Apr 072019
#30DaysOfBiking, Days 6 & 7: A Little Night Magic

I’m taking liberties with this title. Day 6 didn’t exactly overflow with magic on the bike. Sweet Hubs tuned up Tessa the Folding Bike to get her road-ready for a trip to Spokane. I rolled her through the garage, confirming that everything felt smoother and better. Then I bundled her away into her not-so-handy tote carrying thing and tucked her into the car for the night (this particular brand doesn’t come with a hard case and I can’t find one that fits).

Day 7 gave me magic, proving yet again that it isn’t about the mileage, it’s about just getting out there and turning the pedals.

Before getting to the magic I did one short ride at home on Zelda to check out the bike style comfort level of some new pants and they passed the test with flying colors. If you followed my quest years ago for the perfect bike pant you know that I thought I had settled it with the Outlier Tailored riding pant, but they stopped making them for women and I decided that the patch pocket look wasn’t really what I needed for the office. My new favorites are Betabrand dress pant yoga pant, which does come with pockets in some styles but has more subtle ones than the Outliers. These ones (Free Flux DPYP) feature front zip pockets that are deep enough for my phone to tuck in securely.

Post test ride Tessa and I flew to Spokane, landed and went to dinner with some family. I settled into my hotel, which I chose because it sits right by the Riverpoint Campus where I worked many years for WSU Spokane. I got Tessa out of the tote, set her up with lights, and away we went.

Here’s where the magic starts (although I do think finding comfortable professional pants I can bike in is pretty magical).

This hotel sits right on the Spokane River, with the Centennial Trail running along its length for miles. I paused to enjoy the calling of the Canada geese overhead, the lapping of the river along the banks, and the lights of the buildings on the water before setting off.

I wheeled through the darkening and mostly empty campus, with lots of good memories coming back. I managed our communications and public affairs, so for several of these buildings I was in charge of the groundbreaking events. And here they stand today, glowing softly in the night, waiting for students, staff and faculty to show up tomorrow and start another week of learning and discovery.

My real destination, though, was the new bridge over the railroad tracks. The University District Gateway Bridge has been in one way or another part of my life since it was just an idea. And now at last I would get to ride on it.

My first connection came through my role at WSU Spokane, where I worked on our campus master plan update and its integration with the downtown master plan. We identified the economic development opportunities that a growing health sciences campus presented to the city and the region and hatched the dream of the Spokane University District. The benefits of linking the campus to the south side of Spokane to enable development along east Sprague made the bridge a piece of this vision.

I would have bicycled over the bridge twice a day if it had been built while I still lived in Spokane. I participated in planning and charrettes around the Spokane University District concept, helped develop its brand as part of a community team, and as a member and chair of the Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board worked on the 2008 update to the bike master plan.

As one of my last local bike leader acts before moving to Seattle, when Riverside Avenue was extended onto the campus as a complete street with a bike lane and renamed Martin Luther King Jr Way, I jumped on my bike and rode in the opening day festivities beneath the bridge’s future location.

In 2012 I moved to Seattle to head Washington Bikes, the statewide bike advocacy nonprofit. We worked hard for walk/bike funding in the 2015 transportation revenue package, which brought $8.8 million to the city of Spokane to fund the construction of the bridge. And now I’m at WSDOT, where we continue to give grants that support the safety and mobility of people walking and rolling in Spokane and across the state, including a grant for elements of the pedestrian plaza on the south landing of the bridge.

This bridge has been in my DNA for years and years. I used to say, not entirely joking, that if anything happened to me — meaning something tragic — while I was riding my bike my friends in Spokane should run a fundraising campaign to finish the project and name it the Chamberlain Memorial Bridge. I am quite glad to report that it got funded and built without this being necessary.

All of this rolled through my head as I rolled through the quiet campus in the mild night air with the last of the sunset’s glow fading quickly. No big event, no ribbon-cutting with speeches like the events I used to organize here, just me with my bicycle in the dark.

Riding on it in the dark felt pretty magical. The lights on the bridge’s striking design form a graceful half-circle against the night sky. The approach winds gracefully around in a gentle climb. A train chugged past beneath the bridge as I stopped to play with the reflective piece of art that acts like a funhouse mirror on the south landing.

Then I rode back to my hotel through the dark, pausing to appreciate the way that landing from the bridge and continuing on into campus lines you up with the entrance to the Academic Center. I noodled along the sidewalks to admire the campus’s growth since I was last there.

Can you spot the bike racks at the Nursing Building reflected in this piece of art?

All those years, all that work, the many who championed and designed and voted for funding and built — it all came together. Magic.

Mileage: 1.77

Location: Spokane, for the real ride of Day 7

Bike: Tessa the Folding bike

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