I thought I would try something new here at Cycling Carson City. I’m going to conduct interviews with various citizens around Carson City that I hope will be of interest to you. From land managers and city officials to bicycle commuters and trail riders. Luckily for me my first interviewee said yes.
I felt it would be good to start off my series with local activist Anne Macquarie. Anne is the president of Muscle Powered, an organization dedicated to making Carson City a bikeable and walkable community.
Anne grew up in Yosemite Valley and met her husband Chas (who I hope will be a future
victim interviewee of mine) there. They later moved to Carson City and raised their two children, Charlie and Anna, who are now both in college; Charlie in Portland, OR., and Anna in Fort Collins, CO.
In the early years of their marriage Anne and Chas were backcountry rangers in Tuolumne Meadows. While there, they were involved in a search and rescue operation that led to saving the life of a ten-year-old boy. You can read the full account of that story HERE.
Anne and Chas have also climbed numerous peaks around the world, including three Himalayan climbs; Anne got to 25,000 feet and Chas reached 27-28,000 feet on Mt. Everest before severe weather turned them back.
I caught up with Anne and Chas at their home in a cute residential area on the west side of Carson City:
Cycling Carson City: What bicycles do you ride?
Anne MacQuarie: I ride an early model Trek road bike, and a DBR mountain bike.
C.C.C.: What brought you to Carson City?
A.M.: We wanted to live in a small town close to the mountains, and Carson City was right underneath the Sierra. We moved here from theBay Area.
Chas Macquarie: And we had a job.
A.M.: Well yes, but we looked for jobs here specifically. We looked in Idaho, Utah, Colorado. And then we were driving back to California from Idaho, spending Christmas with my sister, and we drove through Carson City and thought…. lets look here. And so we did.
C.C.C.: What year was that?
A.M.: It was 1988.
C.C.C.: Who were the founders of Muscle Powered?
A.M.: The genesis of it was; the City had a bike plan, and they had a public meeting about a revision of the bike plan. I think it was ’96. A lot of people showed up, like thirty people. They had a workshop in the library and there were a lot of good comments, a lot of cyclists showed up. I got to thinking during that meeting, “well this is just fine but they’re gonna come up with a plan, and it’s just going to sit on a shelf”. I thought what we needed was an organization. So I got together a number of people, Jim Crompton, Ed Skudlarek, Kelly Clark, Penny Fairfield, and some others.
We met as a steering committee for almost two years, kind of casually, to see what we could do; whether there was a need for an organization like Muscle Powered, and what we wanted to do. Then we reached a critical mass, I think about two years after that, maybe ’98. We got incorporated, applied for 501(c)(3) status and came up with bylaws and a mission statement.
But I think what really coalesced the organization was the freeway project, and working with Mary Fischer of GROW. I remember she somehow heard about this new, little organization, Muscle Powered. She called me up (and said), “I hear you have this organization to advocate bicycling in Carson City. Did you know there’s a bike path along the freeway in the plans (Carson City’s) and NDOT has no intention of building it, and what are you going to do about it?”
So Mary and I met, and then it kind of snowballed. We had a petition to include the bike path in the freeway project. We put it in all the bike shops and got a lot of publicity in the newspaper. We had an incredible turn out at a meeting with the State Transportation Board down at NDOT. It was an overflow crowd, with people in the lobby listening remotely. The State Transportation Board decided to include the multi-use trail in the project, which was quite a victory for us. So that’s really how the organization started, with that particular issue.
Now we’re working with you on the mountain bike trail. Barbara Howe is on our Board. She’s really been dynamic about the relationship between public health and walking and bicycling, and the Safe Routes to Schools program. Sue Newberry does that sort of thing too. We’re strongly directed by the interests of our active members and Board members. I think that’s a good thing, because we have had some people come to Muscle Powered meetings and say, “well you guys should do this, and you should do that.” I just got tired of that. I said, “well…. we can do that, if you do it.” So that’s how it works.
The main things we’ve worked on over the last ten years have been, the freeway multi-use path; walk our children to school day, where we got 2400 people to walk to school; two editions of the bike map for Carson City; the Bike to Work Week; and starting to work with the city on the Unified Pathways Master Plan.
Then we had some other things that haven’t been nearly as successful. We really tried to keep NDot from taking what used to be the shoulder lane on 395 south, where people used to ride their bikes as another traffic lane. They pretty much just blew us off. The compromise was that they would sign an alternative bicycle route through town, north-south, which they did.
C.C.C.: That would be Silver Sage Drive?
