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Featured in 2013’s Fall RideOn Newsletter

By Alden Mudge


During a family reunion in 2009, Danny Milks and current Bike East Bay board member Kristin Tennessen surprised friends and family with a wedding under the Golden Gate Bridge. A month later, they left on a round-the-world, back-packing honeymoon that took them through 30 countries in 730 days. When they returned, they settled – temporarily they thought – in Walnut Creek, where Kristin had a job as software developer at the Joint Genome Project.

Soon after they settled in, Kristin and Danny decided to get involved in Walnut Creek’s civic affairs. “I’ve always had an interest in becoming part of a community,” Kristin said. “When we were traveling, we were only in the same city for a few nights and had no community. The way you really make a difference in the world is getting into a community and getting associated with the politics.”

Danny joined the Bicycle Advisory Committee, but the BAC was soon sunsetted and none of its members were incorporated into Walnut Creek’s Transportation Commission. Both he and Kristin felt the the members of the Commission believed that bicycling in Walnut Creek was great and didn’t need any improvement.

Walnut Creek is a great place to ride, “if you’re on the Iron Horse Trail,” said Danny.  “But for so many other places in Walnut Creek, it’s just not safe to bike. If you go downtown, there’s tons of not just brand new buildings but new streetscapes. Most other cities in the last 10 years have added bike lanes or something more for bicycles when they redeveloped streets. Here there’s all this new infrastructure, but nothing for bicycles.”

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With advice from Bike East Bay’s Dave Campbell and Dave Kemp, a transportation coordinator for the city of Davis, and with support from local cyclists who regularly attended BAC meetings, the pair formed Bike Walnut Creek (BWC) to advocate for change. Their first order of business has been to collect data with twice-yearly bike counts throughout Walnut Creek. Early results show that, while women cyclists ride in significant numbers on the protected, recreational trails, they are less likely to use the city’s less-than-friendly streets for commuting or running errands. Walnut Creek has no connected network of bike paths that would enable safe, easy bicycle commuting.

Under the couple’s leadership, BWC is trying to improve these conditions. BWC is also pushing to find a way to safely connect the popular Moraga-Lafayette Trail with the equally popular Iron Horse Trail. And they seek to favorably influence the 30-year-plan for the west downtown area.

“We are pushing the city to get out of this idea that [transportation] issues in the next 50 years are going to be like the last 50 years,” said Danny, who is currently a stay at home dad with his 6-month-old son, Brock.  “If we don’t make the city more bike-friendly now, then there’s no chance that Brock will be able to bike to school in 10 years.”

Both Kristin and Danny are very aware that they are part of a generation that drives less. “You don’t have to be a hardcore bicyclist to be a bicycle rider,” Kristin said. “Bicycling puts you closer to your community, where you can feel more connected to the people around you. We live and speak in order to make that paradigm shift happen in Walnut Creek.”

Visit the RideOn archive here for more profiles and stories.


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