A conversation with Feet First’s new executive director
Degree: BS in Advertising, San Jose State University
Residence: Ballard, Washington
Born in La Verne, California, Lisa Quinn attended San Jose State University where she pursued a BS in Advertising. After a car accident in 1991, she became a bicycling enthusiast. Quinn’s college job as a bike messenger foreshadowed her future transportation career.
Dressed all in black, Quinn met me at the Lockspot Cafe in Ballard. Over dinner, Lisa shared her fondness for the Northwest, Dick’s Brewing Ales, and her passion for transportation choices.
“Biking was how I got around, how I identified with my community…connected to a piece of metal,” says Lisa.
That connection perhaps explains why Lisa personifies her two red cruiser bikes as “Ruby” and “Rosie.” “Cruisers have to have names,” explains Quinn.
Discovering she couldn’t sell her sole for a pair of Nikes, Quinn looked for a career that was more inline with her beliefs. Quinn tells a story of a university field trip: “With six months left to graduate, we were required to visit an agency in San Francisco. I asked the account executive whether I could choose my accounts based on my values. He laughed. After that, I decided I’d always do work that I was passionate about.” Quinn has since become a professional transportation advocate. Her skills and knowledge of the transportation arena have landed her positions from Vancouver, British Columbia to Seattle to San Luis Obispo, California.
A friend inspired Lisa to look at a job with ALTRANS, a Transportation Management Association in Santa Clara, California. As Program Manager, she helped develop a universal bus pass for San Jose State University and managed the transportation program for two community colleges. After working at colleges and a transportation consulting firm in Palo Alto, Quinn moved to the Northwest to work as a Commute Trip Coordinator for the City of Tacoma.
Seattleites may recognize Quinn from her post as Public Information Specialist at the University of Washington Transportation Office. There, in 2003, with less than six months of planning, Quinn developed the Ride In The Rain commute challenge, modeled after Cascade’s successful Group Health Commute Challenge (which, in turn, was designed from Portland’s Bike Commute Challenge, produced by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance).
Ride In The Rain tracks participants trips, miles and number of times riding in the rain. Participants are invited to a luncheon which included a fashion show, award ceremony and most recently added vendor expo. Team captains receive long-sleeve wicking t-shirts to encourage teams to register. 2007 marked the program’s fifth anniversary, and UW celebrated a record 777 riders on 92 teams and 82 lone riders. The event funding comes primarily from UW parking permits—“the people who drive fund people who bike” Quinn says, smiling. “I’m not opposed to user fees, like tolls. People pay user fees for water, phones, energy—why not transportation?”
“If cars weren’t so convenient, people would find value in walking and biking to work…to stores. It builds stronger communities,” explains Quinn.
After a short stint as Transportation Manager at Urban Mobility Group, Quinn moved to Vancouver, BC in 2005 to work as Program Coordinator for BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transportation). There, she taught employers about transportation choices through training programs, including Bicycle 101 and Idle-Free, a program that encouraged drivers to turn off their engines at train crossings, bridges, and ferries. (Studies show that, after ten seconds, it takes less energy to re-start your engine than to keep it running.)
“My Executive Director at BEST was really inspiring. She was a great coach who lived life outside the box,” says Lisa. “I admire that.”
After managing the region’s Rideshare Program for the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments for two and half years, last month, Quinn returned to her ‘home’ of Seattle – to lead Feet First as Executive Director, replacing David Levinger who departed in 2007. The position requires Lisa’s skills, not only as a transportation manager, but as a personnel manager of four employees. She is excited to bring her interest and background in social marketing to her work as well.
“I’m looking to build the organization…diversify funding. I’d like to grow Safe Routes to Schools…help Seattle with its Pedestrian Master Plan,” confides Quinn. “The Mayor recognizes that no one wants sprawl, but no one wants too much density either…Designing active, accessible communities is important to people, especially when faced with an economic recession.”
Away from work, Lisa plays ultimate Frisbee, and she enjoys running and mountain biking. This month, she’ll race with her boyfriend in Pole Pedal Paddle in Bend, as well as take part in Bellingham’s Ski to Sea with her new women’s multi-sport team, Venus Envy.
These days, because her two bikes need repair, Quinn takes a bus from Ballard to Belltown. Embarrassed, Lisa admits that, after 17 years of cycling she has not learned to do her own basic bike maintenance. She says, blushing, she “leaves bike maintenance to the professionals…it supports local business.”
Founded in 1996, Feet First, a 501c3 non-profit, is an advocacy organization building walkable communities. Feet First helps people take simple steps to create better places to live, learn, shop, work, and play – a world that cares about health, community, and design. Learn more at www.feetfirst.info or call 206-652-2310.
Scott Marlow was marketing director for Cascade Bicycle Club from 2001 – 2005. Currently the Club record-holder for the shortest commute (under six-seconds), Marlow works from his home office in Ballard.
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