Lauren Walker, our local councilwoman, has been a force of community organizing in Tacoma since she moved to the Hilltop neighborhood almost two decades ago. Through block-by-block organizing and home-ownership initiatives, Lauren has helped to make Tacoma a vibrant, community-focused place. Her inspiring work earned her a seat on the Tacoma City Council in 2007, where she continues to work to make our city wonderful. Lauren has been commuting by bike for years, and we thought we’d catch up with her to ask her a few questions about her commute.
How do you get around?
I live one mile from work (either the City of Tacoma or my day job). Depending upon my meeting schedules and location I usually drive, but take the opportunity on beautiful sunny days (especially in the summer) to ride my bike. On these days I set up meetings across town. I live in the Hilltop neighborhood so need to ride down the hill to work and then up at the end of the day. If I forget something at home I have another uphill trip. I go for a long ride most weekends; sometimes on Saturday and Sunday.
How does it all add up? How much time or money do you save?
All I know is that I put less gas in the car when I ride my bike.
What do you get from your commute? Why do you love getting around this way?
I LOVE riding my bike. Picking up speed in a bike lane or toodling down side streets makes me happy. I like the feeling of the wind in my hair and how my body feels when I’m exercising. I love commuting and feeling like I’m contributing to the environment. It is also fun to get the reaction from people in the community. Waving to Stan Rumbaugh as he comes out of the County City building, having a woman in a business office saying she has no excuses anymore to not be riding her bike, having my staff talk about riding into work and saving gas money.
One of the questions we’re often asked by women is: How do you look professional after biking to work? You seem to have this mastered. How do you do it?
It is a challenge! I’ve done a variety of things. At first I’d wear bike clothes and have professional clothes and shoes in a back pack or pannier bag. I found that cumbersome. Then I started buying cuter bike clothes like a bike skirt rather than bike shorts. I was able to go to Paris in April this year. Women with professional and gorgeous clothes and heels were riding the commuter bikes all over downtown. So, when I came back I adopted a regular clothes attitude. My outfits this summer were comprised of cute capri or fitted pants, cute top, professional flats (I started out changing my shoes but stopped doing this) and took a jacket in a pannier bag or backpack. I’ve also looked for helmets with a statement or fun quality. I’m still working on this. I got more comments from women than ever.
How does your commute tie into the rest of your life? Is there a relationship between your transportation mode and the work that you do?
I’ve cycled since the late 1970s when I commuted to college. I like it. I’ve been inspired by City and regional policies that promote bike riding. I like to exercise.
Was there anything that surprised you when you started commuting this way?
I had a few no-show meetings. This was really frustrating when I’d ride across town and they wouldn’t be there. I’m much more intentional about checking on confirmations and whether or not someone is going to be late. It’s worked well.
What tips do you have for people trying this commute mode for the first time?
Have fun and a sense of humor. Plan your route to avoid the big hills; sometimes the shortest distance can be discouraging. Do something out of the ordinary like stop by a favorite coffee shop on the way home or during a break. Don’t sweat the clothes. The most important thing is that you’re on your bike and that has the cool factor. Meet a friend for lunch at a reasonable distance.