This article is the twelth in a series profiling the varied and amazing nominees for the 2009 Alice B. Toeclips Awards, which will be presented to five winners at the Alice Awards & Auction on March 7th. We won’t be able to profile everyone, so read the nominees’ descriptions online. This profile was written by BTA correspondent John McLaren.
Eugene’s Shane Rhodes helped invent the “Kidical Mass” ride, a child-centered and cheerful variation of the sometimes controversial Critical Mass ride. The first ride was in Eugene last spring, and it inspired similar movements around Portland, the Northwest and the country.
“The bike movement has grown up, and now it has kids,” says Rhodes, an Alice Award nominee who may be best known for his work on the successful Eugene Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) program. His focus is the SRTS Pilot School of Roosevelt Middle School and the Eugene 4J School District, as well as the promotion of bicycling activities around the City of Eugene.
He was inspired to begin the Kidical Mass rides by his friend, bicycling filmmaker Ted White, whose work includes Return of the Scorcher (1992), a documentary about bike culture that coined the term “critical mass,” and We Are Traffic (1999), a film that chronicles the often misunderstood ride. Rhodes was talking to White, now a father, about his upcoming visit to the area and decided they needed to do a ride to celebrate. He wanted to do something not so “critical” or political but more fun and involving families; the idea of Kidical Mass was born.
In the year he has been with the Eugene SRTS program, Rhodes has encouraged students and parents to look at active alternatives to driving to school. Under his leadership, participation in last October’s Walk and Bike to School Day increased to more than 70 percent from its usual 20 percent of Roosevelt students. Rhodes also helped grow Walk and Bike to School Day from 10 Eugene schools to more than 25 schools in 2008.
At Roosevelt, Rhodes introduced the Freiker (short for Frequent Biker) bike count program, which uses RFID tags on students’ helmets to count the riders in each day and upload the data to a web site. As the youngsters build up their ride counts they can earn prizes like an mp3 player or digital camera. Rhodes brought the Freiker program to Roosevelt as a pilot project at no cost to the school.
The school is also working on a new bike parking area designed and built with University of Oregon “designBridge” students and Roosevelt students and staff. A permanent bike education program (including a fleet of 35 bikes) is now part of every 6th grader’s P.E. curriculum. In just one year, Rhodes has helped increase bike ridership at Roosevelt Middle School from 5 to 10 percent and walking from 15 to 20 percent of the student population.
The Safe Routes program at Roosevelt is a model for other 4J schools. Rhodes is working on a SRTS Toolkit and a website to assist Eugene schools with their Safe Routes programs and is helping six other local schools in creating their SRTS Action Plans.
Rhodes presents his vision and shares his energy at parent and teacher meetings, as well as at non-profits, health fairs and environmental events in the Eugene-Springfield area. Additionally, Rhodes has presented the Eugene SRTS efforts at various conferences including the 2008 Oregon Traffic Safety Conference, Pro Walk/Pro Bike Conference 2008 in Seattle, and at the 8th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference held in January in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rhodes is quickly becoming one of Oregon’s great spokespeople for active transportation.
Rhodes’ passion for Safe Routes to School and his community bicycling advocacy go beyond his position as the program manager for the Eugene Safe Routes to School program. He is a certified cycling instructor through the League of American Bicyclists and an active member of GEARs (Greater Eugene Area Riders). He is also on the Eugene Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and helped organize this year’s Walking & Biking Summit.
Rhodes continues to spread the message that “kids are traffic too” not just Kidical Mass but other family cycling events as well, like Bike Day at the Science Factory and the Blackberry Jamboree.
Rhodes is an enthusiastic, car-free bike commuter who teaches by example, often biking with his Xtracycle or locally built Human Powered Machines cargo-bike around town as he visits schools. On top of all his lofty accomplishments and his inspiring vision, he also makes a mean bike-blended smoothie.