The first crop of Advocacy Leadership Institute graduates heads out to connect our communities

For three months, a passionate group of people from Seattle and across the region gathered on Wednesday nights in a cozy room in downtown Seattle to learn how to become better advocates for bicycling and connected communities.

Now, after eight workshops and training featuring an all-star guest speaker line-up, the first crop of “Community Bicycle Advocates” have graduated from Cascade’s Advocacy Leadership Institute, a free program that helps active community members be more effective and organized, and ultimately more successful, in the work that they do.  Armed with new skills and refined goals, the graduates are heading out on the streets to make great things happen in our neighborhoods.

Graduate Don Brubeck has set out to connect West Seattle and SODO to downtown by bike routes that will be safe for a greater numbers of cyclists of all abilities to use for commuting to work as well as visiting West Seattle.

“West Seattle needs alternatives to the clogged bridge, the closing Viaduct, and the tolled tunnel with no exits downtown. And the Port and SODO industries need to be able to thrive,” Brubeck said, adding that his first step is to to give West Seattle a strong voice in the Seattle Bike Master Plan update.

“[ALI] revealed a new world to me,” he said. “Community organizing, political power, campaign planning, strategies and tactics -- all things I knew little of before. The stories and involvement of the other participants are inspiring and have created an instant support group. As an architect, I can plan, design, manage teams and projects, but this was a really different skill set and approach to working with people.”

Graduate Glen Buhlman meanwhile is focusing on alternative transportation options for kids.

“My medium term goal is to get at least 50 percent of kids in the Lake Washington School District to get to school by means other than car (walk, bike, bus),” said Buhlman. “My immediate term goal is to get this to happen at my own kids' school.”

And from there Buhlman want to take his vision to the state and national level and “change the way schools are designed and built to have walking and cycling be how schools expect and encourage and even require their students to get to school,” he said. “I want to get school districts pushing their city governments to make the streets around school safe for pedestrians and bikes rather than having the roads around schools be some of the most dangerous in the area because the schools were designed to have hundreds or even thousands of cars swarm in and out each morning and afternoon.”

Graduate Catherine Hennings was encouraged to take action after her colleague Mike Wang was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

“[It] made me want to do whatever I could to make biking safer in Seattle and ensure that everyone who wants to commute by bike can get home safely to their family,” Hennings  said. “My campaign is to build on the efforts of a group of employers that we have already formed in South Lake Union to put a solid, world-class network of bikeways into and through the South Lake Union neighborhood into the updated Bike Master Plan and then get it built over the next few years.”

Mike O'Brien (one of the all-star guest speakers) attended the ALI graduation party

This summer was the first launch of the Advocacy Leadership Institute by Cascade Bicycle Club and there were three times more applications than we expected. We are committed to running the program again and again to accommodate the demand.

Join Glen, Catherine, Don and all the other new Community Bicycle Advocates achieve in creating better communities through bicycling, Apply for the next round of ALI!

People should sign up for ALI to learn how to “make a real impact on transportation options in Seattle and get to know a terrific group of people who all care deeply about making Seattle one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country,” said  Hennings.  “ The workshops were all very interesting, and I learned a lot about community organizing and advocacy, how to think about strategy and tactics, and how to get your message out.”

“It was amazing to have so many people from all corners of the political, advocacy, lobbying, and journalism worlds come and speak with us and teach us from their own experiences,” added Bluhman. “The workshops have made me feel much more empowered to be able to both focus on specific goals and to know how to go about getting results.”

“I signed up for ALI because I retired in May and wanted to do everything possible to be a more effective advocate for bicycling as real transportation.  I have carried on my own little advocacy projects for years and was ready to be a bit more ambitious,” said Merlin Rainwater. “The class was a great introduction to the principles of advocacy work. My advocacy work is both broader and more focused."

If you are willing to work to create better communities through bicycling, we invite you to apply for the early 2013 Advocacy Leadership Institute. Specific dates are yet to be determined, but we are looking to re-launch in January – only a few months from now. If you are interested in applying, send a short email to Max Hepp-Buchanan and I will be in contact with application materials and next steps.


Anne-Marije Rook's picture
Anne-Marije Rook