s walking he is observing things as a social scientist. His family lives behind the golf course in Beacon Hill and they spend time (church, shopping) in Rainier Beach. They drive between home and those destinations

She walks to work

She’s comfortable walking around there even at night

She feels safe for the most part, depending on the time of day. There are no sidewalks but it is residential. Some blocks are better than others.

At night roads are deserted, and the people out on them are not people you would want to talk to. She is the only woman on the street. Stretches between Rainier and people’s houses seem particularly dangerous. A friend was recently attacked walking home from a party at her house. They had discussed safety before he left. He was mugged and beaten. She thinks that looking “openly gay” was a factor.

She thinks of “all the geared people in their speedo outfits, their helmets, slowing down my bus commute”

“I wish I did more; it’s challenging because of the weather and the hills”

“Most people in my neighborhood don’t bike”; bikes are associated with crime in her neighborhood, not with health or transportation. Bikes are often stolen, and there are not many places to secure a bike where she lives.

Seattle is generally better for biking than other cities

It’s a class issue; bicyclists are arrogant, acting like they own roads with an air of entitlement

Biking is not a good idea on Rainier because the traffic is too busy

In Ethiopia, people don’t use bicycles for work. It’s just for leisure, riding on weekends. Streets don’t accommodate them. Here it seemed the same, many people used public transit or cars. When he lived in Southern California, carpooling was a novel idea that seemed like a way out of the traffic problem. His employer encouraged this with a point system. Nazret and Asmara are better for biking, flat and with fewer cars, than Addis. He sees bicycling in Seattle being challenging because of long commutes and hills.

When he sees people riding in the street, he thinks about safety. “People don’t really understand the value of biking”

The three bikes in his garage he hasn’t ridden in 5-6 years come to mind. He also thinks of recreation and exercise.


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