A.M. Yes, Silver Sage Drive. We got bike lanes on Fifth Street, which was sort of a victory. I think our main challenge still remains the attitude of the powers-that-be in Carson City. I think walking and bicycling are just barely on their radar screen.
C.C.C.: What is your proudest achievement with Muscle Powered?
A.M.: The multi-use trail along the freeway, because that’s a really great bicycle and pedestrian facility. There’s no way it would be here if it weren’t for Muscle Powered.
C.C.C.: Will the next phase of the bike path be a fight?
A.M.: It already is a fight. Chas is sort of the project manger on this. What we’re trying to do is get them (NDOT) to design and build that section of the freeway in such a way that it doesn’t preclude a path going in later. So that’s especially critical at the interchanges at Fairview, and at Fifth Street.
(Anne to Chas) And do you think we’re going to be successful?
Chas: It depends on what you call successful. There is no interchange at Fifth Street. That’s taken care of with the path there. The real bottlenecks are getting across Highway 50 and past the Gold Dust West to the Lompa property. Then when Lompa develops they’ll be required to put a trail there. But getting past Fairview Drive is going to be real tricky. And N-DOT has designed it so far, with the building of it, that it’s not easy to put a trail in there at all. South of that there is room along the utility corridor and they’ve been fairly good about leaving room for it there. They haven’t helped with Fairview so far.
A.M.: So the bottlenecks are going to be Hwy 50 and Fairview. But we’re hopeful there will be some kind of path there, even if it might not be the best alignment. And that’s what we’re working towards. I think the City is pretty much on board with that. From the Supervisors down through the various levels of their staff. But the City really can only do so much. Because it’s NDOT’s right-of-way and NDOT’s project.
C.C.C.: Will the Linear Park Trail tie into the the bike path?
A.M.: Now that’s going to be a great trail. We got funding last year to complete the section of trail from where it now ends, in the Lompa pasture, all the way to where it will join the existing path by Edmonds Drive. Last year the City got funding through Recreational Trails to fill in the gaps on either end (connecting the Linear Park Trail to Fifth St). Then we got funding to construct the bridges across Mexican Ditch. So when those two projects are done, you’ll be able to ride or walk on an off street path all the way from Governor’s field at Roop Street, to Silver Saddle Ranch.
C.C.C.: When will the bridges be installed on the Mexican Ditch Trail?
C.M.: One will be next spring, but the other maybe next winter.
A.M.: The bridge that doesn’t exist now, that cuts off the southern end of the trail, that bridge will be installed next spring. The other bridge is to replace (an unsafe bridge) that is currently there.
C.C.C.: What is your greatest frustration?
A.M.: Well to me, having a transportation system that encourages and accommodates all modes of transportation, including bicycling and walking, isn’t impossible. Because I’ve seen it in so many other places. So I think my main frustration is how behind the times Carson City is in its transportation system. I mean, we can’t continue to have transportation systems that are just based on individuals driving their cars everywhere. For reasons of public health, for reasons of global warming, for the very livability of the town. We just can’t continue to do that. So my biggest frustration is; that is so obvious to me, why isn’t it so obvious to the people who make the decisions?
C.C.C.: Has Muscle Powered turned out the way you initially envisioned it?
A.M.: I think in some ways its been more successful than I thought it would be. It certainly lasted longer, it’s lasted about ten years now. It has been remarkably successful despite the fact that we’re all frustrated. But what I would have liked to have happened, and which seems to be happening only very slowly, is to have a larger core of people who are willing to do more work to bring more ideas and projects and to carry them out. It’s always kind of a struggle because there is so much that we could do. But it’s a struggle to find people who have the energy and imagination and enthusiasm to do it. I think that’s been my chief disappointment with the organization itself. I don’t think that’s unique to Muscle Powered. I think it’s just when you’re asking people to volunteer their time for nothing… you’re asking a lot. So I don’t know how to overcome that.
C.C.C.: What will we see from Muscle Powered in 2008?
A.M.: Well… come to our annual meeting and see.
C.C.C.: Are non-members invited to the annual planning meeting on Jan. 13?
A.M.: Yes, non-members are invited. You can take part in any of the discussions but you can’t vote for any officers. Or you can join right there and become members. What we do in the annual meeting is elect our officers for the year, which is pretty cut and dry. Once that’s out of the way, we discuss what we want to do during the year, and anybody is welcome to join that.
C.M.: That’s probably a good meeting for people who might be interested in what Muscle Powered does.
I would like to thank Anne and Chas for their time and hospitality.
J-Mo has posted the time and place of the Muscle Powered Annual Planning Meeting HERE.