Cyclist of the Month: Mel Roberts

Mel Roberts shares his wisdom about political advocacy, beginner rides, and why there’s no such thing as bad weather – just inappropriate clothing.

Age: 65
Occupation: Boeing Software Engineer
Degree: BSCE
Hometown: Gregory, South Dakota
Residence: Kent, Washington
Commute: occasional: bus/bike to work, bike home
Bikes: Trek 5200, Novarra hybrid
How did you start cycling?
I grew up cycling. I got my first bike in fifth grade. I commuted occasionally during my early twenties. Then, there was a big void in my thirties and forties, while I raised my three boys.

In 1999, my son, Brent (27), was training for the [Group Health] STP and I bought a Novarra hybrid to train with him. (Now, I ride a carbon fiber Trek 5200).

What are some of your favorites?
I’ve ridden STP five out of the last eight years; two RSVPs; Chilly Hilly; Kitsap Color Classic; I attend Bike Expo regularly.

My favorite trip was a self-supported 440 mile eight day tour down the western Oregon coast from Longview through Astoria to Crescent City, California. I also enjoy nighttime riding in March along the Interurban and Green River Trails; you can hear the frogs; owls, eagles and birds come out. It’s a ribbetting ride [his son rolls his eyes]. On an Explore Kent preparatory ride, we over ten types of water fowl.

For gear, I love my O2 raincoat and my NightRider Moab HID headlight.

Why did you join Cascade?
I joined CBC for riding, and to find new places to ride. There are so many places, like the Mount Baker tunnel, that I’ve discovered since joining.

And now you are leading rides.
I like scheduling rides because it motivates me to get out and exercise. About six four years ago, Tom Hale and I started Use It or Lose It. On Tuesdays and Thursdays evenings during the winter, I schedule we cruse on a 20 mile ride through the Kent Valley at a 14 – 16 miles per hour pace. The first winter, three to four people showed up; now we average six to ten riders per ride and John Calnan helps out on Tuesdays.

I’m also coordinating Explore Kent that features two rides with invitations to City [of Kent] employees, including the City Council. We’ll educate riders about what’s good, bad, and ugly – like fixing missing shoulders. It’ll be a success whether we have ten riders or 120.

Any other involvement in bicycling?
I’m a volunteer member of the CBC advocacy committee, so I attend some public meetings. I’m also chairman of the Kent Bicycle Advisory Board, created by a former Kent mayor.

We’re trying to complete a comprehensive bicycle network as part of the Transportation Master Plan for the City. We hope to build 150 miles of trails, shoulders, and bike lanes.

What cycling issues are you tackling?
I’d like to double or triple the number of Kent bicycle commuters by recruiting members and employees of non-cycling groups and organizations. Get them hooked on biking by offering more beginner rides.

Issues like Lake Forest Park are important; we need to keep the pressure on politicians; take education to the schools. I’d like to see more work done in the south part of King County.

When I sit in on a public City Council meeting, it makes Council members more aware of bicycling. We need that type of representation in every city.

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