Marin Cycling Booster Shifts Gears After 13 Years

Deb Hubsmith speaks to a large crowd celebrating the opening of the Cal Park tunnel.

Deb Hubsmith, a cycling zealot whose political savvy blazed many North Bay bike paths over the past 13 years, will step down as advocacy director for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition to focus on the national Safe Routes to School program she founded.

Hubsmith will remain an advisor to the Marin coalition while handing off most of her lobbying work in July to Andy Peri, who’s served on the group’s advocacy team for five years.

With bicycling growing rapidly in Marin — the number of weekday cyclists rose 135 percent during her tenure — Hubsmith said it was a good time to make a change in the local organization.

“At the national level, however, we’re struggling with a new Congress, many of whom are trying to eliminate bicycle and pedestrian funding,” she said in a statement. “It’s time for me to have an increased focus on national level policies.”

She expressed confidence her national work “will help bring more funding” for cycling facilities in Marin. Her efforts have already helped to bring $100 million in funding to Marin to build bikeways, tunnels and other projects.

As a founding board member, Hubsmith served as MCBC’s first executive director from 1998-2005, establishing the group’s position as an early leader in the national alternative transportation movement.

She championed the $27 million Cal Park tunnel project for 12 years. At its opening in December, she called it proof that “vision, tenacity and will can truly make miracles happen.”

She was also instrumental in securing $25 million in federal funding for Marin’s part of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program.

Train Advocate

For more than a decade, Hubsmith has helped promote the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) project that initially promised to include a parallel bike path running from Larkspur to Cloverdale. The Cal Park tunnel project and the recently opened Lincoln Hill bike path in San Rafael are small sections of that route.

Although SMART is scaling back its ambitions due to deep budget deficits, Hubsmith managed to keep two-thirds of the bike path in the plan.

In 2000, Hubsmith proposed a pilot Safe Routes to Schools program to Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), which resulted in a federal contract for MCBC to work with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a national model. That grew into the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, which now involves 550 organizations in all 50 states.

In 2005, as the Safe Routes and the nonmotorized pilot project were taking off, Hubsmith turned the job of executive director over to Kim Baenisch, who has run MCBC for the past six years.

In Hubsmith’s new role, she’ll continue to serve as MCBC’s representative on the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition while also serving as chair of the California Safe Routes to School network and as director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

Peri’s Challenges

New MCBC Advocacy Director Andy Peri.

Peri’s five years in the coalition have put him at the forefront of numerous local cycling issues, including MCBC’s campaign to reopen the Alto Tunnel that would connect bike paths in Corte Madera and Mill Valley via a long-abandoned railway passage beneath the steep-but-popular Camino Alto route.

He’s also been the coalition’s point person in addressing the Golden Gate Bridge district’s proposal for a 10 mph speed limit for cyclists using the span.

“After five years on MCBC’s advocacy staff, I’m excited to be moving into the Advocacy Director position,” he said. “The transition has been smooth and virtually seamless due to my ever expanding roles within the organization and on projects throughout the county.”