Jamie promotes the growing Alabama Bike Community, even during COVID.
When Alabama bike advocate Jamie Miernik was growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she dreamed of being an astronaut. And today, although she is not an astronaut, as a chemical engineer who worked for Boeing on the NASA space station project, she put her knowledge and talents to use keeping the astronauts safe and sound in their Space Station. Specifically, she was involved in designing, through the use of chemical and mechanical means, life support systems aboard the station so that the astronauts have fresh air to breathe and water to use. Pretty important stuff! Plus, she still finds time to ride her bicycle and advocate for cyclists.
Like most of us as kids, Jamie rode her bike around her home in Minneapolis. When she left home for college, initially in Seattle and thereafter at Western Washington in Bellingham, Washington, she took her bicycle and used it not only for recreation, but also for transportation. After college, she took a job with Boeing and continued riding her bike – often to and from work.
She accepted a transfer to Huntsville, Alabama to work on Phase B of the Space Station. And, when she got to Huntsville in the late 1980s, she noticed right away that cycling infrastructure was not nearly as developed as to what she had grown accustomed to first in Minneapolis and then in Washington state.
Alabama Bike Advocacy
Her first steps into the Alabama bike community were when she joined the Spring City Cycling Club which so happens to be Alabama’s oldest cycling club, founded in 1892. Soon thereafter, in 1989 she did her first Century Ride and as the years went on, she became more and more active in the Club and in advocating for better cycling infrastructure, better cycling laws, better cycling everything. In 1999, she made her first presentation to the Huntsville City Council and has continued to work with the City of Huntsville ever since then.
In 2003, Jamie became the founder of the Alabama Bicycle Coalition, otherwise known as Alabike. Alabike is a statewide grassroots 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to promote cycling safety, education and access throughout the State. In 2015, Jamie and Alabike were instrumental in getting the State Legislature to pass the minimum 3 foot passing law (Alabama Code Section 32-5A-82).
Jamie continues to work with the City of Huntsville to improve cycling infrastructure by adding bicycle lanes, adding and improving street signage and implementing Greenway Projects. Since 2008, she has been on Huntsville’s Bicycle Advisory and Safety Committee (BASC), a group consisting of City planners, traffic engineers, police and cyclists who are working together to make the City’s streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
Supporting the growing Alabama Bike Community during COVID
In addition to all of the above – as well as a bunch of other things which Jamie does to promote Alabama bike culture (including cycling tourism), Jamie and her husband and bike advocate Morgan Andriulli find the time to organize and run the Spring City “All You Can Eat” Century Ride. And, rather incredibly, Jamie pulled this ride off on September 19, 2020 despite Covid 19. She took extraordinary precautions, such as having fewer rest stops, so people would not congregate, a novel “self-serve” packet pick-up and no on-site registration. ALL snacks were individually wrapped and only water and Gator-Aid bottles were given out. Social distancing guidelines and mask wearing off the bike was strictly enforced. Although she did very light advertising for the event, over 400 people rode – and, had a great time enjoying the north Alabama countryside in a safe event. And instead of the “All You Can Eat” buffet, everyone enjoyed boxed lunches after the event.
Jamie notes that as bad as the pandemic has been its resulted in a “wonderful rebirth in cycling interest.” Like everyone involved in cycling has noticed, more bicycles are on the road as people refrain from mass transit or ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. And, as more people cycle, both for recreation and for transportation, they realize many of cycling’s positive aspects: 1. You feel good doing it as you get to enjoy scenery and sensations simply not available from inside a car; 2. You increase your fitness level without pounding on your joints; 3. It’s less expensive than driving a car and 4. Surprisingly, and especially in the city, it often is nearly as quick as getting somewhere in a car.
Jamie is optimistic that the renewed interest in cycling brought by the pandemic can result in better cycling infrastructure, better educated motorists and more people riding. And, with Jamie continuing to push for these things just as she has done for the past 3 decades, prospects for improvement look very good indeed. The Alabama bike community is lucky to have Jamie leading the way!