“Biking to school is a really good idea, so I’m just going to do it even if no one else is doing it.”
Kiel Johnson organized the first Bike Train at Beach School in 2009. Then 22, Kiel convinced school officials, parents, and students to feel comfortable and have fun biking to school together. A year later, the Beach School Bike Train had grown to 100 riders. Since then, bike trains have expanded to other schools in Portland and beyond.
Kiel, now 24, founded a website, BikeTrainPDX.org, that helps parents connect with each other and shows meetup locations and route maps for new families who want to join. He has appeared on national television, and applied for and received a grant to sustain and grow the program. His next big move is to improve technology to make it easier for schools to track the number of students biking and walking.
Kiel started bike trains as a volunteer, and he has remained committed to creating a citywide community for bike trains. Meanwhile, he has tackled a number of other bike issues with the same confidence and entrepreneurial spirit that makes ideas successful. Kiel has:
• Organized community members to speak up for biking and walking in critical places around Portland;
• Founded the group Friends of Barbur to speak up for biking and walking conditions and advocate for reducing speeds on SW Barbur Boulevard;
• Founded Friends of East Holgate to fight for buffered bike lanes when a group of vocal opponents threatened to force the city to remove them;
• Kiel also volunteers for the BTA, working with staff on projects such as coordinating the Build It ride during Pedalpalooza.
For Kiel, it’s about biking and healthy, active communities, but mostly it’s about people. Kiel organizes communities, but he doesn’t speak for them. He brings people together to speak up and take action for a common cause. We can’t wait to see what he does next… and next after that… and next after that.