Cycling Around: Sequim fosters a great bicycling community

Did you know that Sequim and the Dungeness Valley are a real haven for people who ride bicycles? I certainly didn’t when my wife and I moved out here six years ago.

Back then I was more interested in hiking and climbing, and thinking of adding of kayaking to my regular outdoor activity calendar. I had a bike and I did some occasional cycling back east in the “other” Washington, but I never really thought I’d become a “cyclist”— you know, one of those colorfully-clad folks who take to the roads and trails any time they can.

Shortly after we arrived in 2012 and were still settling in to our new life, however, I was invited to join a group who got together every Sunday for a social ride. Some of the folks on that ride then suggested I come along on their weekday rides. Before long, cycling became a habit — my primary form of exercise.

I started riding my bike regularly. The number of days I rode grew and the miles I covered increased. I was becoming a cyclist.

The unique beauty of the Olympic Peninsula was one of the lures that drew us here years ago, but experiencing it from the perspective and pace of a bicycle has added a whole new dimension. My appreciation for the special qualities of this place has deepened, the fun and camaraderie of group rides has led to close friendships, and I’ve come to realize how bicycling can help build and enhance a sense of community.

Sequim itself has more than a half-dozen cycling groups. You’ll see lots of their members out on our local roads. Others you’ll only encounter if you’re back in the woods on a gravel road or a trail. Most of these groups consist of riders with different abilities and interests — from those who prefer a slower pace and a more relaxed social kind of ride to those want a faster, longer, more physically challenging outing. You’ll find the same in Port Angeles, Port Townsend and other places across the Peninsula.

Regardless of where they live or where they ride, one thing cyclists have in common is a real connection — not just to their home community but to neighboring places as well. That comes from the simple fact that when you’re out on a bike, you experience a community in a different, very personal way. You’re not wrapped in steel and glass, cut off from sounds and smells and weather and other people; you’re exposed — by choice — to all those things. You’re not speeding past; you’re riding in, around, and through.

You become aware of how different communities react to cyclists — whether they’re “cyclist friendly,” indifferent, or don’t like bicycles on their roads or trails.

In communities like Sequim, Port Angeles, Port Townsend and most places on the Olympic Peninsula, the “cyclist friendly” attitude prevails. It’s encouraged and sustained by collaborative efforts between local cyclists, government, business, and non-profit groups to promote bicycle safety, education and training programs for young cyclists, and mutual respect between motorists and cyclists.

You may have noticed that the number of cyclists on the roads and trails in our area has grown in recent years. That’s not just because more of us who live here have decided to take up bicycling as a way to stay fit and healthy. It’s because people feel more comfortable and confident about riding their bikes here — they like the “cyclist friendly” attitude they encounter.

Our area is also becoming a real “destination” for cyclists who seek escape from traffic-clogged roads and busy urban trails. They have begun to discover a whole new world of cycling adventure and they’re eager to explore it whenever they can. This gives Sequim and the rest of the Olympic Peninsula a real opportunity: to increase tourism and the revenue it generates by making this a year-round attraction for cycling tourists.

Last year, a peninsula-wide organization, the Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance (OPBA), a tax-exempt nonprofit, was formed to encourage and coordinate those efforts across the entire region — to make the entire Olympic Peninsula “cyclist-friendly.”

Through partnerships with public and private entities OPBA strives to make the whole area a safer, better place to ride a bike. Its aim is to serve the needs and interests of all cyclists on “the OP,” whether they live here or are just visiting.

I’m proud to be a founding member of OPBA. Like other OPBA members, I’m passionate about cycling here and I enjoy sharing that passion, letting others know about the extraordinary cycling fun and adventure we get to enjoy year ‘round, encouraging others to join our cycling community, and advocating for the benefits that cycling brings.

I invite you to visit our website, www.olympicpeninsulacycling.com, to find out more about OPBA, the projects we’re involved with, and all the information you need for cycling on “the OP.”

If you have a bike (and a helmet), come ride with us!

Ken Stringer is President of the Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance. This is the first of a monthly series of columns on cycling in Sequim and the surrounding area. For more information on cycling in the area, go to www.olympicpeninsulacycling.com, or contact the author at opcycling@gmail.com.