For Mr. "Bicycling and Breathing," the cycling revolution's about building strong leaders and networking—with a dash of computer savvy and a sprinkle of humor.
Frank Peters, the newly elected head of SBBIKE’s board isn’t sure “Bicycling and Breathing” will be his epitaph. It is certain, though, that he and his wife, Barbara, have long championed these causes. And they’re what he’s known for at Santa Barbara City Council meetings—that and his self-deprecating humor. He loves to bring both (the humor and the causes) to the council’s public comment podium. He also serves with the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. “But,” Peters says in his soft, measured tone, as to the tombstone engraving, “it just might be.”
Peters’s stewardship of SBBIKE’s board promises to be about building strong leaders through ambassadorship and growth. Big-picture vision seems one of his strengths. It’s clear he sees the Coalition as part a connected, resource-abundant network of cycling advocates around the globe—all part of a vital revolution.
Peters comes by his belief that both bicycling infrastructure and bicycling culture are the keys to that revolution honestly. He first biked as a paperboy, returning to cycling during its height (so far) in 1972 while at the University of Oregon on exchange from UMass. Later at UCLA, he attempted to ride around car-friendly Westwood but was fast discouraged. It would be another 35 years before he got back on a bicycle in Newport Beach; riding along beautiful beach paths, a “zealot” was born. Mr. Bicycling joined the mayor’s Bike Safety Committee, which over five years evolved to develop the Newport Beach Bicycle Master Plan (BMP). Next, a stint in Portland showed Peters the profound impact of cycling culture.
He relocated to Santa Barbara in 2016 and promptly attended Bike Moves. He was struck by “a new bike culture”—a diverse, relaxed community where all were free to be themselves, out with the mold. “I’d never been part of something like that,” he says. “I really liked it."
Peters had sworn off bicycle advocacy. Admiration for SBBIKE Executive Director Ed France, a former guest on his bicycle safety podcast in Orange County, along with the culture here made it easy for a nudge from a Newport Beach BMP coordinator to get him hooked again. “You have to help out on this,” the coordinator said of the newly approved SB BMP.
He did, and he hasn’t looked back.
Back in 2012, Peters, thanks to cycling advocates in Boulder, Colorado, had interviewed Dutch Cycling Embassy reps in Utrecht. The embassy shared the Netherlands’ cycling expertise and experience far and wide. Peters was moved. He’s replicating that spirit of sharing at SBBIKE.
An upcoming project he’s particularly proud of will kick off National Bike Month, 2019—the Santa Ynez Valley Bicycle Tourism Summit. The summit is about capitalizing on the Valley’s spectacular natural elements, perfect for a cycling tourism mecca. Combining Peters’s vision and business savvy (he’s a former angel investor and founder of a successful software company), it will explore how movements/communities in similar destinations have boosted economic growth through bicycle tourism. CycleCalCoast will be there. Guest filmmaker Russ Roca, of PathLessPedaled, will share Oregon successes.
Similarly looking to learn from others' successes, Peters has led visits to cycling cities. In 2017, 11 SB cycling advocates went on a five-day field trip to meet peers in Portland, talk to transportation planners in the “platinum” cycling city, and enjoy Portland’s Ciclovía. The 2018 trip was shorter and closer to allow more to attend; SBBIKE staff, planners, and community members traveled to learn what’s worked for cycling in Santa Monica.
Up next? A September field trip to Denver, Boulder, or Fort Collins are possibilities on the table so far.
For Peters, “When you don’t know what you’re doing, develop your people. Learn. Go to a conference. Read a book.” He helped SBBIKE incorporate a greater commitment to professional development in its strategic plan. That includes sending staff to national summits and conferences.
Sharing means being the ambassadors too—showing others what’s working and inviting neighboring cycling advocates to participate in projects. “When you think about creating a revolution, you need people in communities near and far to learn everything they can and support the effort,” he says.
Peters has also lent the coalition his computer expertise, touching “and I hope improving” every aspect of SBBIKE’s website. “I’m a former computer genius,” he says with a quiet laugh.
He looks forward to continuing to work with Ed France, who he supports unreservedly at SBBIKE’s helm. “Ed France is the bicycle coalition’s greatest asset,” he says.
What don’t folks know about Peters? His two sons, Mark, 27, and David, 23, are adopted. It seems apropos for the consummate networker that revealing this in a previous interview opened doors to a deeper and rewarding friendship with a colleague.
CAPTIONS: (1) Frank cut his teeth as a bicycle advocate in Newport Beach. (2) Frank and Barbara at the drop-off in Vernonia for four days riding the Banks-Vernonia Scenic Bikeway in Oregon in 2015. More recently (2017), the couple did a four-day mini tour from SLO to the Grand Opening of Santa Maria Bici Centro. The ride was chronicled here. (3) Frank and his son, David, on a ride along Foxen Canyon Road, outside Los Olivos. The 50-miler was to complete David's Cycling merit badge, on his way to Eagle Scout. Frank has two Eagle Scouts. (4) Frank at a stop during an unsupported 435-mile ride along the Erie Canal, from Buffalo to Albany, NY, in Sept 2011 with his oldest friend. He reports, "We were stuck in mud so thick the wheels wouldn't turn! Hurricane aftermath (plus we ignored the detour signs). Had to remove the fenders and undo the brakes just to get out of there! Mosquitos feasted."