A Giant Passes: Ellen Fletcher 1928-2012

Ellen Fletcher is a giant among bicycle advocates. She fought for bikes onboard Caltrain and brought the first bicycle boulevard to Palo Alto in the 1980’s while serving on the City Council. She also succeeded in adopting a pioneering bike parking ordinance in Palo Alto that requires secure bike parking in new homes-imagine that!

For years, she organized bike valet at the Stanford football games and of course could always be found out and about on Bike to Work Day. Thanks to her efforts, Palo Alto has the 2nd highest bike mode share of any city in the US-10.09%. It was from her vision and hard work of implementing bike improvements in Palo Alto that the City of Berkeley was inspired to approve a network of bicycle boulevards in the 1990’s. In fact, it was Ellen’s advice to us to do this, and avoid the challenge Palo Alto faced in doing a 2nd bike boulevard.

Because Ellen’s daughter lived in Berkeley, she often came to visit and would share her stories with members of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. It was from these stories that I first learned about the concept of grassroots organizing and door-to-door canvassing. Ellen went block to block back in the early 1980’s to convince homeowners of the benefits of a bikeway thru Palo Alto that functioned as a safe thruway for crosstown bike travel. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a bike advocate back then. She laid a foundation upon which our movement is based today. May bicycle boulevards line the neighborhoods of heaven. RIP Ellen.

-Dave Campbell

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