Cyclist of the Month: April Bartelme (le petit moteur qui pourrait)

April Bartelme is a recent transplant to Seattle. Her father is a chief engineer and her mother is a unit clerk in hospitals in Milwaukee. Her younger brother is a machinist and full-time student. April may likely forge new ground as an international Flying Karamazov Sister or a translator for Cirque du Soleil deaf trapeze artists.

Age: 23
Occupation: Youth Programs AmeriCorps Intern, Cascade Bicycle Club
Hometown: Oconomowoc, WI
Alma Mater: Area Technical College, AS in Sign Language Interpretation
Commute Distance: 8 miles round trip from University District
Commute Method: Bike (at least twice per week)
How did you become involved with AmeriCorps?
I wanted to work as an educational interpreter after graduation, but there were not many positions. So I looked into other opportunities to pay off my school debt. A friend suggested I try it because I was just out of school looking for something different.

What is AmeriCorps?
It’s not an “organization;” it’s like a volunteer placement service…a domestic Peace Corps that works with nonprofits. AmeriCorps encourages people to volunteer a year of their life in service to the community. Other divisions work with different groups: NCC takes care of natural disasters, while VISTA works with the homeless community.

Have you been able to use your degree?
I contacted Eckstein Middle School about an after-school bike program. By chance, Eckstein happens to be a deaf feeder school; they have a dozen deaf students and I’ll be coordinating a bike safety and education program with these students and others with co-instructor Anthony Martinez.

What type of biking do you enjoy?
Wisconsin has lots of bike trails, so I mostly did trail biking there. I bought a Trek XO cyclocross bike from my cousin who works at Trek’s Wisconsin facility. I was not aware of the cyclocross opportunities while I lived there.

After I moved to Seattle, I talked with a woman on Team Group Health, who encouraged me to “just do it.” So, in November, I started cyclocross racing. Now, I also bike to work at least twice per week. My first club ride was with Rob Brown.

How have you enjoyed cyclocross?
For practice, I attended Craig Undem’s cyclocross training clinic at Seward Park. My first race, I finished in last place! Now, I finish towards the end. I’ve been dubbed the “Lanterne Rouge.”

What’s the Lantern Rouge?
On the back of old trains, a red lantern was hung indicating that it was the last card, the caboose. In France, there’s a long tradition of awarding an hone to the last place rider called “lanterne rouge.” It’s not actually an insult; it’s a symbol of perserverance. There’s no possible way of winning, but you stick to it anyway.

Ed note: the tradition began in the first Tour de France in 1903.

How has biking and the Club changed your perspective?
I attended the Footprints & Bike Tracks pedestrian and bike safety conference this fall. Now, I’m obsessed with traffic engineering and intersection design. It made me realize how unsafe intersections can be for cyclists. Knowing how much thought goes into this process makes me appreciate traffic engineers a lot more! As far as the Club, it has been fascinating to see the devoted volunteer base and how motivated the staff is. I think these things contribute to the Club’s size.

Describe your internship at CBC.
My internship lasts until August 2006. AmeriCorps asks its nonprofits to contribute $4,000 of an intern’s salary; AmeriCorps pays a monthly cost of living stipend for food and rent. Cascade received a grant to pay my and Rebecca’s salaries. Rebecca focuses on adult education and safety with Julie [Salathe, education director]; I work more with Kat [Sweet, youth program coordinator and founder of Trips for Kids – Seattle] on youth programs.

Ed note: Rebecca Szper, 23, is the other AmeriCorps intern at Cascade. Coincidentally, Rebecca also hails from Milwaukee, but neither woman knew the other before joining Cascade.

As a new club member, and one of the Club’s youngest representatives – what do you see?
I took minutes at the Board Retreat; I learned that most Cascade members are 45 – 70 year old white males. I’d like to work with youth programs to develop younger members, and more female members.

Are you working on any specific programs to lure new audiences?
At Bike Expo this year, we’re doing a new Bikes & Beats event with BMX riders and a DJ to attract 13 – 17 year olds.

How do you interact with AmeriCorps?
I still attend AmeriCorps conferences. I live with nine roommates in a U. District house; seven of us are from AmeriCorps.

What’s next?
I would love to bike tour in another county. There’s an Aerial Acrobatics school in Bristol, England that I’d love to attend. It’s an intensive six months to three years of full-time training in rope climbing and silks (where you climb and perform twists and turns with two pieces of fabric). I just started the application process.

Ed note: If you know someone 18 – 25 interested in AmeriCorps community programs, visit:

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